SOCHI, Russia (AP) — When Canadian curling great Marcel Rocque retired in 2010, one of his biggest regrets was failing to make an Olympic Games.
As the lead in the so-called "Ferbey Four," he won three world titles and four national titles in a five-year period at the turn of the century. Yet, the Olympics always eluded him.
He'll put that right in Sochi.
Chinese curling officials asked Rocque last year to take charge of their men's and women's teams for a 10-month period up to and including the Olympics, with the aim of continuing the development of one of the sport's emerging powers.
After rejecting their advances several times, the lure of a return to curling's highest level — this time as a coach — proved too enticing. He took a sabbatical from his job as a school teacher in Edmonton and found himself back on the road, touring the world with his adopted country.
His latest stop? The Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi.
"I'd have given my left arm to play at an Olympics," Rocque said. "I lived my dream, accomplished everything I wanted to do — other than the Olympics.
"It was hard decision (to take up coaching with China) because I wore the Maple Leaf with so much pride, but for the sport of curling I've always given. I'm doing it for curling as much as myself ... our sport needs to be healthy in many countries for it to grow."
Time will tell whether his impact helps China's women better their bronze medal from the Vancouver Games. Or whether the country's men's team can improve on its eighth-place showing in the 2010 games, in its first-ever appearance at the Olympics.
What is for sure is that Rocque has fostered a great atmosphere among the Chinese teams.
There they were on Saturday, showing off big smiles and exchanging high-fives and banter with their mentor after a practice end. Compare that to the build-up to Olympic tournament in Vancouver, when China's women's curlers were so inside their own bubble they refused to talk to the media.