Okanagan rink falls one step short of Olympic dream
When John Morris, Jim Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky joined forces this summer, the local foursome set its sights high—to carry Canada's colours at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.
The Vernon/Kelowna-based team fell just one agonizing step short of realizing that dream, losing 7-4 to Ontario's Brad Jacobs in the final of the Canadian men's curling trials Sunday in Winnipeg.
A decided underdog for much of the week in a field which featured the likes of Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton and Kevin Koe, the Morris-Cotter rink posted a 4-3 record, then upended Edmonton's Kevin Martin in Saturday's semifinal.
But the magic ran out on Sunday against a well-oiled Jacobs machine, which went a perfect 8-0 at the trials to earn a trip to Russia in February.
As much as the loss hurt, Cotter was proud of his team's performance and the chemistry they've established in a relatively short time together.
"You know the wound is still fresh, but over time I think we'll be able to reflect and be proud of what our team accomplished in such a short period of time together," said Cotter, who throws fourth rocks for the Morris rink. "The key is to take what we learned from the experience and grow from it. I don't think anyone expected us to be there, and the effort, determination and desire our guys showed was amazing. We just came up a bit short."
Morris, who lives in Calgary, left Kevin Martin's rink this summer to hook up with Cotter, from Vernon, and Kelowna's Griffith and Sawatsky. At the trials, Jason Gunnlaugson served as fifth player, while Pat Ryan was the coach.
The newly-formed team enjoyed immediate success on the World Curling Tour this fall, qualifying in its first three events and reaching the final at the Prestige Hotels Classic in Vernon.
The Morris team then rolled through the Canadian Olympic pre-trials last month in Kitchener, going a perfect 4-0 and securing a spot at the final trials in Winnipeg.
While much of the focus has been on Morris, the skip, and Cotter, who throws last, Cotter credited the front end from Kelowna for making the ride possible and that much more enjoyable.
"(Sawatsky and Griffith) are both phenomenal players," Cotter added. "I've been with Rick for 10 years and there's nobody I'd rather go to battle with. Ty has brought energy and a positive attitude. Our front end really brought it and were a big reason we accomplished what we did. At the end of the day, we win as a team, we lose as a team."
The Morris-Cotter foursome will now regroup and set its sights on winning a provincial title and earning a spot at the 2014 Brier in Kamloops.
"We're going to take a nice long break here over Christmas, regroup and refresh and come out the last half of the season real strong again," Morris said.
The B.C. men's curling championship is set for Feb. 4 to 9 at the Vancouver Curling Club.
Cotter, Griffith and Sawatsky won the B.C. men's title together in 2012.