Monday, March 24, 2008

The Advantage of the Maple Leaf

There is always a lot of talk about the growth of curling outside of Canada and how the best teams in the world are just as good as the best teams in Canada. That’s probably true to a certain extent, although it’s very clear we have a lot more depth than anywhere else.
But what is still present in any international competition is the presence of the Maple Leaf. Canada is still the big Kahuna at these tourneys and teams definitely either gear up to play them or perhaps fear playing them. Sometimes both.
Now that might not be the case with every team, but it is for most whether they admit it or not. And it was certainly in play yesterday when Jennifer Jones took on the Czech Republic, whose skip, Katerina Urbanova, admitted her nerves got the best of her. Here’s what she told Jim Bender of the Winnipeg Sun:
"It was the first time against Canada, so I was excited and nervous, both," Urbanova said. "We knew that it would be difficult and we would have to play a risky game against a team like that, and we did. But we didn't play very well."
In fairness, here’s this kid, playing on the world stage for the first time in front of what’s probably the biggest crowd she’s seen in curling and possibly for the first time in an arena. Welcome to the big leagues.
I was pretty impressed with the deliveries of the Czech gals – fundamentally, they were pretty solid. Strategy. . . not so much. But they’ll learn.
You have to believe that even against the most seasoned of teams, the Maple Leaf provides a mental advantage. Whether the Canadian curlers take advantage of that is another matter.

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