Pat Simmons finished the Roar of the Rings Olympic Curling trials without a ticket to Sochi, Russia.
© Charles Lefebvre/Medicine Hat News
Pat Simmons lines up a shot for skip Kevin Koe during the championship draw at the Canadian Open Grand Slam of Curling at The Arena in Medicine Hat.
He also finished it without any regrets.
The four-year odyssey of trying to earn the Canadian berth in the men’s Olympic curling event evaporated after three days at the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials in Winnipeg last week. Skip Kevin Koe, Simmons, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen finished with a 2-5 record, but curled at a high level all week.
“It’s disappointing. We put in all of this work and it happens so quickly. In a matter of a few days it was all done,” said Simmons who is from Moose Jaw.
“In two of the first three games we had great shots beat us and in the other game we executed the plan we wanted to. I thought we were in control in each of those games — certainly at times — but we weren’t able win them. They were the kind of games we had been winning all year and then we didn’t come out on top.”
Brad Jacobs won the event by beating John Morris 7-4.
At events like the Roar of the Rings, the teams are so evenly matched that the margin between winning and losing is often a single shot or an inch. Simmons said that the fact that they had played well and were on the wrong end of those shots made it easier to stomach the disappointment.
“It would be different if I thought we weren’t prepared or if we clearly weren’t playing well. I can’t really say that. We prepared really well. We were right where we wanted to be,” he said.
The Koe rink came into the event on high. They had beaten Brad Gushue 5-4 to win the Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open in Medicine Hat and their fast start to the season sees them sitting third on the World Curling Tour’s money list.
“I thought we played as well as we did when we won the Slam the week before. That week it was good enough to win,” said Simmons.
Their first three losses all came down to the last shot. Their opponents made that last shot count — in some cases against some long odds — to put the Koe rink in an 0-3 hole that was too much to overcome in the short event.
“You really just have to tip your cap,” said Simmons after John Epping made a wide, low percentage draw to win the opening game and Kevin Martin made a great shot in the 10th end for two in a 6-5 win.
“Martin made a shot that really only he could make. We probably would have won that game since we would have had hammer in the extra end.”
As Simmons ran through a week’s worth of ‘what ifs’ he freely acknowledged that they were far from alone in that regard amongst the eight-team field in Winnipeg.
“I’m sure there are a lot of teams that could say the same thing. I’m sure all of the teams are looking back on games or shots that could have gone the other way. That’s the way it goes. Everyone is disappointed right now except for Brad Jacobs,” said Simmons.
Simmons shot 85 per cent as did the Koe team. To put that in perspective, when Simmons finished second in the round robin at the 2008 Brier he and his team had poorer percentages — Simmons shot 81 per cent and his team shot 84 per cent.
Simmons finished 2-5 when he took part in the 2009 Roar of the Rings with Gerry Adam, Jeff Sharp and Steve Laycock. That team had to qualify via the pre-trials event and went into the Roar as decided underdogs. This time around he was part of a rink that had set its sights on Sochi when they formed and were expected to be serious contenders for the berth from the outset.
“Last time our goal was more to get to the final trials. We certainly felt we could do well at the trials and qualify — we had those goals — but this time it was different. There were different expectations,” said Simmons. “It was a neat experience just to put that kind of time and work into it.”
The Koe rink rink worked on their fitness and nutrition — which Simmons feels will help him beyond his life as a curler — and held a training camp in Grande Prairie, Alta. to prepare for the Roar. They also played a busy elite-level schedule for the three years leading up to the trials.
At this stage Simmons, who is 39, said it’s too early to know if he will feel like putting that time and effort in for another four-year run for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“It really is dependent on a lot of factors,” said Simmons who noted that he will have to discuss with his family, and whatever rink he is with, about how much they want to commit going forward.
Simmons said the Koe rink will talk about their future after the season.
“We’re all good friends and if we end up not being together it will be because of someone not wanting to commit the time,” said Simmons.
In the meantime Simmons is planning on taking some time off from the rink with nothing on his schedule until the Alberta playdowns in February.
“We’ll work towards getting back to the Brier — maybe that is where we’re meant to be this year,” said Simmons.