BRITAIN’S curling coach Soren Gran has questioned the tactics of Canadian skip Brad Jacobs ahead of today’s Olympic men’s curling final in Sochi as the all-Scots team led by David Murdoch bid for a historic gold medal.
Jacobs and his rink are dubbed the ‘Buff Boys’ with an aggressive style of play and focus on pumping iron in the gym, as well as throwing rocks on the ice.
You don’t see them crack a smile very often, in contrast to British skip Murdoch. “The aggressive style we have seen from the Canadians here, that’s something I don’t like about the sport,” said Gran. “I don’t think it helps anyone. It doesn’t help the player and it doesn’t help his team-mates. I tell my guys to work a different way. If they miss a shot they’ve got another 15 to play, you can’t be angry with the one you miss.
“If I see the team we are playing against get aggressive and show anger, I think our guys should be happy because we’d have them exactly where we want them to be. I don’t think that helps.”
Jacobs called Murdoch’s tactics defensive before the Games but denies his style crosses the line in a sport where spirit of the game is important.
“There is a mutual respect there. But when you step out on to the ice, you both want to beat up on each other,” said Jacobs. “We bring a lot of intensity out there, that’s our style and the type of people we all are. It’s almost like that switch that goes off in your head when you step on to the ice. You become a different person. I don’t know whether we are bullies or intimidating, you’d have to ask other teams that.”
Murdoch and his rink of Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow were back out on the ice yesterday morning less than 12 hours after their semi-final win over world champions Sweden. They trained alongside Jacobs but the contact was minimal, a couple of nods of recognition but nothing else.
“The satisfaction of getting a medal is great but we’ve got a huge game coming up,” said Murdoch.
“After the semi-final, we just couldn’t believe what had happened, it was the most incredible feeling to finally realise your dream and hard too for your brain to take.
“We have been close a few times. Now there’s the opportunity to go one better and that’s an even more mind-boggling thing.”
Gran admits he wondered whether Murdoch would ever rediscover his passion for curling when he took the job in Scotland three years ago. Certainly the player he first met there is very different from the player today.
“When I started he was not in a good mood or place and didn’t know what to do with his life,” added Gran. “We talked through what I thought he should do. He had two choices, to give it all or nothing, he couldn’t do something halfway because that would have destroyed him. I said he needed to get closer to the sport and the decision to move to Stirling was totally his, I just encouraged him to sort out his thoughts.”
Murdoch is now 35 – the same age as Rhona Howie when she skipped Britain to gold in Salt Lake City exactly 12 years ago today – and he claims his form has never been better. And this need not be his last Games; Kevin Martin skipped Canada to gold four years ago aged 43.
“I was very low after the last Olympics,” admitted Murdoch. “We had won the worlds the year before and we really believed we were going to win and we didn’t have the tournament we wanted to.
“It was over a year until I was actually over that. This time we’ve nothing to lose. We are definitely capable, there’s no doubt about it.
“We have beaten most of the top teams here. We know we had a shot to beat them in the round robin, so now it’s just a case of believing. We’ll go out and just give it absolutely everything and see where that takes us.”
Some are already calling today ‘Fantastic Friday’, and those looking for further omens will note Murdoch’s chance to crown his career as an Olympic champion comes 12 years to the day since Howie sent the original Stone of Destiny sailing down the Ogden Ice Sheet.
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