Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day 1 at the Worlds, or how I spent my 60th birthday

Having somewhat optimistically suggested that we would be updating the blog an hour after play ended, I am writing this 2 hours late. Most of that time was spent standing outside an arena at an address that completely befuddled Vancouver's taxi service. We were eventually rescued by two phone technicians who offered us a lift rather than assuming that we'd probably be all right despite the lateness of the hour.
Of course the liquor store was closed by the time we got back here and so was the bar.  The bathroom doesn't have a door on it so that I can get my wheelchair in, and the shower sets off the fire alarm.

Happy Birthday to me.

The morning started much better.  The teams were led in by the RCMP pipers and the trophy was carried in by an RCMP officer with jaw that jutted in the best comic book tradition.  It was a stirring sight for a disappointingly small crowd.  I'm sure it was more trouble than it was worth to collect the five dollars they were charging at the door.  Pass checkers outnumbered people lacking passes.

Scottish coach Tom Pendrieigh told me that he was hoping for a good start to Scotland's campaign as they had the toughest early draws of any of the teams.  "I hope there's a lot of rocks in play," he said, "and that we provide some entertainment for the crowd." 

Both Canada and Scotland struggled in the first couple of ends.  Canada managed to get three rocks in the rings in the first end and they all counted.  They followed up with a steal of two and the game was pretty much over as a spectacle as Scotland struggled at all positions.  Scotland were throwing from behind the tee line in the near rings for draws and moving up to the hogline for hits, but were never able to get going.  Michael McCreadie struggled to make the rings towards the end of the game.  The final score tells it all: Canada 10 - Scotland 2 although Michael had to be told by an official that he had been run out of rocks in the eighth end and had to leave the ice.  Now that is a never-say-die spirit.

USA played China and the game was very close with a rare blank end.  USA's problem was that they played the first end with lots of rocks in the rings and gave up three.  Coach Brown was philosophical in defeat.  "We just have to make more shots," he said.

Swedish skip Jalle pointed out to me at the end of the evening that I'd been wrong in suggesting that the qualifiers, Germany and China, might struggle with an increase in the standard of competition at the Worlds. 

China gave Canada a spanking through seven ends although inexperience at skip nearly cost them a four-ender in the final end. The game started slowly.  China without the hammer threw centre line guards.  Canada threw to the wings.  China hit and rolled.  Canada hit and rolled.  Canada missed first, and China stole singles in the first three ends. 

In the fourth end Jim Armstrong changed tactics when China's centre line guard was further from the rings.  He came in first and scored three with lots of play around the four foot but  Canada failed to build on that momentum and in the last end were down 7 - 3.

They threw a hopeful corner guard and China missed their peel and then forgot about the guard.  Canada tucked three rocks behind it and were sitting three when China threw their last rock, a fully buried come around back of the four foot.  Coach Joe Rea said, "You can't be unhappy if you're down four and have a chance to tie the game with your last rock," and Jim had a legitimate chance to tap the Chinese shot stone  back to score four.  It wasn't to be. 

"I was too tentative," he told me afterwards.  "I should have gone for it."  His rock clipped the guard and China scored one for an 8 - 3  win.

Norway and Korea, two of the favoured teams, went to an extra end tied at 5 after Korea stole singles in the seventh and eighth ends.  Norway had an open hit to win the game with their last rock but crashed a guard and lost 6- 5.

In other results, Germany crushed a very inexperienced Swiss team 10 - 2 to go 2 - 0.  Sweden scored often but not often enough to overcome a five-ender in the third, losing to Italy 10 -7.

That's all for tonight.  See you Sunday in the live blogging when Canada play Italy at 12:30 PM Pacific time.

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