VICTORIA - Brad Jacobs enters play at the world men's curling championships a favourite, despite his limited experience against international competition.
The 27-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., begins play Saturday in his first worlds and as the youngest Canadian skip at this event since Kevin Martin competed in 1991 at the age of 24.
Jacobs will face Rui Liu of China in his first game. Although he has faced Rui and some others competing here previously, he has not seen many before.
"The field is really new to us in a sense," said Jacobs. "But I always say this, and we always have, and we always will say this: Your biggest opponent is yourself.
"You're trying to curl 100 per cent every game or real close to it. If you can do that on a consistent basis, you're going to win a lot of games.
"And we are expecting every team to come out firing against us. We're not taking anyone lightly. We've done that in the past. We're out here playing every game like we're playing (former Brier and world champions) Glenn Howard or Kevin Martin or Jeff Stoughton."
Jacobs' favourite status is based more on Canadian curling tradition than his personal achievements. The world championships have been held on four previous occasions in B.C. — most recently in 2005 at the same Save-On Memorial Centre where he will compete — and Canada has won every time.
With four different skips.
Ron Northcott (1966), Russ Howard (1987), Wayne Middaugh (1998) and Randy Ferbey (2005) came west and conquered.
"That's cool — interesting stat," said Jacobs.
"We threw on the (Canadian) clothes (Friday). It was amazing to throw these clothes on and be Team Canada. We're going to try and win another (world title for Canada.)
"We're going to do our absolute best to try to win another one. Really, though, we'll see what happens. Long week. Lots of games."
Canada has also won the last three world titles. As if the history is not enough, sports betting website Bodog.ca gives Jacobs as the best odds (seven to four) of winning.
"Normally, we're never favoured — ever," said Jacobs after practice Friday. "This is probably our first time that we've ever been pegged as the favourite, I'll tell ya that. But you know what? We really don't think about any of that stuff.
"We really don't care about any of that stuff."
The talented field includes two-time world champion David Murdoch of Scotland; Sweden’s Niklas Edin, considered one of the world's top young stars; and Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud. All have world championship and Olympic experience.
Jiri Snitil of the Czech Republic, Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne, Finland’s Aku Kauste, Japan’s Yusuke Morozumi, Russia’s Andrey Drozdov, Switzerland’s Sven Michel and Brady Clark of the U.S. round out the field.
"A few new countries — Russia, for example — and it's good to see Finland back in it (after being relegated to the B pool in recent years and regaining entry to the A pool)," said Canadian team leader Rick Lang.
"The countries change, but a lot of the names and faces have stayed the same — and obviously strong, based on recent performances by European teams playing in Canada, winning our major cashspiels and beating our top teams.
"There's no one here to take lightly — that's for sure."
Lang said Norway, Sweden and Finland are "sure favourites" but three or four others could be among the four playoff qualifiers.
"It's hard to know what the (Canadian team's) response will be to this," said Lang. "(The Jacobs rink) have played a lot of the international teams, and they've travelled internationally to play, and they've played in four Briers, most of our team.
"So they're experienced in the big arena, did the spotlight, but have not been under the spotlight like they are here. Team Canada will be a new experience for them."
Liu will try to beat Jacobs with help from Canadian co-coach Lorne Hamblin of Morris, Man. The Chinese skip won a cashspiel in Grande Prairie, Alta., this season and has prepared for the worlds by competing in Canada as well as New Zealand and Scotland.
"To get competition, they've gotta be in North America," said Hamblin, who is in his second season coaching the Chinese team.
Liu's rink scouted Jacobs during the Brier and spent last week training in Richmond, B.C.
"We've watched them all through the Brier — great young team," said Hamblin. "So I know them all."
While observers might not know what to expect from Team Canada, Hamblin is glad to see the Jacobs foursome, which includes third Ryan Fry and the front end brother act of E.J. Harnden (second) and Ryn Harnden (lead), going for world gold. All but Fry, 34, are in their 20s.
"It's a younger generation, and that really excites me," said Hamblin. "Watching Rachel Homan win on the (women's) side, for the development of curling, it's great. No disrespect to the Howards and the (Jennifer) Joneses, but it's good for curling."