Winnipeg 2013: Sitting with Sven

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Get your mitts off my gloves

by Colin Hodgson

Brad Jacobs is all fired up for The Bear

Jacobs is all fired up for The Bear

WINNIPEG – Eight teams, three playoff spots, one champion.

The Phone Booth (MTS Centre) here in the downtown core is becoming quite the pressure cooker. As the week presses on, the playoff teams are becoming more and more focussed and the pressure to not miss out – well, that is now monumental.

You can see it on faces and hear it in their voices. Urgent cries of motivation hint at the level of desperation going through the minds of the competitors at the Roar of the Rings. After all, this is the make or break event, the culmination of years of hard work and countless hours of preparation.

New kids on the block Team Brad Jacobs are taking it in stride, off to a perfect 5-0 record. I'm not sure they feed off the crowd intensity or cause it – probably both – but it's great to see Jacobs and Co. share their agony after misses as well as the thrill of the big makes with curling fans. They seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the spectators.

Does this team have the cajones to win a throw-down with The Bear, Kevin Martin, on his own turf? Martin is the defending Trials and Olympic champion, after all, and he'll bring a calm, veteran discipline and experience to this challenge of youthful intensity.

I will be glad to be in the building for this heavyweight horn-lock, tonight at 6:30pm Central time. The winner goes straight into Sunday's men's final to take a shot at representing Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Meanwhile, the loser still has some work to do.

Other thoughts:

• I spent some time in the stands last night, and those fans were intensely pro-Jennifer Jones. Half the crowd left (briefly) during that game's fifth-end break while the other three sheets were still in play; I had to ask people in people in front of us to sit down and stop blocking our view.

• Jones is into the women's final at 5-1, while Rachel Homan – who missed a simple draw to beat Jones – is at 3-3 with a few others. And I notice I just wrote "simple draw"... but there's nothing simple at the Canadian Olympic Trials.

• Jonesy had missed a few opportunities to end that game early.

• I have a pair of the limited-edition CCA gloves and 3,495 people have tried to steal them.

Chelsea Carey is now at 4-2 and seems to be gaining momentum and confidence. Another plus for these 'Toba fans. If Carey makes it to the final, this place might explode.

Big, happy Swiss guys are here

Big, happy Swiss guys are here. Soon, they will be Olympians

• The seats here at the MTS Centre are super-small. And the Swiss guys I was sitting with are huge – they looked like praying mantises crammed into their spaces. I'm talking about Team Sven Michel, the new European men's champions who are also heading to Sochi for the Olympics in February.

• Here are some awesome flash quotes from the Svenner. His team are kind of a big deal here. They were approached and congratulated all day yesterday by Swiss-Canadians, plus a few savvy purebreds who know their curling:

This event is crazy. It's the biggest event we've ever seen. So many people are here. It's unbelievable. If we were to do this in Switzerland we may have 100 people show up. Including coaches.

We are hoping (this) many people can come out for the Olympics in Russia. The ice conditions will be similar and great. We just hope to get these kinds of crowds.

Everybody in Switzerland is jealous of us right now, that we can come here to watch. They have playdowns this week. We are happy to be here instead.

[The Curling News photos copyright ® by Anil Mungal. Click on images to increase viewing size]