Beaten by a spectacular in-off shot by eventual champion Sean Geall in the final of the 2018 belairdirect BC Men’s Curling Championship on a Sunday in Parksville, seven-time provincial winner Jim Cotter was in and off on a plane the very next day to the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Cotter, of Vernon, took on the role as a coach with the Republic of Korea’s Jang Hyeji and Lee Kijeong as the duo finished fifth in the mixed doubles competition, which was eventually won by Cotter’s former rink-mate John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes of Canada.
“It was an excellent experience. I’m really glad I was given that opportunity and it was really cool,” said Cotter, who was impressed by his team’s play in the first handful of games on their way to a 2-5 record. “Two of their losses came down to the final shots, so they could have easily been 3-1 or 4-1 after the first four or five draws.”
Korea began with a 9-4 win over Finland before a tough 6-5 loss to China. The duo was handled 8-3 by Norway before a big 9-1 win over the United States and close 6-5 setback to the Olympic Athletes from Russia, a team that was eventually disqualified by a doping infraction.
“It was neat to see them build in such a short period of time,” Cotter said of his team. “In Korea, curling wasn’t that popular, but with mixed doubles actually starting before the rest of the Olympics, it was one of the feature sports. The team created a lot of excitement and exposure and from there it took off with the women’s team and the men’s team.”
Cotter was originally asked to coach a few years ago.
“I wasn’t able to do it because I would have had to retire and I wasn’t ready to do that,” he said. “They kept in touch over the last few years and after we lost out at Olympic Trials they sent over another offer and once we worked out the details, I accepted it and I’m sure glad I did.”
It was the chance of a lifetime, he said.
“I had met the team previously. It was essentially flying out Monday, showed up and the next day we were on the ice with pre-event practice. We got into it right away,” said Cotter. “It was surreal.
“The building was amazing, likely the nicest I’ve seen in terms of a curling setup. There were (video) projections before each game that went right on the ice, which was neat to watch. They did a great job and to be a part of that was amazing.”
He would definitely consider handling those duties again. Not that Cotter is retiring from play now, but he is limiting his participation next season to provincial events and limiting his schedule.
“My primary focus is coaching more, like my kids. I’ll still play in B.C. events, but no more travelling outside B.C. to curl. My two girls are getting more involved. They want to increase their play. My focus will be that and who knows, there might be more opportunity with the Koreans again. At this point I’m not too sure though,” he said.
He has coached and taught at the junior and even adult levels before. He was even listed as a coach for Lynn Noble’s team for the recent Senior Women’s BC Championship which included Penny Shantz, Colleen Robson and Karen Lepine. The team went on to win the title.
“That was in hopes if I could have made it,” said Cotter, who did not get to Enderby for the event. “Clearly, they didn’t need me because they won, so good for them. I wouldn’t call myself their coach, they clearly won on their own.”
Cotter, now 43, has run junior programs for a long time and still works on adult clinics and his attention now focuses on coaching.
“There were always people available when I grew up playing and still are today,” he said. “I learned a lot from those people so I feel like you have to give back to the game and keep it thriving.
“I’m not announcing my retirement, but my main focus are my kids. It’s been a long haul the last two years, never mind the last 10 years. I just need a break. I’ve always played for the Brier and the playdowns and the cashspiels have been just that, cashspiels.”
If not for Geall’s spectacular in-off shot in an extra end at provincials, Cotter could have been playing this week at the Tim Hortons Brier. Instead he’ll be cheering on Geall.
“That’s great for those guys. I’m happy for them. They’ll have a great time,” said Cotter.Cotter enjoys role as coach for Korea at Olympic Games