I’m a fan of alternates being used at some point. Not for any strategic advantage, but just because I like seeing as many people as possible get an opportunity to throw a stone at the Olympics.
It isn’t always possible for alternates to make it into a game. Some teams are grinding through the event and go with their starting four in every end of every game. But other teams have moments where a game or just an end is nearly meaningless for their chance of medalling, and that makes it possible to give the alternate an appearance.
There were ten alternates that were given a chance to participate in the Olympics. Here are their stories:
Mattia Giovanella, Italy – Giovanella was inserted for performance reasons as Team Retornaz elected to bench lead Simone Gonin after an 0-4 start. Italy promptly beat Switzerland with Giovanella throwing lead rocks. But for some reason they went back to Gonin in their next contest and lost to the United States.
Giovanella was back in for the final three games, two of them wins, finishing with a personal record of 3-1. The stats say Giovanella didn’t outplay Gonin in any significant way. But still, he can tell his boys that Italy would have totally won gold if he had just played lead the whole time.
Tobias Jacobsen, Denmark – Denmark won just once in Beijing, so their long-shot prospects were over pretty quickly. As a result, Jacobsen got to play a full game against Sweden in Denmark’s third-to-last game. He didn’t play particularly well, going 72% on his draws, but nobody cares about that. He was on the ice and you weren’t.
Pablo Lachat, Switzerland – It was a rough event for the Swiss. Coming in as serious medal threats, Switzerland went 4-5 in round-robin play. This while somehow beating both Canada and Sweden. Anyway, Lachat got into the team’s last – and ultimately meaningless – game against Sweden, playing lead after the fifth end break. Hey, he was on the ice for a win against the future gold medalists. Not a bad story.
Colin Hufman, U.S.A – Hufman got into the Olympics in the sixth end of a round-robin game against Canada. The U.S. trailed 7-1 at the time and there was a decent chance that Hufman would only get to throw two shots. But John Shuster made a killer thin double to score three and then got the force in seven. The game actually made it to the ninth end so Hufman got to throw eight shots in the Olympics.
Marc Kennedy, Canada – Kennedy entered under the same circumstances as Hufman. Given that Kennedy has been a part of two previous Olympic teams and is currently one of the five best curlers in the world, his appearance here is not quite in the intended spirit of this list. It’s worth noting that Kennedy curled 100% in his eight shots.
Xindi Jang, China – Xindi Jang’s story is really the story of Yu Han. After losing their first three games, Han got moved from lead to third. After three games of that, and sitting at 2-4, Han was benched altogether. Enter Jang, who played lead for the final three games, two of them wins.
Yeong-Mi Kim, South Korea – Kim played second in two randomly chosen games against China and Japan. Those games were Korea’s fourth and sixth of the event, resulting in a loss to China and a win over Japan.
Carole Howald, Switzerland – Howald is normally the third for Irene Schori, so as the alternate for Team Tirinzoni she was mainly there for an emergency. And an emergency kind of occurred when Tirinzoni had some sort of leg injury in Switzerland’s final round-robin game against Japan. Howald entered in the sixth end with a 5-2 lead, and Switzerland won in nine ends giving Howald a solid eight shots of Olympic action.
Jasmin Lander, Denmark – Lander threw just six shots, the fewest of anyone on the list. She was inserted at lead after the fifth end of Denmark’s final game against Canada. Denmark was actually in the game at the time, trailing 5-3 with hammer, but a steal of 3 in the sixth quickly ended Denmark’s hopes.
Lander threw her first guard attempt to the tee line, but curled 100% on her remaining five shots. She just turned 22, so there’s a decent chance she’s back as a regular member of Team Denmark if she continues to play. She actually got into three games (and played well) during the European championships, so it’s clear there’s an effort to get her some real experience on the international stage.
Hooray for alternates!
Thank you for your blogging, I’ve learned quite a bit about this sport by reading over the past year.
Speaking of alternates, I’ve been wondering about Team Fleury at the Scotties. As a newbie to the sport, I kinda expected that after playing really well with an alternate for a week, that they’d realize their better chance of winning would be to just continue the tournament with their alternate. That moving back to their usual line-up would be too disruptive this deep into a tournament. Guess not.
Is there much precedent for starting a tournament with an alternate, having a good string of results, then removing the alternate from the lineup? Is my gut feeling way off from the data?
Thanks for reading. I don’t have enough of a grasp of history to know about past alternate usage. But it’s safe to say that the teams that are formed “organically” (i.e. not by a national organization) are loyal to their usual four unless there’s an injury.
Like, Marc Kennedy could have helped Gushue but there was no way he was going to play in a meaningful situation. Fleury was always going to play as soon as she was allowed to.