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Riga 2013: The. Bacon. Is. Raw.

[This blogpost was written by Team Canada alternate Stephanie LeDrew prior to Saturday's 7-6 playoff victory over the United States. The semifinal, against Scotland, was next up at 1:00pm ET]

Steph's view of the field of play

Steph's view of the field of play

by Stephanie LeDrew

RIGA, Latvia – Remember a few days ago when we already had three losses? Well, we've finished the round robin at 8-3. This team is relentless! A four-game winning streak at the end of the round robin bodes well for our momentum entering the playoffs. We finished alone in third place, and while three other teams with five losses battled it out for fourth, we enjoyed a day off. We practiced last night but otherwise, we checked out the sights and sounds of Riga, Latvia.

Here are some things we noticed.

1) Tim Horton's magnificent curler-friendly brew excluded, Europe has the best coffee on earth.

2) Bacon is served raw in Latvia.

3) There are no stop signs. Anywhere. Yet both cars and pedestrians move confidently forward without any regard for those around them and somehow, nobody gets hurt.

4) Fully enclosed showers don't exist. You're somehow expected to get cleaned up under a high pressure hose without spraying water all over the bathroom (a skill we've managed to perfect only after a considerable amount of practice. Many apologies to the Hotel Maritim housekeeping staff.)

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise is the fact that Latvia seems to be embracing curling with open arms. The Latvian team won but a single game – an extra-end victory over Switzerland – and they hugged and cried like they had just won the world championship. It was a heartwarming moment. Besides that, they had a huge fan contingent (in relative terms – there were only 75 people in the place at any given time, but at least a third of those fans were for Latvia) who would routinely get up and walk from one end of the arena to the other, to get better seats for viewing each end. They loudly chanted "Lat-Vi-Ja, Lat-Vi-Ja!" any time a good shot was made, and they cheered for other teams' good shots too.

There's also an adjacent area that has offered curling to the public every day – and it's been a busy place.

For a country that only has about 250 curlers, they're quickly moving in the right direction. This is what we often forget as curlers who have been immersed in the game since we were kids. It's still growing, and this is exciting news for our sport.

We are heading into the playoffs with high hopes and unbreakable spirits. Our team's determination and cooperative dynamic is inspiring – as Coach Earle says, "None of us are as good as all of us," and we're working hard together to bring the gold back to Canada. I hope to write again, possibly Saturday night, with tales of incredible shotmaking, loud cheering, a full arena, and one more game to play. Tune in, Canada: we're gonna make it a good one!

[Photo by Stephanie LeDrew – click on image to increase viewing size]