OTTAWA — Kevin Koe’s team couldn’t be more geographically representative of Canada – they’re all from different parts of the country. And so perhaps it’s fitting they’ll represent Canada at the Olympics.
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Through all of their curling adventures, Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert found each other and joined forces four years ago for this moment.
On Sunday night, Koe defeated Mike McEwen of Manitoba 7-6 in a thrilling game to earn the right to wear the maple leaf at the Olympics.
“It’s hard to put into words. It’s unbelievable. We beat a great team. I’m just glad we had the last rock,” Koe said. “You plan for this event for four years. It’s so hard to win.”
It was a game that was decided by the smallest misses and even then the misses were almost undetectable. Both teams were excellent under pressure.
It all came down to a last shot draw to the four foot. Drama ensued. The rock looked as though it might come up short with Hebert and Laing sweeping with everything they had. Then Kennedy came sprinting out of the house to help. They just got it there for the win.
“I felt pretty comfortable with draw weight and what I wasn’t trying to do was over throw it and give them a chance to sweep it,” Koe said, in his patented calm demeanour.
Koe’s curling family affair
Koe was born and raised in Yellowknife, N.W.T. It was his father, Fred, who started this curling dream for him and his family.
Fred was in the stands at the Canadian Tire Centre watching his son finally make it to the Olympics. After the game, Koe acknowledged what his dad and family has meant to him.
“It’s awesome to have him here,” Koe said. “We wouldn’t be here without the support of all our families, so it’s nice to be able to celebrate with them.”
Fred grew up in the remote northern community of Aklavik, N.W.T. That’s where his love of curling began. The sport has been a part of his life since he can remember.
“We played on natural ice,” he says. “We used to melt snow on a wood stove to pebble the ice with my dad.”
Kevin isn’t the only skip in the family. His brother, Jamie, has skipped at 11 Briers for the Northwest Territories. Their sister, Kerry Galusha, has skipped the Northwest Territories at 14 Scotties. Jamie was also in the building to watch Koe’s win, giving his brother an Olympic-sized hug after the win.
Kerry was watching back at home in Yellowknife.
“I’ve always said Kevin had all the talent in the family,” Galusha said from her home in Yellowknife.
“He has worked so hard and we are so proud of him. The entire Northwest Territories is proud of him as he is still considered a northern boy.”
Koe won’t disagree with his sister for a second.
“N.W.T. will always be home for me. Ever since I moved to Alberta, they’ve been so supportive of me. This is for them as well,” he said.
Marc and Benny show
Third Marc Kennedy was born and raised in St. Albert, Alta., just outside Edmonton.
Lead Ben Hebert was born and raised in Regina, Sask. They’re heading back to the Olympics for a second time.
“How cool is that? It hasn’t always been easy for us. But we work hard together to get the best out of each other. I love him and he’s like a brother,” said Kennedy. “When we won, I was more happy for the people around me then for myself like last time.”
Hebert and Kennedy made up the front-end of Kevin Martin’s team that won gold in Vancouver. In fact, the two have played together for nearly their entire careers.
They’ve won three Briers together, two world championships and Olympic gold together and will now look to add another one.
“He’s my best friend. I called him out on my stuff and he calls me out on mine. There’s no one else I’d want playing on my team then Marc. But we wanted to get Brent and Kevin there too,” Hebert said.
Then there’s Brent Laing, who was born and raised in Shanty Bay, Ont. He celebrated his 39th birthday by earning a spot into the Olympics.
“When I saw December 10 was the trials final, I tried not to think too much about it,” Laing said. “It hasn’t totally sunk in. It was a crazy game and it all came together in the end.”
Laing now gets to experience what his wife Jennifer Jones went through at the 2014 Olympics. They’ve been one anothers support system all leading up to this moment.
“Not a lot of people get to go home and talk to somebody at the same level of curling like I do. She’s much better at supporting then I am of her when the roles are reversed. She’s unreal.”
Canada has medaled at every Olympics since curling was reintroduced to the program in 1998. Now it’s up to Kevin Koe’s team and Rachel Homan’s team to keep that streak alive.