The eyes of the curling world are currently on Beijing, China as it hosts the 2014 World Men’s Curling Championship.
This is the very first WCF World Championship event to be held in China and only the third time that such an event has been hosted in the Pacific-Asia region after World Women’s Championships in Aomori, Japan (2007) and Gangneung, Korea (2009).
Welcome to my event preview.
The two websites you will need to follow the event in full are the official event site and the Facebook page – get them bookmarked, favourited or liked and you won’t miss a thing.
Beijing operates China Standard Time which, until 0100 on Sunday 30, is eight hours ahead of the UK and is seven hours ahead thereafter – do bear this in mind if you want to watch any live games or keep track of scores.
I’ll have more on the timings later when I rundown Scotland’s games.
This edition of the World Men’s, the 56th overall, is being staged at the Capital Indoor Stadium, an indoor arena with a capacity of 17,345 that was built in 1968 and renovated in 2001 for the World University Games – it was expanded and renovated once more in time for the 2008 Olympics where it hosted the volleyball events.
Beijing is the capital of China and was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911.
The city is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and boasts a population of 21,150,000.
Find out more here.
Curling in China
Despite being the most populous nation in the world with 1.35 billion inhabitants, China has approximately 500 registered curlers (including 200 juniors) and five ice facilities where curling is played.
The Chinese Curling Association recently launched a website for the first time – take a look here.
Chinese curling teams have traditionally come from Harbin in the north-east but it is the city of Yichun that has been earmarked as the ‘heart and soul’ of curling in China and a new four-sheet facility opened there recently.
The CCA has only been around since 2002 but in that time China has made its mark on the world stage with a women’s world title in 2009 and a Winter Olympic bronze in the following year.
In this World Championship, ten ends are scheduled and a minimum of six ends must be completed in the round-robin and tie-breaker games. A minimum of eight ends must be completed in all playoff/final stage games.
Round-robin play takes place from Saturday 29 March until Thursday 3 April with tie-breakers (if needed) and playoffs on Friday 4, remaining playoffs on Saturday 5 and medal games on Sunday 6.
Here are the twelve teams who will be battling it out in Beijing and how they got to the World Men’s:
China – Host Association/Federation
Japan – Finished second at the 2013 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships
Canada and the USA – Automatic qualification due to no challenge from other Americas zone members
Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland and Sweden – top eight finishers at the 2013 European Curling Championships
Something new for this next Winter Olympic cycle, each WCF Member Association with a team competing at any of the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 World Curling Championships will be eligible to enter teams for the next WCF Olympic Qualification Event scheduled for December 2017 (should they not gather enough points to qualify directly based on their final ranking at the 2016 and 2017 World Championships).
That’s the 2014 Opening Ceremony above and here are those competing teams again, this time with their skip’s name:
Canada – Kevin Koe
China – Rui Liu
Czech Republic – Jiří Snítil
Denmark – Rasmus Stjerne
Germany – John Jahr
Japan – Yusuke Morozumi
Norway – Thomas Ulsrud
Russia – Andrey Drozdov
Scotland – Ewan MacDonald
Switzerland – Peter de Cruz
Sweden – Oskar Eriksson
USA – Pete Fenson
Five of these teams (China, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Russia) were competing in Sochi at the Winter Olympics.
For the full team lineups check out this page on the official website.
Scotland (L-R): Ewan MacDonald (Skip), Duncan Fernie (Third), David Reid (Second), Euan Byers (Lead), Glen Muirhead (Alternate), Tom Pendreigh (Coach, not pictured)
Here’s the team representing Scotland over in China and they are there because they won the 2014 Scottish Men’s Curling Championship in Perth in February where they went undefeated.
With three world titles to his name, Ewan MacDonald is Scotland’s most successful international curler and his team in Beijing bring a mix of youth and experience to the tournament – we could see them go far this week.
Here’s their full schedule:
All times are UK
Sat. 29 – 0600 – v. Sweden
Sun. 30 – 0200 – v. China*
Sun. 30 – 1200 – v. Japan
Mon. 31 – 0700 – v. Switzerland
Mon. 31 – 1200 – v. Denmark
Tue. 1 – 0200 – v. USA
Tue. 1 – 1200 – v. Czech Republic
Wed. 2 – 0200 – v. Norway
Wed. 2 – 0700 – v. Russia
Thu. 3 – 0700 – v. Canada*
Thu. 3 – 1200 – v. Germany
Not the most fan-friendly times here in Europe but we should still be able to get a good idea of how things are progressing for Ewan and the boys.
*These games are available live on the WCF’s YouTube channel along with others – full listings are here.
If history is anything to go by in the World Men’s then the likelihood is that Sweden, Canada or Scotland will provide the winning team as the last time a team outside these three were crowned World Men’s Champions was Switzerland in 1992.
But history can never be relied on when it comes to curling!
That said, I believe that the winners will come from one of four teams – Canada, Norway, Scotland or Sweden.
Kevin Koe took Canada to World Championship glory in 2010 and he and his team will no doubt be hungry for a repeat performance. They are a rink I admire but it has already been announced that they will not play together next season – could this be unsettling?
Thomas Ulsrud is coming to the end of his playing career and it would be great to see him on top of the podium with his Norway team come the end of the week. The last time we saw the Norwegians win a World Men’s was 1988.
Team Ulsrud certainly stand out as one of the most experienced teams in the field and they easily have the capabilities but can they see the games out when they really matter? Ulsrud has three World bronzes to his name – can he upgrade in China?
Scotland may not be playing with a familiar or established lineup but they have a real chance of going far in this tournament with some hugely experienced players. Medals are not beyond them but they are going to have to beat the best if they want the big prize – if things go their way, Ewan could claim his fourth world title.
Sweden come into this tournament as reigning World Champions but it is not Niklas Edin who is back to defend his nation’s crown. Instead, Sweden have sent Oskar Eriksson and his youngsters to represent them in Beijing – a decision that has surprised many in the curling world. They are an outfit with huge potential and frequently take big wins against big teams on the tour events both in Europe and further afield.
Just a few weeks ago they beat Brad Jacobs and his Olympic Champions 8-1 after three ends during a Grand Slam event in Canada – rule this team out at your peril.
If you are looking for surprises, however, then consider keeping an eye on hosts China after their great Winter Olympic run, Rasmus Stjerne’s tricky Danes, Switzerland’s talented youngsters and the experience of the USA’s Pete Fenson.
But as I always say before (and during) these big events…
COME ON SCOTLAND!
Photos are © WCF/Céline Stucki and WCF/Richard Gray 2014
Image is © WCF