Yet after the Canadian men’s and women’s teams filled the past 10 days with light draws (curling talk for a bad shot), stones that flashed the house (curling talk for a different type of bad shot) and losses to teams like South Korea, Denmark and — perhaps worst of all — the United States, that gold in mixed doubles probably doesn’t look so shabby.
It should be noted that Canada is a curling powerhouse. Historically speaking, it is a nation of broom-wielding, rock-shoving wizards. Their Olympic trials are the most competitive curling competition on the planet. Plus, the sport is played on ice, and Canada is pretty good at stuff that involves ice.
Entering these Games, Canadians had never gone without a medal in any curling event since the sport made its debut at the 1998 Winter Olympics. They were 10 for 10, a stretch of dominance that included the last three gold medals in the men’s competition.
So to do what they did here (or didn’t do here) would be comparable to the United States men’s and women’s basketball teams failing to win a medal at the Summer Olympics. But just as basketball has become a global sport, with improved competition from countries like Spain and Serbia, curling has benefited from increased popularity around the world.
Consider the success of the South Korean women’s curling team at these Olympics — and the effect its surprisingly strong showing here will have on the continued growth of the game in Asia. On Friday, the South Koreans defeated Japan, 8-7, in a semifinal thriller to advance to Sunday’s gold medal final against Sweden.
“It’s overplayed that Canada is a favorite,” the Canadian curler Marc Kennedy told reporters after the team’s loss to the Americans in Thursday’s semifinals. “We come from a rich history of curling, where we won everything, and that’s not the way it is anymore.”
He added: “Anyone that’s been watching the grand slams of curling, we’ve got European teams winning all the time. They spend nine months of the year in Canada training and learning our strategies and using our coaching and using our ice. So this is the new normal. People need to get used to it.”
Even if that takes some time.