Sochi 2014 Curling Competition Begins Monday 10 Feb
Sochi, Russia – With its purpose-built venue – the 3,000 seat Ice Cube Curling Centre – situated at the heart of the Coastal Cluster, curling will be at the centre of the action at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, which open on Friday 7th February.
The curling competition gets underway on the morning of Monday 10th February, with ten of the world’s top men’s and ten of the world’s top women’s teams vying for medals.
The men’s teams are: Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
The women’s line-up is: Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.
To make it to Sochi, these nations and teams have followed different qualification routes. The Russians are there as event hosts, with another seven teams qualifying through their performances at the last two World Curling Federation (WCF) world championships (in 2012 and 2013).
In the men’s field the direct qualifiers were Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. (The world qualification points gained by WCF Member Association Scotland are allocated to Great Britain for Olympic purposes). The seven direct women’s qualifiers were Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.
The fields were then completed by the top two teams from a special WCF Olympic Qualification event, staged – for the first time – in Fuessen, Germany, in December 2013.
In the men’s event, Germany topped the rankings and USA joined them in second place. China won the women’s event, with Japan finishing second to take the last available women’s position.
With every team made up of four players and an alternate, there are 100 curling athletes taking part in the Sochi Games.
Of these, 41 have previous Olympic experience. Among them, Torger Nergaard (NOR), Nkeiruka Ezekh (RUS), Mirjam Ott (SWI) and Debbie McCormick (USA) will all become four-time Olympians, while David Murdoch (GBR), Ayumi Ogasawara (JPN), Yumie Funayama (JPN), Ekaterina Galkina (RUS) and John Shuster (USA) will all be at their third Olympic Winter Games.
Norway’s Nergaard has won Olympic gold (2002) and silver (2010) previously, while Ott has already taken two Olympic silver medals (2002 and 2006). USA’s Shuster won bronze in 2006, and Bingyu Wang’s Chinese women’s team won bronze medals in Vancouver (2010).
To gain the right to represent their country some teams had to win a national qualification event, while others have been brought together through national high-performance programmes. Nations with their own qualification tournaments include Canada and the USA. As a result, the Canadian men will be led by skip Brad Jacobs, who took silver at the 2013 Ford World Men’s Championship, and 2008 world women’s champion Jennifer Jones. The USA skips are John Shuster and Erika Brown.
In the men’s field, Sweden, led by Niklas Edin, go into action as current world champions. China’s Rui Liu skipped his team to gold at the 2013 Pacific-Asia Championships, while the Great Britain team (as Scotland) won bronze at both the 2013 Ford World Men’s event in Victoria, Canada and the 2013 Le Gruyère European Championships in Stavanger, Norway.
Among the other men’s teams, Norway, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud, took silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Switzerland’s Sven Michel secured his first international title for his team when they won gold at the 2013 Le Gruyère Europeans. Denmark, led by Rasmus Stjerne, are also previous European Championships medallists.
At the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Olympic Games, Canada (Skip Kevin Martin) won men’s gold, beating Norway (Ulsrud) in the final, with Switzerland (skip Markus Eggler) beating Sweden (Edin) for bronze medals.
In the women’s field, Great Britain, skipped by four-time world junior champion Eve Muirhead, are the reigning world champion team (as Scotland), beating Sweden in the final of the 2013 Titlis Glacier Mountain World Women’s Championship in Riga, Latvia. The Swedes, skipped by Margaretha Sigfridsson, who plays lead stones, then turned the tables to win gold when these two teams met again in the final of November’s Le Gruyère European Championships 2013.
Before emerging on top in the Olympic Qualification event, China took silver the 2013 Pacific-Asia Championship, losing the final to Korea’s Ji-Sun Kim whose team is also in Sochi competing in an Olympic curling competition for the first time for her nation.
The USA’s Debbie McCormick, who plays third in the Erika Brown team, is also a world champion skip (2003), while Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott skipped her team to a more recent World title, at the 2012 Ford World Women’s Championship in Canada.
Among the rest of the field, hosts Russia, skipped by Anna Sidorova, won European gold in 2011, while Denmark’s Lene Nielsen has two European medals to her credit.
In the women’s event of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, Sweden (skip Anette Norberg) won gold, beating Canada (skip Cheryl Bernard) in the final, while China (Wang) beat Switzerland (Ott) for bronze medals.
The curling competition at the Olympic Winter Games takes the form of separate men’s and women’s nine-game round-robins which aim to produce four semi-finalists, using tie-breakers if necessary. In the semi-finals, the top-ranked round-robin team will play the fourth, while the second and third-ranked teams play each other. The semi-final winners then go on play the gold medal final (women – Thursday 20th February, men – Friday 21st February) while the losers face each other for bronze medals.
Pictured top right: The Ice Cube Curling Centre, Sochi Russia
Pictured left: David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, and Michael Goodfellow at European Curling Championships, Stavanger 2013
Pictured bottom right: Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan and Claire Hamilton at European Curling Championships, Stavanger 2013.
Photos: © WCF / Jesse Kushneryk 2013