Heartbreak and Triumph in Pinerolo

Kiwi Curler Hans Frauenlob shows off his hipster hairdo.

As for the conclusion of Joel and the Kiwis, it was tough to watch. Joel still had the Hammer as we went into extras, and the Kiwis did everything they could to try to prevent the inevitable, but Sean Becker's last guard stone didn't quite land in the correct position.

Joel mit der mullet has been getting bigger and bigger here. "He's turning into this local folk hero," Jim Henderson from "Sweep! Curler's Magazine" said.

Now, Joel had the last stone. All the other games were over. There were chants of "I-ta-lia, I-ta-lia," and at least 18 waving Italian flags. Joel got ready. "Shhhhhh, Shhhhhhh," everyone said. He tossed the stone. Everyone leaned forward toward the far end of the sheet. It was a point, and the crowd went nuts, and the Italians raised their brooms in triumph and hugged the Kiwis, who are now 0-6.

"We certainly didn't come here to lose nine games and take that away as a learning experience, that wasn't our objective at all," said Hans, whose team has lost three times on the final stone. "We're enjoying the Olympic experience, it's absolutely wonderful. We'd like to start winning some games. We're coming incredibly close, it's just close isn't good enough. You need a little bit extra to get over the top and we're still looking for that."

(Aside: In honor of this blog and hipster Joel, Hans wore his hair today in the closest approximation to a hipster Retornaz 'do possible. "I haven't got the back [mullet part] down yet," he admitted. "Haven't got enough hair for that." There is a photo.)

Joel emerged. He was typically cool. "He's been performing as he can perform," Coach Rodger Schmidt said. "A very talented young player, has got a good brain, sweet touch and delivery, good concentration. He sure deserves to be complimented for how cool he is."

Schmidt meant "cool" in a different sense, but still. The legend is growing. I asked AP curling beat writer Jimmy Golen who was the coolest curler at this venue.

"Definitely the Italian skip," he said. "I think he knows that he's becoming a rock star in his own country. It's the glasses I think. That's what makes him a rock star."

And the hair? "It's not right for me and you, that goes without saying," Golen said.

Joel engaged in some banter, telling me that my mother would need to iron my collar if I really wanted to go for the upturned look. A young Italian volunteer asked whether she could ask Joel some questions in Italian. "Sorry, I can't speak Italian," he said, and she stammered, confused, until we all laughed.

Joel told me his favorite country music groups are Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn and Alabama. He said his favorite country song is Lonestar's "I'm Already There."

One member of the team said the Italians came here without any hope of winning a single match. They are now 3-3 and in the thick of the semifinal race, one game out of fourth place. They have three opponents left: Canada, Finland and Go Suisse.

"You have to understand how difficult this competition is," Schmidt said. "The top teams have so much experience. Realistically, the top teams are going to beat us six, seven, eight times out of 10. It's asking a lot. One step at a time."

Joel is not answering his phone much and not checking his e-mail, so he doesn't know whether his fame is growing. "Everything I need is with my team and my coaches," he said. "What else can [outsiders] bring me? They can just take me away from my curling time."

Then he went to eat dinner.

By Dan Steinberg |  February 17, 2006; 5:28 PM ET
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Hugs to the Kiwi curling team! Sorry about the losses, mates, but you fought hard and did your best, so you can be proud! Kia ora!


Posted by: Kathleen Sobansky | February 18, 2006 06:35 AM

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