Normally a meat and potatoes guy, Jim Cotter expanded his palate and tried the South Korean standard octopus at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
“The squid was a little chewy but I kind of liked it,” laughed Cotter. “All the noodles were good too.”
Back home in Vernon after a long flight Wednesday, Cotter was at the Winter Games coaching the Korean entry of Jang Hye-ji/Lee Ki-jeong in the mixed doubles competition.
Cotter’s World Curling Tour teammate John Morris, a Calgary firefighter, and Kaitlyn Lawes of Winnipeg, struck gold in the event. The Koreans finished 2-5, defeating the U.S. and Finland.
“It was a phenomenal experience; they are great kids,” said Cotter, a 43-year-old health information systems data architect. “I’m so glad I did it. After five games, I told them we could have been 4-1. We lost two extra-end games and we lost a heartbreaker to China when we overswept (final rock). I told them, ‘Two shots and you’re in the playoffs.’”
Perhaps the toughest part of Cotter’s gig as coach was the language barrier.
“You get two one-minute timeouts and I had an interpreter. You have to get your point across quickly. I was there mostly for strategy and motivation. Technically, it’s too late to tweak things.”
Lee Ki-jeong, 20, won the 2017 world junior men’s title on home ice so was not at the Games as a tourist.
“They’re professional curlers,” said Cotter. “They are paid athletes. There are no leagues, just tryouts for the national teams so they fly in a lot of Canadians and teams from other countries to play. You can’t curl and go to school. Lee Ki-jeong wants to keep curling. He’s really good; he has a real drive and passion for curling. Jang Hye-ji (age 22) wants to take a break and study sports psychology.”
Cotter met the pair while at a mixed doubles tournament last October in Seattle.
“They were working on me there and then after the Olympic Trials (last December, Ottawa), I was at Morris’ place and I got an e-mail with a three-month offer. I said no because I was hoping to make the Brier and I had made a commitment to my team. They (Koreans) asked me to coach a team three years ago. I said I would have had to retire and spend a lot of time away from family (his wife Bobbi and three children).”
Cotter averaged three to four hours sleep since his quarters were a long way from the curling site. He did, however, eat meals at the Athletes Village.
The seven-time Brier veteran says he needs some time off from the crazy World Curling Tour schedule so he will focus more on mixed doubles with his daughter, Jaelyn, next season. He and Morris had a two-year deal which has expired.
Cotter plans to add a new third to his foursome which includes Kelowna front-enders Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky.
“I’ll still be playing some B.C. events and trying to get to another Brier.”
Cotter will coach Jaeylyn’s rink in the eight-team Optimist B.C. Under 18 Girls Championships, March 13-18, in Salmon Arm. Third Kaila Buchy, second Katelyn McGillivray and lead Cassidy Schwaerzle support Cotter.