Morning Star Staff/Curl BC
In Parksville on Sunday. On his way to Pyeongchang, South Korea on Monday.
Vernon’s Jim Cotter will be coaching the Korean entry of Jang Hye-ji/Lee Ki-jeong in the Olympic mixed doubles competition which begins Thurdsday.
Cotter fell 9-7 in an extra end to Sean Geall’s Kelowna rink in Sunday’s final of the 2018 belairdirect BC Men’s Curling Championship final presented by Berwick Retirement Homes at the Parksville Curling Club.
“Jimmy got a late call to coach the Korean team and he should be there now,” said Vernon Curling Club manager Dave Merklinger.
Cotter gives Canadian curling fans one more reason to follow the mixed doubles, in the Winter Games for the first time.
Cotter’s World Curling Tour teammate John Morris, a Calgary firefighter, will play with Kaitlyn Lawes of Winnipeg. They are coached by veteran Jeff Stoughton. Morris/Lawes take on Norway’s Kristen Moen Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten at the Gangneung Curling Centre at 9 a.m. local time (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET).
Both Lawes and Morris will be attempting to become the first Canadian curlers ever to win two gold medals; they won previously with traditional four-player teams. Morris was the vice-skip with Kevin Martin’s gold-medal team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, while Lawes was the vice-skip for Jennifer Jones’s gold-medal team in 2014 at Sochi, Russia.
Eight countries qualified for the Olympic mixed doubles tournament; the teams will play a round-robin draw Thursday through Sunday, with the top four teams going into the semifinals (1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3) on Monday, Feb. 12, and the bronze- and gold-medal games on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
In Parksville, Geall outlasted the our-time defending champion Cotter after having lost twice previously to Cotter at the event. Cotter had also won six of the last seven provincial crowns.
Geall, supported by third Gerry Richard, second Andrew Nerpin and lead David Harper, won the event once before, back in 2009 and was grateful to finally wrestle the title back.
“In some ways it’s a bit of a relief to get back to doing this. It feels really good,” said Geall. “It’s been a while and you start to wonder if that time is going to happen again. Now I have a small family and can’t commit the time I used to commit, so yeah, this is a big one.”
He shared in the win afterward with his three children, wife and parents and tears flowed as he first hugged his dad and then his mom. The emotion ram through him after he made a brilliant in-off with his last shot to get a Cotter stone off the button as it sat near frozen on a Geall rock.
“I knew it was going to be used. I didn’t know if it was going to be him or going to be us,” Geall said of his rock off in the wings. “Turns out it was us. I felt good (settling into the hack). You just have to stay in your routine.” He did just that to earn his second purple heart. “Our basic game-plan it was to get off to a better start,” said Geall, who fell behind early in both of the two previous losses to Cotter this week, in the A-event final and the Page 1-2 game.
“Then we got that nice three in nine. It was a little lucky, but you have to get the breaks, right.” Geall made a delicate quiet take-out with his first in the ninth and followed it with a hit and stick for the three. He also made a double take-out in the 10th after Cotter delivered a run-back double, but the Vernon skip had to settle for just one to force the extra end.
“They played pretty well,” said Cotter, backed by third Catlin Schneider of Saskatchewan and Kelowna front-enders Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky. “Sean made some big doubles at the right time and he obviously made a great shot to win it, too, so congratulations to those guys.” It was the only loss of the week for Cotter. “I’m proud of the guys. We hung in there. Unfortunately, we had some picks in there and that didn’t help, but that’s the way curling goes. It didn’t come down to that. They made a great shot to win. We were getting better each game, but we were a little off that game.”
The night belonged to Geall and Co. His third, Gerry Richard, also won his second title after a victory as a skip back in 2010, the year after Geall won his first. The Geall foursome now moves on to the Tim Hortons Brier, March 3-11, in Regina.
For Harper, it will also be his second trip to the national championship as he went as a fifth man for Cotter when he was withMorris last year. Geall also earned a bit of revenge after losing 7-6 to Cotter in the 2016 championship final. This year, Team Geall curled 87 per cent as a unit in the final compared to 84 for Team Cotter. Harper and Nerpin led the way at 90 per cent for the victors, while Sawatsky led all curlers at 92 per cent.
Griffith, Cotter a step closer to Olympic berth
Jang Hye-ji / Lee Ki-jeong