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Riga 2013: Stuck in the middle with you

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by Stephanie LeDrew

RIGA, Latvia – It’s Wednesday afternoon at the World Women’s Curling Championship. We’ve got eight games on the board and three to go.

At 5-3, we are stuck in the upper-middle of the pack with a couple of other teams. This seems to be a theme for the week, ie. getting stuck – as so far we’ve spent a day and a half stuck in an airport, had a team member stuck in both a locker room and a stairwell (yours truly, in both cases) and several of our supporters stuck in an elevator (more than once.)

My butt has also been stuck to the bench – frozen to it, actually – with eyes, as always, glued to the ice surface.

It’s time to break free, and it’s gonna take some work. As I was climbing my way up each flight of stairs, trying every locked door over and over again, I got to thinking about this team’s ability to persevere. I’ve yet to see them in this sort of situation first hand – In fact, since I’ve been with the team, I’ve only seen them lose four games, including three here at the worlds.

In dealing with media questions lately, it seems everyone is waiting with baited breath to see if Team Canada will crumble at the first (or second, or third) hints of a challenge.

It’s an interesting experience to be regarded in that manner, as if we’re a bunch of aggressive dogs who’ve been backed into a corner. Although that might not be as inaccurate an analogy as I thought... Canadian curling teams have always been The Big Dogs and on the world stage, the Maple Leaf might as well be a target.

The success of a team in this situation is largely determined by how they deal with it. Some athletes crack under the combined pressure – from their country – to be great and the determination – of other countries – to take them down. Others feed on it and use it to rise to the occasion, and that’s is another “X-Factor” that separates good teams from great teams.

So what to do now? The great Earle Morris once said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” To be in a position where that's the only coaching advice you need to give is, well, most likely every coach’s dream. At 3-2, it might have seemed that we needed to make some changes, but the momentum was going the right direction. Same thing today.

We are learning... mapping the ice, learning the speed, matching the rocks and getting to know our competition. One might entertain the thought that Canadian teams have bigger changes to get used to at a world championship than most other teams. Why? Because we are blessed – or rather, spoiled – with incredibly consistent ice, loads of experience playing against most of our competitors, and an electric atmosphere that feeds energy into the team. Suddenly, at the biggest bonspiel of our lives, we have very different ice conditions, 50 people in the stands, and little to no experience playing against 90 per cent of our opponents. These are not disadvantages, but they are challenges.

Luckily, we have the most competent support staff we could ever ask for. Coach Earle, Team Leader Elaine Dagg-Jackson, National Coach Helen Radford and Sports Psychologist Natalie are a wealth of information. We have all the tools we need to rise above and beyond and achieve what we all know we’re capable of. We’re encountering obstacles, but we are coming together.

It’s only a matter of time before we find the one unlocked door in the stairwell and break free of the pack. We just need to keep climbing.

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