St. Albert’s Marc Kennedy will head to Beijing next month with the Canadian men’s curling team, albeit on Team Gushue and not Team Jacobs.
“My team and I had lost the Olympic trials final to these guys, so we were really close to getting to go ourselves. This is different, but it's going to be amazing,” he said.
Kennedy was chosen to accompany Team Gushue to the Olympics this February as alternate.
He will join skip Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols at third, Brett Gallant at second, and Jeff Walker at lead.
Gushue announced Kennedy would be their alternate on Dec. 20 during a live social media Q&A. Gushue said Kennedy is an incredible curler with a ton of experience and versatility.
“He can play any position we need him to play. Obviously if I go down, Mark Nichols is going to take over, but [Kennedy] could jump in, keep our team solid, and give our team the best chance of being successful over in Beijing,” said Gushue.
Back in November, Team Gushue won the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials for Olympic qualifications against Team Jacobs.
Kennedy said that was a tough game to lose.
“I've kind of won every big game and I've also lost every big game. It was really tough to lose,” he said.
However, Kennedy said they had an amazing week.
“It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there in those events and give it all you got because you really have to risk the heartbreak of losing. We did that, we put it all on the line and we lost but we're proud of our efforts,” he said.
The call to join Team Gushue as their alternative for the Olympics was not a call Kennedy expected.
“There's just so many great curlers across the country and these guys, they've had great men in the past. I was certainly surprised, but very excited,” he said.
Kennedy said he’s been butting heads against Brad Gushue and Mark Nichols for the last two decades and this will be the first time they play together.
Gushue said it was a team decision, and although they did ask Curling Canada for input, Curling Canada did not suggest anything or require anything from them.
“This was 100-per-cent a Team Gushue decision and it was 100-per-cent unanimous,” he said.
Right now, the team is in Vancouver. They’ve created their own little isolation bubble for the three weeks leading up to Beijing, said Kennedy.
“I've never had the opportunity to practice with these guys, to kind of fit myself into their practices, their training, and just try to make that as seamless as possible, while at the same time preventing any further exposure to the virus so we can get on that plane healthy,” he said.
Kennedy will play a support position and one of his main roles will be to match curling stones.
“In the evenings there's some practice available where I can go out and match curling rocks and make sure we get the rocks we want and we got the right guys throwing them,” he said.
He is also the safety net if someone tests positive for COVID-19 while they are there.
This will be Kennedy’s third time at the Olympics. He was second on the team skipped by Kevin Martin and won gold in Vancouver in 2010.
Kennedy also played third during PyeongChang 2018, the team skipped by Kevin Koe and placed fourth overall.
After the 2018 Olympics, Kennedy took a short break from competitive curling to heal some injuries. In December of that year, he filled in for Ryan Fry at third on Team Jacobs at the Canadian Cup. Team Jacobs won that year and in March 2019, Kennedy became third full-time for the team.
This year the Olympics are going to be different, said Kennedy. COVID adds an extra level of stress and anxiety to even getting to the Games safely.
“That's kind of top of mind for everyone right now, but I know at the end of the day — once we get there and get settled — it's going to be an amazing experience to wear that Maple Leaf and represent the country,” he said.
Kennedy said there are three games which will be the most exciting, including the game against Team Mouat from Great Britian, Team Edin from Sweden, and Team Shuster — the reigning Olympic champs from the United States.
“Then you also throw in Switzerland and a couple of Pacific Asian teams and then, you know what, every single game is going to be tough and exciting to watch.”
Official competition will begin Feb. 2 and run through to Feb. 20. The opening ceremony will be held on Feb. 4 at 5 a.m. MST.
As for the game schedule, according to the Olympics Canada’s website:
- Team Gushue will play their first game on Feb. 9 against Denmark.
- After that, the team is set to play Norway on the afternoon of Feb. 10.
- On the evening of Feb. 11, the team will play against team Switzerland.
- Feb. 12 will feature an afternoon faceoff between Canada and Sweden.
- On Feb. 13, Canada will fight for a win against the reigning champs, Team Shuster from the United States.
- Feb. 14 brings a Valentine's afternoon game against Italy.
- On Feb. 15, Canada will play China in the morning and Russian Olympic Committee in the evening.
- The team will have a day off on Feb. 16. Then, on the morning of Feb. 17, the team will play the final game of the round-robin against Great Britain.
- The evening of Feb. 17 will feature the semi-finals.
- The bronze medal game will be held on Feb. 18, with the gold medal game being played on Feb. 19.
The schedule for the games can be found here: https://olympic.ca/beijing-2022-winter-olympic-schedule/