Olympic curler embracing the moment

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The encore performance of Marc Kennedy’s hall of fame curling career is to embrace the moment.

The three-time Brier winner, two-time world champion and 2010 Olympic gold medallist has achieved everything possible all at the elite level of the Roaring Game after delivering his first rock to the button at age six at the St. Albert Curling Club.

“Honestly, everything from now on is gravy. I just enjoy playing good and being on a good team and winning games. That stuff never gets old,” said the 34-year-old Kennedy after one of the most successful seasons of his decorated curling career.

“I’m happy that I’ve had an incredible successful career. I’ve been very lucky to have great teammates and a little bit of luck here and there to win some big games. I can look back now on my career and be happy that I’ve accomplished everything that I wanted to.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the big events that I get to now.”

Looming large on the horizon is the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials in December of 2017 in Ottawa to determine the Team Canada rink at the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“That’s in the back of our mind,” said Kennedy, vice-skip as the third for the 2016 Brier and world champions, skipped by Kevin Koe and the front-end anchored by Ben Hebert and Brent Laing.

“We’ll focus on what went well this year and what can we improve on because I think there is still room for improvement,” Kennedy added. “We’ll keep on working to peak for that event. You just want to give yourself a chance to win and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Team Koe was created with players from three rinks in the spring of 2014 with the Olympics the ultimate prize and was the first of nine men’s rinks to qualify for the Roar of the Rings as the Home Hardware Canada Cup champion in December of 2016.

“Our number one goal is to get to those Olympic trials and try our best to win it so to wrap up a spot this early is really good,” said Kennedy of his fourth Olympic trials.

“It’s is going to be a really tough event to qualify for and I think it was going to get very stressful for a lot of teams over the next two years. That stress is on everybody, especially the families when you’re gone so much,” said the second on the Olympic gold-medal winners with Hebert and John Morris on the Kevin Martin rink at the Vancouver Winter Games.

“There is never a lot of certainty in the sport of curling so any time you can wrap up a spot in a big event two years down the road, it helps you plan and that’s the biggest advantage. We can play the events that we think can help us the most. We can avoid what we call the points chase, where you’re going to every event in Canada just to try and pick up Canadian team ranking points and that wears you down. You feel like you’re grinding so much and by the time you get to the Olympic trials you’re exhausted. This way we can plan our schedule around peaking for those trials and not being burnt out.”

Next year the Koe foursome will compete at the Brier as Team Canada, the defending champions, and the winner advances to worlds in April at Rexall Place.

The past 2015/16 season ranks among the very best for Kennedy in the men’s ranks as Team Koe finished second on the World Curling Tour money list at $142,356. Kennedy earned his third Brier celebration in seven trips to the Canadian championship. The Paul Kane High School alumnus followed with his second gold medal for Canada in three appearances in the world final.

The inaugural Kennedy Classic, a U18 junior bonspiel for male, female and mixed rinks and presented by Sarasota Homes & Realty, was another memorable moment, especially with the Brier Tankard as the guest of honour at his hometown club.

“It’s cool in a fun way because really it’s all about giving back, getting to see the kids with the trophy. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Kennedy. He was a rink rat at the St. Albert club along with his older brother, Glen, while progressing through the Little Rock program with their dad, Don, as an instructor.

“I just fell in love with it. That’s what got me started and I used to love watching it on TV so that always helped me too,” Kennedy said. “Curling is a lot of fun. That’s why I still do it.”

A successful junior career included three U20 Alberta championships, a national silver medal as the second for Carter Rycroft in 1998 and the 1999 Canada Winter Games championship on the St. Albert rink with Mark Pfeifer, Kevin Skarban and Aaron Sarafinchan.

“I remember when Scott Pfeifer (of St. Albert with the Ryan Keane rink) won the ’97 Canadian juniors. I was about 13 at the time and that was big to see (Pfeifer win his second Canadian juniors). That really inspired me,” said Kennedy, who joined Pfeifer of the famed Ferbey Four rink as one of the original six inductees into the St. Albert Curling Club wall of fame in 2011.

“Watching the ’98 Olympics in Nagano was big too because you got to see the sport growing and getting better and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I wasn’t sure how or if I was going to but I was going to try my tail off so right around that 12 to 15 was huge for my career,” Kennedy said.

His successful career netted him the Brier second-team all-star at third in 2015, selections at second in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 on the first team, and a selection in 2013 on the second team.

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.