Canadian teams finish 1st, 2nd and 4th at World Seniors


Al Cameron

Canada’s senior teams landed on the podium while our mixed doubles team just missed out as the World Seniors and Mixed Doubles Curling Championships concluded on Saturday in Sochi, Russia.

Canada’s Lois Fowler and Alan O’Leary teams are bringing home medals – gold for the Canadian women and silver for the men – while the mixed doubles team of Kalynn Park and Charley Thomas fell short in the bronze-medal game.

“I can’t believe it,” said an emotional Fowler after the gold-medal game. “Absolutely, completely thrilled to come out on top of this event. We’re all absolutely elated.”

Fowler and her team of third Maureen Bonar, second Cathy Gauthier, lead Allyson Stewart, with team coach Brian Fowler and national coach Bill Tschirhart, took control early and never looked back in a 6-2 victory over Italy’s Fiona Simpson.

The Canadians led 4-2 at the break after scoring deuces with hammer and holding their opponents to singles. But they took complete control of the game with a single point — a steal of one in the seventh to go ahead 6-2.

“It was Cathy’s (Gauthier) fourth time at a Worlds and she’s never gotten a gold medal. We wanted it for her as well as for all of us,” said Fowler, whose team cruised to an 11-2 win over Sweden’s Gunilla Arfwidsson Edlund in the semifinal earlier on Saturday. “We thought we’d played well all week, even although one game got away from us (a round-robin loss to the U.S.). We were confident we could do it but we knew we’d have to play well.”

The Canadian women came into the playoffs with a 4-1 record.

“I wouldn’t say we cruised through (the round robin),” Fowler said. “We had an awesome game with Switzerland yesterday (in the playoff quarter-final). They gave us a really good game. And also in our first games we were slow to take control. We had to work for it. We’re very, very pleased with our play and thrilled to be on top.”

For Gauthier, the win was especially sweet, as she announced her retirement from competitive curling.

“This was my fourth try (to win a world title),” she said. “Sweden has taken away every medal I wanted, so that win against them earlier was so important. When I went to Paisley in 2005 with Jennifer (Jones) I thought I had two medals and would get a third. I didn’t realize there was an option not to get a medal at all. Then I thought I would stick to coaching and broadcasting and then Lois said let’s just give this one more try, so that was my last rock.”

In the men’s gold-medal game, O’Leary and his Halifax team of third Andrew Dauphinee, second Danny Christianson, lead Harold McCarthy and coach Tschirhart, who had gone undefeated throughout the competition, fell behind early and just couldn’t catch up in a 9-4 loss to Lyle Sieg of the United States.

Trailing 6-1 after five, Canada battled back with a big score of three in the sixth. But Sieg put the game away with a score of three in the seventh.

“Silver feels not great but we had a good week,” said O’Leary. “It was the thrill of a lifetime having the Maple Leaf on our back, but USA have been hot all week and full credit to them for becoming world champions. It sucks to be one step short, but we lost to the better team today, so congratulations to them.”

Canada, which has never failed to reach the men’s gold-medal game at the World seniors, turned back Denmark’s Ole de Neergaard 5-3 in the semifinal earlier on Saturday.

Seig is a transplanted Canadian, having played second for the Territories at the 1981 Brier.

Fowler’s gold medal is the seventh for Canadian women in the past eight years at the World Senior Curling Championships.

“Every day we would wake up and keep pinching ourselves,” she said about the experience of competing in Sochi. “We’ve been just amazed at the scenery and the Olympic infrastructure. It was just a marvelous trip.”

Meanwhile, Park and Thomas fought hard but weren’t able to catch up after falling behind early in the bronze-medal game against Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten, losing 9-4.

Earlier in the day, Park and Thomas, with coach Jim Waite, lost a close 8-6 semifinal to Sweden’s Camilla Johansson and Per Noreen, the 2014 silver-medallists. In the bronze-medal game, they fell behind early when Norway scored three with hammer in the first end and followed that with a steal of four in the second.

Trailing 8-1 at the break, the Canadians got a deuce back and stole another single in six. In the seventh, trailing 8-4 without hammer, Park made a perfect hit-and-roll to lie two, but it wasn’t enough to stop Norway from taking a single and putting the game away.

“Disappointing,” said Park afterwards. “We got incredibly unlucky several times, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”

In the gold-medal game, Hungary’s Dorattya Palancsa and Zsolt Kiss captured their second gold medal in three years, beating the Swedes 6-5.

“It’s been great,” said Park said about the overall experience of competing at the world championship for the first time. “We know (what) we have to work on going forward.”

It was Canada’s best finish at the event since the pair of Alli Flaxey and Sean Grassie claimed bronze in 2009 at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.