Jamie Sinclair and Rich Ruohonen compete at the U.S.Olympic Team Trials - Curling Mixed Doubles on Oct. 30, 2021 in Eveleth, Minn.
EVELETH, Minn. — Playing her last rock of her second game of the day, Jamie Sinclair looked as locked in as ever.
Her perfectly weighted draw to the button to score a single won her and Rich Ruohonen their playoff game Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Mixed Doubles Curling just hours after they’d won their tiebreaker to earn a spot in the playoffs. Awaiting in the semifinals on Sunday are Sarah Anderson and Korey Dropkin, who lost to Vickey Persinger and Chris Plys in Saturday’s other playoff game. Persinger and Plys head straight into Sunday’s final.
“I knew it was close when I let go,” Sinclair said of the final shot. “I was a little bit nervous to throw that shot because the ice had been changing and it wasn’t necessarily as predictable as it was in the first half of the game. I think that’s why they left that shot for me, knowing that it was getting a little bit dicey. We had some good communication about how we thought it was slowing down a little bit and what time to throw. So I felt confident in that and I said it was close out of hand.”
“She’s been money all week on her last shots,” said her teammate, “that’s what we need, that’s what it takes to win.”
The Sinclair/Ruohonen tandem did an excellent job of limiting the chances of Tabitha Peterson and Joe Polo, who scored more than a single in just one end. That three-point end was the result, Ruohonen said, of a “pick” in curling parlance — dust or debris on the ice that alters the path of the rock — on Sinclair’s first throw.
“That’s what got us into trouble that end and then I didn’t make my run-backs and so we felt like we were in control most of the game I think overall, so we just said, we’re throwing them well, don’t panic,” Ruohonen said.
The game then turned on the sixth end, when Peterson/Polo elected to take their power play with the score tied at four. Sinclair opted to throw a risky center guard in an attempt to force a steal. The move paid off as they got a steal of one, giving them a lead and the advantage heading into the final two ends, going on to win 6-5.
“We just thought throw up the guard and then we said, ‘Ee threw it there for a reason let’s go under it,’” Ruohonen said. “… So that was huge, because that gave us the hammer with our power play coming home.”
The Anderson/Dropkin vs. Persinger/Plys matchup was a meeting of the top two seeds, with a spot on the line straight to Sunday evening’s final. Anderson/Dropkin came into the game as one of the hottest teams in the tournament having rebounded from an 0-2 start — which included a 9-4 loss to Persinger/Plys — to finish 6-3. But this match was a repeat of their earlier meeting, with Persinger/Plys scoring in the first four ends and winning 8-4.
“We really just wanted to get one in there good and then when we had an opportunity to eliminate rocks just take those opportunities but not ever try to eliminate rocks with like high risk,” Plys said. “We knew that there was gonna be some chances for them to get a few but we got a lucky miss in seven and that’s all she wrote.”
For Persinger, the result was a bit bittersweet as it came against Anderson, her teammate on the four-woman team skipped by Cory Christensen.
“It’s hard because obviously I always wanted to make great shots,” said Persinger. “Maybe not so much when I play against her but it’s still nice to tell her, ‘Good one’ when she makes one and I think the same goes for me. So it’s actually kind of fun to play against people we play with on our women’s team so it’s nice to have the interactions out there and a little less serious.”
The 2021 mixed doubles national champions will await the winner of Sunday morning’s semifinal between Sinclair/Ruohonen and Anderson/Dropkin. The teams met in the last draw of round robin play on Friday night, with Anderson/Dropkin’s 8-3 win dropping Sinclair/Ruohonen into the tiebreaker. To pull off the title, Sinclair and Ruohonen will need to win four games in a row. But they’re halfway there.
“Going into this that’s what we said, to just make the playoffs and then see how it goes once we get there so we’re really happy with what we’ve done so far,” Sinclair said. “And we’re groovin’ out there, we just hope to keep the momentum going and enjoy it, this is an amazing opportunity and we’re having a blast.”