Curling - Medals
British Columbia and Ontario completed near-perfect weeks on Saturday, claiming the gold medals in the men’s and women’s curling competition, respectively, at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
Skips Hayato Sato and Bella Croisier turned in masterful performances in the finals and received solid support from their teams in earning gold before another excellent crowd at the Pidherney Centre.
Both teams had finished the round-robin with 9-1 win-loss records before earning their berths into Saturday’s championship final.
Sato, third Joshua Miki, second Dawson Ballard and lead Troy Chong recorded a five-ender in the seventh end to break open a tight game in recording a 7-2 victory over Ontario’s Daniel Del Conte.
Del Conte, third Nykolas Moore, second Samuel Guilbeault and lead Vincent Barbon shook hands with the victorious team after Sato removed an Ontario stone near the back of the house for the pivotal score of five.
“My goodness, just looking at the shot (for five) and waiting to finally make it … we got that five-ball and they shook hands and my knees were just trembling there,” admitted an elated Sato. “It was an incredible feeling. We were already sitting three and every shot is huge, so I just took that extra moment to make sure (he made the shot for five).”
Sato didn’t miss much all day, curling 90% in the final in which B.C. scored two in the first end before three blank ends. Del Conte came back with two of his own in the fifth end before another blank in six. The blanks weren’t easy, though, as Sato made a pair of circus shots.
“After we got the deuce we knew it would be a crucial two points and we were just feeling them out,” said B.C. third Joshua Miki. “We wanted to see if we could weed out any mental errors and see how they wanted to play this game.
“In the third end our skipper (Sato) made a huge double, run-double and bailed us out again and then he made that cross-house double coming back towards the glass (in the fourth end). He really bailed us out there a few ends,” said Miki.
“We were trying our best not to give them easy deuces and it came down to a real tight game and we took our opportunities when we needed to,” said Sato. “I had to make a few good shots there just because I got myself into trouble with a few of my bad calls, but my sweepers held all the rocks and they did great.”
It was B.C.’s first curling gold medal for a men’s team.
“It came down to basically who had last rock and we were happy to have it (in the seventh end),” said B.C. coach Bryan Miki, who is also Joshua’s dad. “Hayato made some big shots, just phenomenal, but he’s been doing it all week.
“At the beginning of the week we all sat down with a sports psychologist and the rest of the boys said they wanted to just make the playoffs and Hayato came out and said, ‘I want to win gold,’ and he made his own dreams come true. He was just determined and you could see it,” added the coach, who is a former Brier and World Champion from 2000. He was just as delighted with this win.
“It’s twofold. I told the other coaches that we went to the U-18s last year and we didn’t fare well, so we just regrouped and refocused. But I’m also a parent coach, so for my own son to win it and to see that is pretty special,” Bryan said.
Sato echoed those sentiments.
“I can’t even put this into words,” said Sato. “We came into this week thinking we’ll take it one game at a time. Things went well, we got a few lucky breaks along the way and kept our momentum. Everyone played really well and left me with easy shots.”
The B.C. team now gets ready for U-18 provincials in Victoria.
Just like the men’s game, Croisier’s clutch play at skip played a big role as she curled an incredible 93% in the gold medal victory.
“We’re really excited about this win,” Croisier said of teammates Jamie Smith at third, second Piper Croisier and lead Lauren Rajala. “We played super good all week and it was just a great team win today.
“It’s nerve-wracking because you’re in the final, but we kept it under control and that was good.
I knew we could do this and I know our potential. We just had a pretty rough game on Friday and we were happy to recover,” she said of escaping the semi-finals with a win when Nova Scotia was heavy on its last draw. “It’s sort of like dodging a bullet, but we’re really grateful to have had another chance.”
The bronze-medal games both featured comebacks.
Manitoba’s Graham Loewen was up 8-0 on Newfoundland and Labrador’s Nathan Young after just three ends. But Young and his team of Sam Follett, Nathan Locke and Ben Stringer battled back with back-to-back three-enders.
It remained that way until Loewen, twins Sean and Adam Flatt and Zack Bilawka ran NL out of rocks for the 8-6 win.
“I hope people aren’t going to be screenshot-Ing that linescore,” Loewen said with a chuckle. “It was really disappointing losing Friday to B.C. (in semi-finals) and missing my last shot. It was a bit of a heartbreaker and coming out today was still disappointing, but it’s nice to get on the podium.”
The same held true for Nova Scotia skip Cally Moore, who could have defeated Croisier in the semis with her final draw that was heavy. In the final Moore, Taylor Stevens, Cassidy Currie and Cate Fitzgerald were up 7-2 before being forced into an extra end when New Brunswick’s Erica Cluff roared back to tie it 7-7.
“It was definitely a little stressful giving up a five-point lead and having to go to an extra end, but we pulled it out,” said Moore. “It wasn’t the medal that we were hoping for, but it was definitely a great experience - a once-in-a-lifetime chance to say we got on the podium.
“We won a medal. We wanted to put something up there for Nova Scotia and we did,” she added of the 8-7 victory.
“The whole week was awesome. The facility was wonderful, our mission staff, everybody was so good. The icemakers and the volunteers; they were all so nice and so welcoming, too. I’ve had a great week here in Red Deer and that’s awesome.” – Ontario women’s skip Bella Croisier on her 2019 Canada Winter Games experience.
“It’s surreal. I’m glad to see all the hard work we put in pay off and what better way to do it, than a gold medal. It’s honestly surreal. We just can’t believe it. We exceeded our expectations and we’re happy to see what we can do in the future years.” – B.C. men’s third Joshua Miki on the gold-medal win.