Americans curling facing up to early elimination
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The Americans sidled over to one another, leaned on their brooms at the side of the curling sheet and pondered where it all went wrong.
Between them, they just can’t come up with an answer.
Erika Brown’s U.S. rink is all but mathematically out of the women’s Olympic tournament at the Sochi Games after an ugly 9-2 loss to previously winless Denmark on Friday.
It left the team with a 1-5 win-loss record, tied for last place in the standings and with plenty of soul-searching to do.
“It’s not like we’ll leave here thinking that we don’t belong here,” said Brown, speaking as if the team was already in the departure lounge at Sochi International Airport. “We just came here and unfortunately we didn’t perform like we know we can.”
With an all-star cast, tons of experience and some decent form behind them, this was supposed to be the year the U.S. women made an impact at the Olympics.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
The United States has lurched from one disappointment to another at the Ice Cube Curling Center.
There was the opening-day 7-4 loss to Switzerland that got the team off on the wrong foot. Then came a humiliating 12-3 loss to Britain, a game that saw the Americans concede an Olympic-record seven points in one end. And then the defeat to the Danes, who were up to that point the only team still to register a victory.
“It’s hard to take,” U.S. women coach Derek Brown said, “because we know we are capable of a lot more. Sometimes in our sport, it goes that way.
“You do everything right coming in, get all the preparation right and things just don’t go right.”
Brown’s rink had some good results at the Continental Cup in Las Vegas just last month, including a win and a tie against Eve Muirhead’s world champions from Scotland.
In 2013, the team placed fourth at last year’s world championship, then beat Allison Pottinger’s rink to earn the right to represent the United States in Sochi.
It is the third — and likely last — appearance at an Olympics for Brown (Oakville, Ontario/Madison, Wis.) while teammates Debbie McCormick (Rio, Wis.), Jessica Schultz (Minneapolis, Minn.) and 45-year-old Ann Swisshelm (Chicago) also had competed at previous games.
It’s hardly the Olympic send-off Erika Brown was hoping for.
“We’re not going to start crying yet,” she said. “We’re going to think about all the things we did to get here.”
For McCormick, it’s that sinking feeling again. She was the skip of the U.S. team that finished last in the Vancouver Games in 2010.
There were tears then. This time, she is desperate to focus on the positives.
“Vancouver was disappointing so I’m really proud of myself for continuing in, battling back and playing with these girls,” said McCormick, who left her own rink to join up with Brown, her longtime friend. “I’ve had an amazing journey to get here.”
Derek Brown, who also is USA Curling’s director of high performance, isn’t getting too down, either.
Accentuating the positives, he highlighted the U.S. team’s strong placings at the past two worlds — fifth and fourth — and the fact that there are some “younger teams coming through, some good kids who we have high hopes for.”
“There is depth,” he said. “Lots of nice options for the future.”
Any talk about the future can wait.
For now, the Americans want to finish off their Olympic campaign on a high by winning their final three games.
“We’re just going to go out,” Erika Brown said, “and play our hearts out.”