China's curling team thriving at Olympics under decorated Canadian
Team China coach Marcel Rocque, of Canada, talks with his players, from left, Wang Bingyu, Yue Qingshuang, and Jiang Yilun, after the first day of curling training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 16, 2014 6:16AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Marcel Rocque's best-case scenario would be for China and Canada to meet for gold in Olympic curling.
The 42-year-old from Edmonton is coaching China's men's and women's curling teams in Sochi.
Rocque won four Canadian championships and three world titles playing lead for Randy Ferbey between 2001 and 2005.
"My ideal would be to play Canada in the final and I could just sit there and relax," Rocque says. "That would be a good place to be."
China became an established power in women's curling before Rocque retired as a player. Bingyu (Betty) Wang won Olympic bronze in 2010 in Vancouver, a world title in 2009 and lost in the world final to Canada's Jennifer Jones in 2008.
The Chinese men's team have been slower to reach such curling heights, but Rui Liu's team was a surprising 6-1 heading into Sunday at the Winter Games. Canada was 5-2 and faces China on Sunday in a round-robin game.
"Coming in I told them 'I can't promise or guarantee you any kind of performance, any kind of medal,"' Rocque said. "You can't promise that stuff.
"I said I would promise them that I would have them ready to be at the best of their abilities and they would not have any regrets after this experience."
Rocque was approached by Chinese curling officials while doing a radio broadcast at the 2013 men's world curling championship in Vernon, B.C. He told them he was retired and initially declined their repeated attempts to recruit him.
"On several occasions I said I was flattered, but didn't think it would work," Rocque recalls. "They kept coming."
Rocque was reluctant to don another country's colours.
"I wore the Maple Leaf with a lot of pride," he says. "It was a tough one for me."
But after consulting with the Canadian Curling Association and securing a sabbatical from teaching in the Edmonton public school system, Rocque and Chinese curling officials agreed to a 10-month coaching contract that expires at the end of April.
Beijing is the host city of the 2014 men's world curling championship in April.
"The chance to experience the Olympics and the chance to help the sport of curling in other countries, we need curling everywhere," was Rocque's rational for taking the job.
The Ferbey team competed Canada's trials in 2001, 2005 and 2009, but did not earn the right to represent their country at the Winter Games.
Rocque was able to secure the blessing of his family to take the job with China, although Rocque isn't sure his two children are loving his assignment now.
"They both thought it was kind of neat that dad got to go to the Olympics and neat that dad got to fulfil a dream," he said. "I think their original intent, those two little farts of mine, they had a plan there that they might be able to travel a little.
"When that didn't come to fruition they started second guessing."
Rocque estimates he's spent no more than 30 days in Edmonton between working with the athletes in China and travelling the World Curling Tour with them.
"Doing both teams, it's exhausting," Rocque said. "I've been based out of my suitcase."