TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian men’s curling skip Brad Jacobs is hoping a fundraiser will help pay his family’s way to Sochi but he doesn’t have to worry about two of his cousins since they make up half of his rink.
Despite the sport being in the family blood - two uncles have competed in Canada’s national championships - he only got into curling after his cousins convinced his mother to sign him up when he was 10 years old.
“I was always the type of kid that whatever sport she put me in I played. It didn’t matter what sport,” Jacobs told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“As I started curling with my cousins I just started to love the game and decided to practice a lot and try to get as good at it as I could.”
Jacobs, 28, got really good in a hurry and his fist-pumping, risk-taking Canadian rink will be the gold-medal favourite in Sochi after going undefeated at last month’s Olympic trials.
His rink is comprised of brothers, lead Ryan Harnden and second E.J. Harnden, along with third Ryan Fry. The skip and his front end team mates are first cousins.
Jacobs and the Harndens have been together since 2008 while Fry came aboard this season and the chemistry among the four has been their most dangerous weapon during a stellar year.
In the finals of the Canadian Olympic curling trials, Jacobs delivered a gutsy double in the ninth that all but sealed his team’s path to Sochi.
Jacobs said his mind was already wrapped around some type of “big-weight” shot even before he threw it since Fry had told him earlier in the 7-4 victory that he would have to throw a double to win.
“When you have good chemistry and you have players that make you feel really good and make you feel like you can basically make any type of shot and that you’re the best it’s hard to not do that,” said Jacobs.
“And that’s kind of how our team feels and that’s what we bring to one another.”
Jacobs said qualifying for Sochi did not really sink in until his rink returned home to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where they were treated to a hero’s welcome.
People crowded the airport for their arrival, many lined the streets as Team Jacobs were chauffeured to a local curling club, and others sang the Canadian national anthem.
Jacobs also said colleagues at the bank where he works as an account manager have been dressing in the red and white colors of the Canadian flag.
But among all the cheers and well wishers, Jacobs said it is his uncles who may be the most excited.
“They are especially proud of us because they played this game at a high level for a long time and they know how difficult of a game it is, Jacobs added.
“Coming from that side where you know how tough curling is they are just ecstatic that we won (the trials). I am pretty sure we put them into tears.”
The Jacobs rink will arrive in Sochi a confident bunch after having made Olympic curling trials history by marching through the tournament undefeated, including a victory over reigning Olympic champion Kevin Martin.
Canadian men have won gold medals in curling at the last two Olympics and the Jacobs rink will be widely expected to extend that dominance.
“We’re a confident group of guys right now and there’s no reason not to be after winning the Olympic trials out of Canada,” said Jacobs.
“You win that and you should be very confident that you can bring back the gold for Canada and we’re looking forward to getting out there and hopefully strutting our stuff and playing like we did at the trials.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Tony Goodson