Friday, February 20, 2009

2009 Universiade curling

Last March, Canadian Curling Association National Development Coach Paul Webster did some TCN Blogging from Vierumaki, Finland at the first-ever World Mixed Doubles Championship.

Webster – and Team Canada – are now in Harbin, China at the 24th Winter Universiade, aka the World University Games. And they’re off and running (er, curling) ...

by Paul Webster

HARBIN, China – China here we come.... actually we are here! It was a bumpy travel road but things worked out in our favour and we made it in time for our first practice!

But not before curling – or some wild form of it – was included in an amazing opening ceremony (photo above).

The round robin features 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams, and this is the third time that curling has featured as a medal sport at the Winter Universiade. Other sports include ice hockey, figure skating, speedskating, alpine skiing, Nordic combined, snowboarding, free-style skiing, cross country skiing, biathlon and ski jumping.

As this is for The Curling News Blog, I’ll stick to curling updates! We are now two games into both the women’s and men’s round robin competitions. Currently China is topping the list for both events with a perfect 2-0 record... which should be no surprise to anyone here. When the decision was made to send their top two squads, the possibility of double-gold on their home soil became exactly that... a definite possibility.

There may be an argument about these Games being a great tool to help develop curling in countries around the world... but there are a few here who are not messing around, and have simply sent their best teams – with China and Russia leading the pack. Other countries, ours included, see this age group as a target market that we want to keep involved in the sport throughout their studies... and the lure of an international event has created some great teams across our country.

Our Canadian men, skipped by Mike Anderson, are currently 1-1 after winning their game this morning against the Japanese. We lost our opener against an extremely tough Swedish team with Scottish import Niklas Edin skipping the team (and if you watched December’s Continental Cup, you will understand the joke!). These boys have a very strong squad and should be somewhere on the podium at the end of the week.

China is doing what they should be doing... and winning! Korea has to be the surprise team so far, with a couple of very strong wins and arguably the all star skip of the event at this early stage..... young Kim C M is on fire!

On the girls’ side of things, our ladies – skipped by Hollie Nicol – are 2-0 and tied for top spot. They had a great comeback victory with an extra-end steal in their first game... against mighty Russia! The Russians have sent four-fifths of their Olympic women’s team here, to see if they can avenge the loss of the 2007 Winter Universiade final in Torino. I’m not sure if they have have a second team as these girls have played in just about everything, and definitely feel at home in an arena setting. They looked a little shaky to start the event... but then so did everyone else... and I’d expect to see them in the top of the standings at the end of the event

Hats off to FISU for organizing a great competition. Scotland’s Jeannette Johnson and her Chinese organizing committee have done an outstanding job covering all the bases. The best decision they have made was bringing in icemakers Scott Henderson and Doug Wright... conditions have been amazing and continue to impress all of the teams.

I will update more often, now that the internet has been hooked up at the venue and in the village!

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