© File photo
In one month Pat Simmons won his first Tim Hortons' Brier, competed at the world curling championships, found out his skip was leaving his team and curled in a World Curling Tour Grand Slam event.
Now the 39-year-old Moose Jaw curler needs to try to find some energy to finish the season off with a win at the WCT's Players' Championship next week.
"It's tough at this point, motivation-wise, obviously and it's definitely been a grind. We won't be the freshest team, but we're going to have to try to find a gear to at least give ourselves a chance," said Simmons. "Obviously we're going to go there and try to finish strong."
It will be the last spiel as a team for the reigning Brier champions: skip Kevin Koe, Simmons at third, second Carter Rycroft and lead Nolan Thiessen.
The Koe foursome recently finished a disappointing fourth at the world championships in Beijing, China. They finished second with an 8-3 record after the round robin before losing three straight games in the playoffs.
"We got ourselves into the position we wanted for the playoffs. We lost by an inch or two in the one-two game and then we had a bad 24 hours where we didn't play as well as we would normally. It was bad timing for that," said Simmons.
Koe lost the one-two Page playoff 3-2 to Norway's Thomas Ulsrud. Ulsrud made a great shot in the eighth end and papered a guard to make a double and force a blank end while leading 2-1. The Koe rink tied the game in the ninth end, but gave up the winning point in the 10th end.
"We had a couple of chances in that end and the next end to put that game away and it just didn't happen," said Simmons of the eighth and ninth ends.
Canada gave up a three-ender and a four-ender in a 10-8 loss to Oskar Eriksson and Sweden in the semifinal before losing 7-5 to Peter de Cruz and Switzerland in the third-place game.
"The next couple of games were very disappointing. They weren't our best performances when we needed them," said Simmons.
"Personally I'm disappointed right now, it's tough, a day out, to look back. At some point it we'll see the positives and it will be viewed as a good experience."
Ulsrud beat Eriksson 8-3 to give Norway the world title.
Word of the impending change to the Koe rink fuelled speculation that the team was distracted in Beijing, but Simmons dismissed that idea.
"I wouldn't vouch for that. I don't think that's really a good excuse by any means for us," said Simmons. "We went into this event all over that. We weren't thinking about it or letting it affect or bother us. I don't think that had any bearing on our performance in any way at all."
Heading halfway around the world was a unique experience and it made for a challenging week of competition. The ice was a constant issue, thought Simmons said it got better as the week went on he praised Canadian ice makers Hans Wuthrich and Greg Ewasko for making it as playable as they did.
"The ice was tough. Considering the circumstances, I thought the ice makers did a fantastic job. Normally when they say they need this type of water or this-and-that they get it, but that wasn't really happening," said Simmons. "We were lucky the ice was as good as it was. We started the week trying not to be disappointed because you weren't going to curl great — you just couldn't out there.
"The ice could have been a complete disaster and it wasn't."
Simmons, his wife Cindy and their two children had time to take in some sights in and around Beijing before the competition started. They went to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
"It's not a place we'd likely get to otherwise. It was a good experience for the family to see," said Simmons. "The Great Wall was the highlight of that. Hopefully it's something (the kids) will be able to remember some of."
While it has been a physically and emotionally draining month, Simmons knows that the final event of the season is incredibly important for his rink.
"We're going to have to find one more gear because there's a lot on the line at this last event," said Simmons ahead of the final Grand Slam of the season. "There's potential bonus money with the Slams because we've done fairly well at the Slams. We've got a year's worth of carding on the line as well. Because we won in an Olympic year we weren't guaranteed funding, whereas in a typical year, the Brier winners are for a couple of years. Basically what's happening this year is that the winner of the CRTS points race for the season gets the four carded athletes for the year basically."
The Koe rink currently leads the Canadian Team Ranking System (CRTS) leaderboard, but they could be caught in Summerside.
"Not doing as well as we would have liked at worlds makes this a lot tougher for us for this last event. If we had won (at worlds) we would have clinched. We're ahead, but there's some teams that are fairly close that we need to stay ahead of," said Simmons. "If we have any hope of doing that we're going to have to do really well at the Players'."
The Koe rink is in a pool with Brad Jacobs, Jeff Stoughton, John Epping, Switzerland's Sven Michel — who knocked them out in the quarter-finals at The National two weeks ago — and Sweden's Niklas Edin.