Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't forget Fry when counting Olympians

Homegrown Manitoban overshadowed by Jones

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LAS VEGAS -- It's easy to forget Jennifer Jones and her team aren't the only Winnipeggers who will be representing Canada in curling at next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Lost amid all the attention being heaped on the women is that tucked away in the third position of Brad Jacobs' Sochi-bound foursome is Ryan Fry, who is every bit as homegrown Manitoban as anyone on the Jones team -- and, in the case of Jones lead and Ottawa native Dawn McEwen, even more so.

Like Jones, her second Jill Officer and third Kaitlyn Lawes, Fry is also a two-time Manitoba junior champion. And he's also got a deep Manitoba curling pedigree as the son of Winnipeg curling legend Barry Fry, who won the 1979 Brier.

But the difference is Fry's Olympic ticket was punched on a Jacobs team based out of Sault Ste. Marie, where Fry has lived since 2012 as part of his five-year cross-Canada search to find the national curling success that eluded him when he curled out of Manitoba.

With a 2013 Brier title and now a berth in the Winter Olympics under his belt, Fry found success in The Soo beyond his wildest dreams, with the best hopefully yet to come in Sochi. "You know," Fry mused the other day at the Continental Cup, where he and the rest of the Jacobs team are representing North America, "it's pretty rare that something happens in curling that can actually change your life.

"But this has for sure changed my life -- money, opportunities, I even met my girlfriend at the worlds last year. You know how it is in curling -- usually you're scrapping for your life just to make $5 grand. But what we've done the last year -- it's completely changed everything for me."

Little was expected of the Jacobs foursome when they represented Northern Ontario at the Brier last year. But they stunned everyone in beating Winnipeg's Jeff Stoughton -- Fry's old skip -- in the 2013 final and then proved it was no fluke by going undefeated through the Roar of the Rings at the MTS Centre last month to earn the right to represent Canada in Sochi.

They have thrived, in other words, in the role of underdog. But can you still be an underdog when you're representing Canada at the Winter Olympics, an event in which Canadian men have never failed to win at least silver and have won the last two gold?

Fry says it's business as usual for his squad -- head down, blinkers on, task at hand.

"We want to be known as one of the best teams in the world and so that motivates us. We put more time in the gym, we put in more time in practice and we work on a certain part of our game, which is the hitting part.

"And we've gotten to a point where it's tough for other teams to score points against our team, just because we have three really proficient hitters in a row. That's always been my game, so it's fun for me. And Brad's done really well at figuring out a way to call a game around it. And now we've found our own little niche and it's fun.

"Are we still an underdog heading into the Olympics? I don't know. But if we are, I'd rather be an underdog than a favourite anyway. That's always easier I think."

Still got to be nerve-wracking though, Fry was asked, knowing what happens in Sochi could forever determine the first two words of his obituary: "Olympic medallist...

"I can't say we're too nervous," said Fry. "Our team is pretty light as it is. We know what our job is and our job is to get to the playoffs through the round-robin, preferably with hammer in that semifinal game. And if we can do that, well then we'll go from there."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2014 C5

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