HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: So close, but yet so far.
A three-time United States women’s curling champion (2017-19) and a two-time world championship participant (fourth in 2018), Jamie Sinclair of Osgoode, ON., just can’t find the key to unlock the door leading to her first Winter Olympic Games.
But all that experience may be a big help later this month at her second Olympic trials event.
Sinclair and teammate Rich Ruohonen of Chaska, Minnesota, came within one shot Sunday of taking the next and final step towards the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
In the championship match of the United States Olympic mixed doubles curling team trials, Sinclair and Ruohonen had two counting stones sitting corner-frozen on the button, but all they could do was watch and wait for the final shot by Vicky Persinger, who played with Christopher Plys of Fairbanks, Alaska.
The back-and-forth match was deadlocked 6-6 after seven ends until Persinger’s final stone took out the two by Sinclair and Ruohonen and stayed for the single point they needed for the Olympic trials title.
As U.S. Olympic trials winners, Persinger and Plys will advance to the mixed doubles Olympic qualification event Dec. 5-9 in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. Fourteen rinks will vye for the last two Olympic berths.
“The final was close,” Sinclair said in retrospect on Monday. “It could have gone any way. We had opportunities, especially in the seventh end, but we didn’t capitalize. It all came down to the last stone.
“We were sitting two on the button. She threw hard and it stayed in by a foot.”
The championship final was the 13th match for Sinclair and Ruohonen during the six-day competition in Eveleth, Minnesota. They finished in a four-way tie for third place, after posting a round-robin record of 5-4.
By scoring four in the sixth end, Sinclair and Ruohonen defeated Cory Christensen and John Shuster (2018 Olympic men’s champion, 2019 world mixed doubles champion) 8-5 in a tiebreaker. They advanced to the semifinals edging Tabitha Peterson (2021 women’s world bronze medallist) and Joe Polo of Chaska, Minnesota, by a 6-5 margin.
Trailing 7-6 after seven ends in their semifinal, Sinclair and Ruohonen connected for three in the eighth and final end to turn back Sarah Anderson and Korey Dropkin of Duluth, Minnesota.
“It was a crazy week. A lot of teams could have won this event,” Sinclair added. “It just goes to show you the depth we have (in the United States). There were so many great teams. But I’m proud to walk away with the silver.
“But what made it even more special was my dad (Graham) came down as our coach. He hasn’t coached me since junior. That was really special. One month ago, I reached out to him to help us. It’s hard to manage everything with only two, (when it comes to) logistics and scouting opponents.”
The United States women’s and men’s Olympic curling team trials are Nov. 12-21 in Omaha, Nebraska. Sinclair, who was born in Anchorage, Alaska, but represents the Charlotte, North Carolina, Curling Association and the Manotick Curling Club, will skip one of six women’s teams at the trials. Her teammates are third Monica Walker, second Cora Farrell and lead Elizabeth Cousins.
“Playing in the high-pressure tournaments, you learn and grow. The worlds have been great. It’s just something about the Olympics. Everyone wants to compete in it. There’s extra nerves,” said Sinclair, who’s preparing for her fourth Olympic curling trials later this month.
“I’ll have a lot more confidence. The nerves will be there, but I’ll manage them better.”
At the U.S. Olympic mixed doubles trials for the 2018 Winter Games, Sinclair and Dropkin finished seventh at 2-5. During the Olympic women’s team trials for the same Games, Sinclair lost a best-of-three final to Nina Roth 2-1 and all three games were decided by one point. The first two games needed an extra end and Roth scored two in the 10th end for the Olympic berth.
“We’ve had an unbelievable season,” Sinclair said of her current team. “We’ve won two tournaments and we’re a young team. We’re definitely the underdogs, but we’re peaking at the right time.”
CANADA MISSES MEDAL AT WHEELCHAIR CURLING WORLDS
After winning its final four preliminary games to qualify for the playoffs at the Kuntai world wheelchair curling championships in Beijing, Canada lost 6-4 to the United States in the quarterfinals. Canada trailed throughout the match until pulling even 4-4 after seven ends. The U.S. scored two in the eighth to eliminate Canada.
Ottawa’s Collinda Joseph was the alternate for Canada, which posted a 7-4 round-robin record.
CHELSEA RINK REACHES MEN’S CURLING FINAL
Jean-Sebastien Roy of Chelsea scored all his points in one end (four in the second) and lost the final of the Challenge Nord-Ouest Air Creebec curling competition in Val d’Or, Que., to Montreal’s Alek Bedard 7-4.
Roy placed first in pool A at 4-0 and proceeded to defeat Jacques Dufresne of Amos, Que., 8-6 in the quarterfinals and Ted Butler of Buckingham, Que., 7-4 in the semifinals.
OTTAWA MIXED DOUBLES TEAM REACHES CURLING SEMIFINALS
The Ottawa team of Kira Brunton and Brett Lyon-Hatcher won four straight matches before losing in the semifinals 10-0 to Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt of Brisbane, Australia at the Okotoks (AB) mixed doubles curling competition.
Brunton and Lyon-Hatcher went 3-0 to place first in pool C and defeated Paige Papley and Evan van Amsterdam of Edmonton 8-5 in the quarterfinals.
SIX MEDALS FOR OTTAWA INTERCOLLEGIATE ROWERS
Ottawa-based athletes won one gold, one silver and four bronze medals at the OUA rowing championships in Welland.
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’ stroke Rhiannon Crichton, Alyssa Pastic, Vienna Scholten, bow Fiona McGougall and coxswain Mia Lyons won the varsity women’s coxed four. They captured a second medal, a silver, when they were joined by stroke Laura Guy, Kerin Hudson, Gabriele Zitikyte and Laura Vink in the women’s eights.
Bronze medals were won by Guy and Hudson, Gee-Gees, women’s coxless pair; Brendan Edge, Carleton University Ravens, men’s lightweight singles; Conor Nicell, Scott Leslie, David Damas, Josh Moffat and cox Christopher Breedy, Carleton, men’s coxed four; and Brendan McIntyre and Owen Powell, Carleton, men’s lightweight coxless pair.
GEE-GEES CHASE 7TH RSEQ WOMEN’S RUGBY TITLE
University of Ottawa Gee-Gees will play for their seventh consecutive RSEQ women’s rugby championship, after defeating the University of Montreal 37-7. The victory also earned them a berth in the U Sports national championship Nov. 10-14 at Queen’s University.
The Gee-Gees, who received two tries from Meredith Sirrs and singles from Taylor Donato and Alexandra Ondo, will play Laval Rouge et Or in the final. Laval outscored Carleton University Ravens 29-3 in the semifinals.
The Gee-Gees men’s rugby team lost 32-21 to three-time defending RSEQ champion Concordia Stingers in their semifinal.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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