SOCHI, Russia — Canada's indomitable curling teams are on course for a gold-medal double at the Sochi Olympics.
Jennifer Jones' women's rink cruised through the round robin undefeated, a feat that had never been previously achieved. Brad Jacobs' men's rink is No. 1 in the world rankings and overcame an early wobble in the qualifying stage to advance with plenty to spare.
Canada is expecting gold. Will be satisfied with nothing less.
The country's biggest obstacle? Ironically enough, a Canadian.
Marcel Rocque wore the Maple Leaf on his back for years as a member of Randy Ferbey's foursome that won three world championships and four national champions at the start of this century. He's a proud Canadian, so imagine his predicament on Wednesday.
Rocque is currently the coach of China, which plays Canada in the semifinals of the men's Olympic tournament in Sochi. Understandably, he's torn.
"When I decided to do this job, my hope was to get them (Canada) in the finals," Rocque said. "Just so it wouldn't be nearly as hard because it would be success both ways."
Rocque knows the Jacobs rink well. He has coached them down the years, in his bit-part role as a consultant for the Canadian Curling Association, and even played against them toward the end of his career. In fact, his last game was a defeat to a team that contained a current member of the Jacobs rink, Ryan Fry.
"He was a phenomenal curler, one of the best sweepers ever to play the game," Canada player Ryan Harnden said. "I have a lot of respect for that guy — what he did for Canada and for curling in general is amazing and not too many people can have done what he's done."
Rocque is adding another line to his resume with the Chinese. Under his guidance, they are fulfilling their potential and are through to the last four of an Olympics for the first time. China's women have been world champions and Olympic bronze medalists but the men have never been at this level.
They clearly are embracing Rocque's methods and tactics. They seem inspired by him.
"There were some things I needed to tweak and change," Rocque says, modestly. He's done more than that — he has instilled a belief they can become Olympic champions.
Canada, the two-time defending champion, and China both qualified with 7-2 records. In their meeting in the round robin, Canada needed an extra end to win 9-8.
Sweden plays Britain in the other semifinal. The British came through a tiebreaker against Norway on Tuesday to take their place in the playoffs.
The men's semis take place in the evening session, by which time the finalists in the women's tournament will be known.
Canada, which won all nine of its games in qualifying, takes on world champion Britain and defending champion Sweden plays Switzerland.