Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2010 Olympic curling schedule

The World Curling Federation has released the draw for the Curling Competition at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The draw is available via direct download at the WCF homepage, within the posting dated July 28.

Competition begins February 16 with three draws scheduled daily – alternating between men’s and women’s play – up to February 23.

Canada’s women’s team, which will be determined on December 12 in Edmonton, opens at 14:00 against Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott, the only curling athlete in history with two Olympic medals (silver in both 2002 and 2006).

Canada continues with matches against Japan on Feb. 17, Germany on Feb. 18 and Denmark’s Angelina Jensen, the 2007 world finalist, on Feb. 19.

Canada’s major crunch comes on the final three days of the round robin.

On Feb. 21, Canada battles 2003 world champion Debbie McCormick of the United States and, later, defending world champion Bingyu Wang of China.

On Feb. 22, their opponent is the defending Olympic champion and two-time world champion Anette Norberg of Sweden.

On Feb. 23, the Canadian women face another two matches, against Great Britain – most likely skipped by three-time world junior champion Eve Muirhead – followed by the round robin finale against 2006 European champions Russia.

The Canadian women do not compete on Saturday, February 20.

Canada’s men’s team, which will be determined on December 13 in Edmonton, opens with two matches on Feb. 16, against Norway (most likely 2008 and 2009 world bronze medallist Thomas Ulsrud) and Germany’s Andy Kapp, a two-time Olympian and multiple world finalist.

Following a full day off on February 17, the Canadians face two next-day opponents: Sweden (most likely the defending world university champions skipped by Niklas Edin) and then France’s Thomas Dufour.

On Feb. 19, Canada challenges Denmark’s Ulrik Schmidt.

On Feb. 20, Canada faces Great Britain’s David Murdoch, the two-time and defending world champion, in the evening draw. Murdoch defeated Canada’s Kevin Martin three consecutive times to win last April’s 2009 Ford World Men’s Championship in Moncton, and as reported by The Curling News, has been training specifically to defeat Canada for Olympic gold at Vancouver.

Canada then battles Switzerland on Feb. 21. The Swiss defeated Canada for Olympic gold at Nagano in 1998 and captured bronze at Salt Lake in 2002, and also scored demonstration gold at the 1992 Games in Albertville.

On Feb. 22 the Canadians meet John Shuster of the United States. Shuster was a member of the 2006 U.S. Olympic curling team, skipped by Pete Fenson, which scored the bronze medal.

On Feb. 23, Canada concludes the round robin with an afternoon match against China’s Fengchun Wang, the surprise fourth-place finisher at the 2008 world championship. This will mark the fourth consecutive day in which the Canadian men’s team competes only once.

February 24 is reserved for tiebreakers with the semifinals scheduled for February 25.

The Women’s Final takes place February 26 and the Men’s Final on February 27.

Canada has never missed the podium in Olympic medal-status competition, winning gold in 1998 (women’s) and 2006 (men’s) while scoring two silver medals in men’s play and two bronze medals in women’s play.

Venue photo by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation

Schmirler Golf 2009

THORNHILL, Ontario – The Sandra Schmirler Foundation was the big winner as another $30,000 was raised from a day of golf at Thornhill Golf & Country Club.

The seventh annual Sandra Schmirler Golf Classic, sponsored by curling boosters The Dominion and Capital One and convened by CBC curling talkie Mike Harris, saw 34 foursomes gather on what proved to be a day of spectacular (ie. rain-free) golf.

In the Anil Mungal photo above, three-time world champion Glenn Howard takes a whack (click image to increase size).

Other celebrity golfers taking part included Wayne and Sherry Middaugh, the rest of Team Howard, Eddie “The Wrench” Werenich and long-time teammate Neil Harrison, and Marnie McBean, the four-time Olympic rowing medallist and Canadian sport legend.

McBean found herself on the winning foursome, teamed with curling’s Al Hanks, the Dominion marketing whiz; John Shea (whose firm delivers The Dominion’s comprehensive insurance program specifically tailored to curling venues) and David Beesley, the longtime sponsorship salesman for the Canadian Curling Association.

The event came four days after a Schmirler Foundation fundraising tournament in Winnipeg. Future Schmirler golf events are scheduled for Edmonton (August 6), Regina (August 13), and Halifax (September 17 & 18).

The Dominion and Capital One both sponsor dozens of curling events and teams. Major properties include The Dominion Curling Club Championship and the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dario Franchitti Curling

The Rexall Edmonton Indy goes today, with racing star Dario Franchitti attempting to win both Canadian stops on the Indy circuit.

On Friday afternoon, the Scottish speedster wanted to try the “other sport invented by the Scots”... so he showed up at Edmonton’s Saville Centre curling facility, with TV crew in tow, to meet up with Team Randy Ferbey.

Dario Goes Curling – that’s our guess for the title – will air for just a couple of minutes today on Versa, as well as TSN2, as part of the Rexall Indy pre-race show.

Here’s the inside scoop, according to Team Ferb second Scott Pfeifer:

• Franchitti has watched the sport before, but had never been on the ice.

• He noted many similarities noted between the two sports – including ice conditions and track conditions, and the role of support staff (sweepers and pit crew).

• He was fascinated by the skill and precision required. His first two attempts bounced off the far boards, his third finished just over the hogline, and his fourth made it to the 12-foot rings, with sweeping.

• For a beginner, Pfeif remarked that Franchitti, whom he describes as a “super nice guy and very down to Earth” actually displayed “a terrific slide, although I may be biased because he is left-handed.”

• The speed demon seemed “very tentative and careful not to fall, which seemed kind of odd for a guy who speeds around pavement at hundreds of miles per hour.”

• Sadly, Franchitti’s movie star wife – Ashley Judd – failed to show up.

Thanks to Pfeif, who also submitted the above photo of Franchitti and The Ferb. You can see another pic, this one including Pfeif, on The Curling News Facebook group page.

Meanwhile, there was more racing/curling crossover as a local Twitter contest entrant used the classic phrase “hurry hard” to win a trip around the track in a race car.

And let’s not forget the original “Curling Indy” posting here at The Curling News Blog... featuring our very own race car design!

Vroom. Dario, start your engine ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wife Swap Curling

Now in its fifth season, the U.S. reality TV show Wife Swap recently added “Curling Families” to its casting wish list.

“Our research tells us that curlers are real, interesting people,” says Wife Swap casting producer Kristen Phelan. “And we’re planning to have this episode air just before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.”

The premise of the show is such: for seven days, two wives from two different families and with very different values exchange husbands, children and lives (but not bedrooms) to discover what it’s like to live a different family’s life.

“It’s an interesting social experiment and a great way to see your family in a whole new light,” Phelan noted.

The show is filmed as a documentary series, with no scripts and no set. It’s just one camera that documents this seven-day life excerpt.

And the call has now gone out to find curling-crazed U.S. families.

Families that appear on the show will receive a financial honorarium for lost wages, time and commitment. And if you refer a family that appears on the show, you will receive $1,000 finder’s fee.

“At Wife Swap we look for a two-parent home with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 17 living at home full time,” said Phelan.

If you are interested, please email Kristen at Casting.Kristen@gmail.com and tell her a little about your family. Or if you would like to refer a family, forward their contact information.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

10K for 100km

Thanks to some promotion from this here TCN Blog and an appearance this morning on CTV’s Canada AM, “The Hacks” scored another $1,000+ today to leap over their goal of $10,000 in pledges for Oxfam Canada.

Now, the hiking squad featuring world champions Craig Savill and Brent Laing (whoop-whoop photo by TCN’s Anil Mungal) merely have to complete tomorrow’s gruelling 100km trek... and then recover in time for Monday’s Sandra Schmirler Golf Classic, which will be played at Thornhill Country Club.

Congrats and thanks to the slew of curlers and curling fans who helped The Hacks achieve their goals, which currently sees them ranked third overall in fundraising. But why stop now? If you haven’t yet made a pledge of support, please head over to the team’s Trailwalker webpage!

And don’t forget, for each $100 pledge received, Team Glenn Howard will mail you a set of four autographed player cards (just send an email to teamglennhoward@hotmail.com with your name and address).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Curling Trailwalkers

It appears that Oxfam, the worthy international development charity, has wised up to the presence of a couple of curling celebrities in their midst.

As we first mentioned back in May, Team Glenn Howard front enders Brent Laing and Craig Savill (above) will be sweating through a four-man charity hike on July 24, this coming Friday. They will be accompanied by their former world junior champion teammate Andy Ormsby and curling’s master of the shirtless no-look eight-ender, Heath McCormick.

It’s all aimed at raising funds for Oxfam Canada, as this Laing/Savill promo video tells us.

The morning before, July 23, will see the twosome appear on CTV’s Canada AM (appearing anytime after 7:00am).

And why not donate to this cause? This all-curling Trailwalker team is nicknamed “The Hacks” and you can add to their team goal of $10,000 in donations ($2,500 each) via their Trailwalker page located here.

Anyone who donates $100 or more and then sends an email to Team Howard via teamglennhoward@hotmail.com will also receive four autographed Team Howard trading cards (include your name and full mailing address).

Stewart Cinks it, Tweets it

So the Tiger failed to tame the famed Ailsa Craig... in fact, he never made it to Saturday of the British Open golf championship.

Neither did Tom Watson, who walks in the shadow of the curling Craig in this Guardian photo by Tom Jenkins (above). This, of course, to the dismay of virtually every golf fan around the world who awaited the fairytale ending.

Stewart Cink is the champion, and he became the first man ever to Twitter a photo of himself and the claret jug after the victory. How about that.

The photo posting is here, with Cink’s Twitter page here.

Last but not least, there could have been even more famous photos taken of pro golfers and the Ailsa Craig... if not for the clothing company which plastered its logo on the sail of a large boat that cruised along the Firth of Clyde behind the ninth tee down to the 11th tee.

As Golf.com reported:

It’s hard to miss it, and that’s a problem for photographers, however, because that stretch is among the most popular for pictures. Along with the cliffside beauty, they often capture the image of players with the Ailsa Craig and Turnberry Lighthouse – sometimes both – in the background.

“Why would I want a photo of that?” one photographer said, packing up his gear and looking for a better spot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tiger Woods meets the Ailsa Craig

If ye can see Ailsa Craig, it’s gaun tae rain. If ye canny see it, it’s already raining.
– Old Saying

There’s just something magical about the sight of one of the world’s greatest athletes – Tiger Woods – working his magic before the looming presence of curling’s greatest natural landmark.

(Click on the Associated Press photo by Jon Super to magnify the reverence)

Golf’s British Open – or simply The Open Championship – has returned to the Ailsa Craig course at Turnberry after an absence of 17 years.

As a result, everyone in the high-profile golf world are stumbling over each other to lay breathless praise on the Ailsa Craig itself, the monolith of volcanic rock which sits some 12 miles out in the Irish Sea and thus provides glorious background imagery for fellows like Tiger.

A preview story earlier this week by Associated Press writer Paul Newberry summed up the importance of the reverent Ailsa Craig to our sport, curling:

On a sunny day – and that’s how the weather broke around lunchtime – the hill provides the best spot to gaze on the Ailsa Craig, a massive island of rock in the Firth of Clyde that measures two miles around, rises 1,129 feet above the sea and is best known these days for its role in a decidedly different sport – curling.

“Someone was telling me that every curling stone in the world comes from that island,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “That’s got to be a myth.”

Not really. The isle’s unique granite is believed to provide the best material for carving out the stones used by the sweepers on ice. Since curling became a Winter Olympic sport in 1998, every stone got its start on the Ailsa Craig.

Well, actually... as most curling fans know, the Ailsa Craig is the legendary source, but newer quarries in Wales and Finland are providing the curling world with more options, as the Craig supply is gradually depleted.

And we would probably change that last line to read “Since curling became a Winter Olympic sport in 1998, not every stone got its start on the Ailsa Craig.” Anyone agree or disagree?

To sum up all things Ailsa Craig, we suggest the following links:

• the “official” story from Wikipedia

• a cool story from Times writer Lynn Truss

Kays of Scotland, the official stone manufacturers

another outfit, offering Craig jewelry and curling collectables

the hotel in Edinburgh

• the indie rock band from Leeds

• the unknown Canadian village in southwestern Ontario

• the sociology professor in Newfoundland, Canada

And finally, USA Curling is auctioning off an authentic Ailsa Craig curling stone that will be autographed by the 2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic curling team members. To bid on this one-of-a-kind item, search for “Team USA Autographed Curling Stone” on eBay... or just click here.

Anything else for a Friday?

• A reminder of today’s Rockin’ The Gold curling fundraiser in Toronto, which we told you about here. Looks like blogTO has a promo writeup, too ...

• Were the Canadians a wee bit too intense at the recent Tropicurl summer spiel in Pittsburgh?

• Curling in Corner Brook, Newfoundland may be wiped out this coming season ...

• And finally... is this what the kids are doing these days?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Throwing Stones: call to arms

A couple of days ago, we told you about Canada’s Throwing Stones, a now-rejected TV pilot that airs tonight as a one-off on CBC (9:00pm eastern).

You can check out the July 13 posting, which includes an exclusive story by world champion participant Jill Officer, by clicking here.

A couple of media types have finally weighed in today, and there’s a clear feeling that if enough eyeballs tune in tonight, the show may yet find another life.

Randall King of the Winnipeg Free Press lists the negatives as a “cloying, cute tone and a generic sense of place” and suggests this is a “glossy-looking product that might just as easily have been set in Scarborough, Moose Jaw, or any Canadian burg deemed to be Nowheresville.”

But he also states that “presumably, if enough viewers respond favorably, it may induce one of those reclaim-the-airwaves movements where we, the viewing public, might rise up and dictate the kind of programming we expect from the nation's broadcaster, instead of taking the dictation.”

You can read King’s preview/review here.

Macleans, Canada’s national magazine, says the pilot “isn’t terrible” and links to a brief review by Jill Golick, as well as a Facebook page... plus the aforementioned TCN blogpost (ahem). You can read all that right here.

TV writer Denis McGrath posted a rather simple preview of the pilot – but with another on-ice photo – located here.

Finally, Kate Taylor of the Globe & Mail points out that “new Canadian shows used to get time to find their feet and their audience. Now they are routinely smothered in the cradle. So, take a look at Throwing Stones (tonight) and see whether you think the smothering was an act of mercy or of villainy.

“Women’s curling team on the Prairies tangles with an ugly American? Too regionally sensitive, Cancon-laden to be anything more than a cliché of CBC programming? But remember, somebody liked the concept enough to order the pilot.

“... we will never know because the CBC, which is currently trying to attract more female viewers while shying away from the half-hour format, will not be ordering any more episodes of Throwing Stones – unless, of course, a million of you happen to tune in tonight.”

Taylor’s piece is available by clicking here. And hey, does that photo (also above) reveal a good old Winnipeg Slurpee being consumed on the ice? Very timely, considering this news.

(For more on Slurpeetoba, including the tale of a dastardly, failed American effort to hijack the title, check this.)

So... what’s it going to be, Canada? Will you take advantage of today’s ease of virile-marketing technology – email, Twitter, Facebook et al – to get all your friends to tune in tonight?

And where to go to let CBC know how you feel? Click here ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Throwing Stones: behind the scenes

Considering the feature story written by world champion Jill Officer in the November 2008 issue of The Curling News, we shall assume you recall hearing about a new Canadian TV comedy series called Throwing Stones.

An exclusive online excerpt of that story follows... in a bit.

The show tells the tale of five women trying to stay afloat amidst the chaos of life: demanding children, high-maintenance husbands, mortgages that keep them awake at night, uninspiring jobs, and all the challenges that come from being a wife, a mother and more significantly, a woman.

And all is forgotten, all is left behind, when they meet weekly at the West Kildonan Curling Club in Winnipeg.

The show uses the principles of curling as a metaphor for life. Patti (played by Academy Award winner Patty Duke) believes that all the lessons, rules and wisdom you need in life, you can learn from curling. Every episode begins with Patti philosophizing about one aspect of curling. It is this principle of curling and its larger application to life that is explored in each episode.

Throwing Stones
was an original pilot developed and produced for the CBC. We heard earlier this spring that CBC had turned down the show, due to both the economy and new programming guidelines. This, of course, totally sucks.

But it also means that the pilot will be airing on July 15 – this Wednesday – with very little publicity or promotion. As such, the show producers are asking curlers to tune in on July 15 and, if you like the show, send your feedback (ie. your righteous anger) directly to CBC via this webpage.

So do tune in. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt or two from Jill Officer’s behind-the-scenes column back in November... which you would have received, along with the photo above (taken by Joey Isford) if you had subscribed to The Curling News ...

Patti Duke, the Hail Mary and 21 bucks an hour

Standing on the ice pretending to talk to my pretend teammate, I felt a little ridiculous. My lips were moving, but no sounds were coming out. I also had more expression than when I’m really talking – and I think I’m generally pretty expressive.

This was my first experience as an actress – no wonder it’s called acting; youre not really doing anything, at least for the “extras” on set, which is where I fit in. A curling-themed pilot for a CBC TV series was being shot on location at West Kildonan Curling Club in Winnipeg. The rink was turned into a film set in September when film producers took over the building, painted some touch-ups and set up shop for three days of shooting Throwing Stones – a series with a very Men with Brooms feel to it (ie. a little unrealistic).

The series stars Oscar winner and three-time Emmy Award winner Anna Marie “Patty” Duke. Well, she at least *edited to prevent spoilers* until she *edited to prevent spoilers* which I know my editor would want me to point out *edited to prevent spoilers* and was very similar to *edited to prevent spoilers* the Scotties in 2005 – and then *edited to prevent spoilers*.

Weeks before the shoot, an email circulated by a local casting company (and editor gk) was asking for female curlers between the ages of 20 and 60 to bring their skills to the set as background curlers. Given that the pay started at $21 an hour (overtime was more) I thought, hey, why not? That way I could throw a few rocks, see what this was all about and, of course, have something to write about for The Curling News.

The call time for us “skilled” workers was about 9:00am. I showed up to find a number of my fellow local competitors – Chelsea Carey, Kaleigh Strath, Cheri-Ann Loder, Jill Proctor – and many more. For some of the younger girls like Kaleigh, it was a chance to change their status as a starving student – for a couple of weeks anyway – and make a few hundred bucks in a day even though they had to skip class to do it. Can you blame them? Heck no!

As extras, even we had to go through wardrobe, make-up and hair. Wardrobe was a challenge. We were asked to bring clothing with no logos and we couldnt bring anything black, white or red. That was a problem for me as it would be for many competitive curlers who have sponsor logos plastered all over their curling gear and the stuff that doesnt have logos consists of the popular colours of… black, white or red.

I raided my closets of sweatshirts, curling clothes, etc, but I couldnt find anything that fit the rules. The only logo that was approved was Asham, but even then my Asham sweatshirts were red and black. Ugh! I eventually had to raid moms closet where I found a plain pink sweatshirt that ended up being my wardrobe of choice by the pros.

After pretending to talk to someone, doing monotonous tasks in the background, faking yelling “hurry” while my pretend teammates avoided the huge lighting equipment that covered half of our sheet, playing cards in the downtime and then basically being on the ice for five hours straight not really doing anything – including never throwing a rock – it was time to call it a wrap for the day, some 14 hours later!

We think actors and other entertainers live the good life, but getting a taste of what its like to be on a film set has proven to me that its not all that easy. Granted we didnt get the golden treatment, like our own trailer nor a bed to rest our head on, but having to “hang around” all day is, believe it or not, absolutely exhausting. By 11:00pm my legs were stiff, my back ached and the sound of “thats a wrap” was enough to make me peel right out of there despite the discomfort I was feeling.

Imagine that, huh? I could write the headline for gk right now: “Elite athlete isnt even in good enough shape to stand around for 14 hours.”

Really though, I would challenge any high-performance athlete – from any sport – to stand in the cold for hours on end, dressed for a regular curling game, but not doing any throwing or sweeping. Somehow I think anyone would feel the same way.

I wonder how Connie Laliberte fared: as the “consultant” helping out the production crew, she was there longer than anyone, but at least she had things to do… including setting up. And I think about that Men With Brooms flick, too… amazing to think that nearly a hundred of my fellow competitors went through something similar, some of them for multiple days. My “extra” sources tell me that for those who returned to filming over the next two days – I could not – also spent 12 to 14 hours on set… including one night which finally wrapped at 4:00am! OMG!

I was so exhausted after the first day I was actually thankful I didnt return to the miming, standing around in the cold and passing time.

I was, however, thankful for the $350 cheque that arrived in the mail a few weeks later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

We salute: Doug Brown

Just a quickie for a beautiful Friday, here in this curling off-season. We freely admit that it’s the classic photo (above) which caught our posting interest, but this is also an interesting story about one of our curling’s often-secret treasures... the volunteer.

But come on, fellah... give us a smile!

The image was shot last month by Bruce Hain for Ontario’s Innisfil Journal. And as the story goes, the subject of the photo – longtime curling booster Doug Brown – was recently honoured for a lengthy curling volunteer career that could be labelled... ironic.

“I didn’t want to curl, but my dad talked me into it,” Brown recalled.

LOL! One wonders how many curling supporters got their start like Doug... not necessarily on fire with the curling spirit?

“I got involved looking after things because I lived so close,” Doug said. “I ended up on the executive board.”

LOL again!

And of course we’re chuckling at Doug’s “ice halo”, which is actually protective. Apparently.

“Doug has a habit of falling and splitting his head on the ice,” said his wife, Daureen. “Five times in five years. The guys bought him an ‘ice halo’ to wear around his head.”

This may be why Doug is not smiling in the picture.

Regardless of appearances, it says here that Doug Brown has done an outstanding job for the Cookstown curling community... and this is a well-shared opinion, judging by the more than 100 people who attended Brown’s appreciation night.

Way to go, Doug Brown. To echo the words of your peers, and on behalf of curlers and curling fans everywhere, we thank you. And you certainly don’t have to smile you don’t want to!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Rockin' the Gold Curling

Rockin’ the Gold is a fundraising event to support the Canadian Curling Association’s ongoing quest to encourage and develop the sport across Canada.

Sounds good to us!

On July 17, participants will gather to compete and have fun at Toronto’s High Park Curling Club for the Rockin’ the Gold Bonspiel ($80 per team includes three indoor games, door prize ticket, plus dinner and drink) while guests/attendees can also drop by (at $10 a ticket) to enjoy the fun.

Waitaminute... did we say “indoor”?

Yep, we’re talking about the dryland version of the sport, “Kurling”, which is sweeping across Canada after originating in the U.K.

The “stones” are used in the Capital One Rocks & Rings program (you remember this story, and this one, right?)

This interesting day is organized by Sport and Event Marketing students from Toronto’s George Brown College, each of whom is a self-declared curling enthusiast.

Partners include the CCA (of course), George Brown College (of course), Wellington Brewery, Boston Pizza, Generation Go and Rock Solid Productions.

Sounds like there may be a couple of team spots available, so hustle on over to the website. You can also follow the action on Facebook (must be a member) and on Twitter.

What else?

• World wheelchair curling champion skip Jim Armstrong looked simply fabulous on Canada Day (see second photo, below the first)... but the serious news is that he has a shoulder injury that will require surgery. And thus brings the big question: does he go ahead with surgery now, or tough it out until after the 2010 Paralympics in March?

The story is here, with over 20 comments so far ...

• Still with wheelies and Vancouver, 2006 Paralympic champion skip Chris Daw is relocating, again, this time from Newfoundland all the way across Canada to the left coast. Daw has been hired as the new General Manager of the Vancouver Curling Club, which of course will be moving into its new digs just 100 yards away within a year or so following the Olympics and Paralympics.

Apparently, Daw will also be continuing his work for the CCA as the Development Coordinator for Wheelchair Curling (under the Discover Curling program).

This is all good news, considering Daw was tempted to leave the country just a few years ago.

Oh... Daw will also be a father, again... he and wife Morgan are expecting a child in early March, 2010. Congrats Chris, on numerous fronts!

• DID YOU KNOW: that venue construction for the Sochi 2014 Olympics is definitely underway?

• Wanna buy a curling book? You can get “Saskatchewan Curling: Heartland tradition 1882-1990” for 10 bucks ...

• And finally, welcome to a new curling blogger, who describes himself or herself as an Average U.S. Curler. No pressure now, having been linked by The Curling News Blog ... :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Swiss curling update

It’s all things Swiss in today’s The Curling News Blogpost.


Well... why not?

1. Team Mirjam Ott made some waves at the end of the 2008-09 season by replacing second Valeria Spaelty with team alternate Carmen Kueng. Spaelty was the last remaining member of Ott’s 2006 Olympic silver medallist foursome, and Kung had been the squad’s dedicated alternate the last couple of seasons.

A photo of the new Team Ott, who are pretty much confirmed to represent Switzerland at Vancouver 2010, is located here. The accompanying update states the squad will be taking a full six-month leave of absence from work to focus on the drive to Vancouver, which will include six weeks of training/touring in Canada.

2. Team Ralph Stoeckli, fourth-place finishers at the Ford Worlds in Moncton, need to win a special best-of-seven playoff against 2008 European rep Stefan Karnusian to book their tickets to Vancouver. But should they win, they will not be heading to the Games with team coach Russ Howard.

Russ has confirmed his gig with the CTV Olympic broadcast consortium – which of course features the TSN curling crew – and will be doing the suit and tie thing in Vancouver. Howard might still be jetting to Switzerland in September to do some work with the squad – this is still TBD – but he definitely won’t be wearing the white cross in February.

Here’s a photo of Howard in his Swiss duds, consulting with Stoeckli and lead Simon Struebin, who just happens to be Europe’s representative on the board of the new World Curling Players’ Association (as we revealed last month).

Back in November, you may recall that TCN scored the first photo of Russ in his new coaching career.

Speaking of photos, the CCA image above (shot by Michael Burns) shows Stoeckli in a huge fist pump just as his final throw settles into the button for a big win in Moncton.

3. But there’s another Canadian coaching saga in Switzerland... two, in fact. The husband and wife team of Lorne and Chris Hamblin have been hired as Swiss Curling’s new national team coaches.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press story, Hamblin said he and his wife only wanted a chance to coach at a high level and the Swiss opportunity came along before any other. “If there had been similar opportunities in Canada," said Hamblin, “we would have pursued that. But there weren’t.”

4. Andreas “Andi” Schwaller has hung up his boots... for now. The man who rivalled Stoeckli for Swiss skipping honours throughout this decade – winning world silver in 2001 and Olympic bronze in 2002 – has retired from competition... but perhaps only for a year, as this story would indicate.

You can also listen to a radio interview with Schwaller – in German, of course – on this page.

So, there you go. Anything else for the rest of this North American holiday week?

• CTV’s retrospective Olympic features titled “Where Are They Now?” includes Joan McCusker, and that famed 1998 Olympic championship squad ...

• Sudbury, Ontario is currently hosting its annual Dominion Amethyst Curling Camp, which is previewed here and also featured here ...

• Three-quarters of Team Jennifer Jones made an appearance last weekend in Blackfalds, Alberta ...

• Kansas City, USA curling action takes place on Monday nights through August 31 ...

• And finally, the New Zealand curling championships started today, with the finals set to wrap up on Sunday ...