Monday, August 31, 2009

Skip Cottage Curling

A new curling blog to promote, today, out of Scotland.

Skip Cottage Curling is the newest voice of Bob Cowan, the recently retired editor of The Scottish Curler magazine (and blog). Bookmark it now, please.

“As an ‘independent voice’ for Scottish curling, who knows how it will develop,” Bob told The Curling News.

Bob is already an active blogger, with a regular Skip Cottage offering and a Curling History title. As always, we look forward to his musings on The Roaring Game.

Today’s news that former Scottish champion skip Gail Munro has indeed launched legal action against national team coach Derek Brown for defamation is sure to provoke some comment. At some point. Er, maybe.

There’s already been mountains written about the ongoing saga – like this, and this, and this – and to be frank, at this point, we find it all a bit depressing.

And we’re not even Scottish!

Friday, August 28, 2009

CNE Curling (and Kurling)

Celebrate the Olympic Spirit is a live winter sport demo taking place at Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition (or CNE, or “The Ex”) through September 7.

The outdoor attraction featuring interactive Olympic sport activities in Ice Hockey, Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Skiing and Biathlon and the Paralympic winter sport of Ice Sledge Hockey.

And, of course, not one but two curling offerings: Curling and Wheelchair Kurling.

In just a week, thousands of patrons have dropped in and reports say that over 500 kids are monopolizing the displays daily, while the adults cheer them on... and look for the opportunity to throw some rocks themselves!

The Wheelchair “Kurling” demo is operated by the legendary Variety Village, utilizing the same Kurling stones used in the Capital One Rocks and Rings program.

The Curling demo is operated by the Toronto Curling Association, which is obviously keen on increasing interest in GTA curling in this critical Olympic season. Curling stars Brent Laing and Sherry Middaugh were there on the opening weekend.

The CNE venture is TCA’s first of the new season, which includes the big-league, World Cup-style championship coming to Mississauga in October. Along with the demo, visitors can learn about the 20-odd clubs in the GTA, and survey particpants can win a pair of event passes for the Masters.

In the above photo, Wheelchair Kurling is in the foreground while traditional (albeit dryland) Curling can be seen in the background. We’re not sure of the make of the TCA “stones”, but they may have been salvaged from the short-lived Olympic Spirit Toronto initiative.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rehab Race for Armstrong

Team Canada wheelchair curling skip Jim Armstrong, who led Canada to its first-ever world championship gold medal in March, underwent shoulder surgery last week in Vancouver.

Canada’s major hope for a repeat of Paralympic gold at Vancouver 2010 had first confirmed the diagnosis of the injury back in July.

“I have a muscle tear in my left (non-throwing) shoulder that has been bothering me since before the world championships,” Armstrong had told Eric Eales of

“The prognosis for a full recovery is good, but the surgeons are suggesting that rehab may take three to six months.

“The long rehab is a concern,” Armstrong continued, “but if I can get the surgery in a couple of weeks I plan to go ahead with it. Otherwise I’ll wait until after the Paralympics.”

And now, with that three-to-six-month window now in play, the race is on to get “Army” back in Paralympic Games shape.

[WCF photo by Dallas Bittle]

NZ Games Playoffs

The curling competition of the first NZ Winter Games now heads into the playoffs.

China’s Olympic men’s team continues to struggle, just as they did at the Ford Worlds in Moncton. Their 4-3 record sees them limping into a tiebreaker for the fourth and final playoff spot. They will meet youthful Jerod Roland of the USA, also 4-3, on Friday morning [Adam Nathan photo above by ODT/Getty Images].

Earlier in the week, the Chinese had lost to Canada by an 7-6 count. The Canadians finished in last place with a 1-6 record, in their first international competition... but they hadn’t really played a national, either.

According to Snow, the Canadians are an invitation team made up of four petroleum engineers from the Calgary area, three of whom have played together for some 25 years and have strong connections with New Zealand curlers.

The squad will no doubt remain jazzed over their experience, and particularly the win over China. “Finally our team started curling like we did back home,” said skip Cliff Butchko, “And if you are going to beat a team then (China) was the one to beat. It’s extremely special.”

Japan (6-1) awaits the tiebreaker winner in one semifinal, while second-ranked Korea (5-2) will lock horns with the Aussies (also 5-2) in the other semi. You can follow the Australian curling blog for extra tidbits.

On the women’s side, things appear more ordinary within the small field. The Aussie women threw a scare into the top-ranked Chinese before falling 10-8, which now pits Bingyu Wang’s crew against New Zealand in one semi, while Japan battles Korea in the other.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

John Morris Curling Book

John Morris says fitness and curling go together. And he’s written a book to prove it.

Johnny Mo, who plays third for Kevin Martin’s 2008 world champion team, is releasing Fit to Curl: A Sport-Specific Guide to Training for the World’s Greatest Game.

“I’ve seen the game evolve,” says Morris. “The old stereotypes about curlers just aren’t true anymore. If you look at the top players, nearly all of them are very fit athletes with Olympic aspirations who devote a great deal of time to physical conditioning.”

Morris points out that high-performance curlers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the sport-specific training offered in the book.

“The book is written so that curlers of all levels can follow a program that suits them,” says JoMo. “Even the recreational player who curls once or twice a week and competes in a couple of bonspiels will enjoy the game more by working out just a few hours a week. They’ll be able to contribute more when they compete and feel better about their overall level of fitness.”

Filled with color photography of many of the world’s top players – the pics are supplied by CurlingZone’s Dallas Bittle, SWEEP! chief Jim Henderson and, of course, Anil Mungal of this here The Curling News – the book details the physical demands of the sport and offers three levels of training programs – with calendars – to “make it easy for people to incorporate a fitness routine into their life. Even the typical curler who juggles family, career and the sport can find time for the workouts – many can be completed in less than an hour.”

Morris, who also skipped teams to world junior titles in 1998 and 1999, also suggests that “Whether you’re delivering a stone or sweeping from end to end, curling places unique demands on the body. It only makes sense to follow a training program that will help you feel fresh and perform better on the ice.”

Morris wrote the book with Dean Gemmell, who played lead for Quebec in the 1988 Brier and now produces a popular podcast called The Curling Show from his home in Short Hills, New Jersey. A side benefit of working on the book, remarks Gemmell, is that “I’m a more fit curler at 42 than I was at 20.”

Gemmell also notes that one dollar from the sale of every book in Canada will be given to the Canadian Curling Association to support junior curling programs throughout the country.

“John believes strongly in the value of curling in the life of a young person,” says Gemmell. We hope that this might help introduce a few more kids to the sport or keep them playing.”

Fit to Curl is available for purchase as of now through the official website and in curling pro shops. Shipping commences on September 8.

The website offers a 17-page preview download, which includes the table of contents and some fine pics, including one classic from 1993. Yes, John, Sav’s hair is worse than yours.

Friday, August 21, 2009

NZ Winter Games

The New Zealand Winter Games are underway today through August 30, with multiple nations from the Pacific region – plus a few others – competing in this new international sport competition.

The inclusion of curling – plus the proximity to February’s upcoming Olympic Winter Games– makes this of interest.

Five days of live curling competition – with three draws a day – will be broadcast on Sky Television in New Zealand. And Kiwi curler (by way of Canada) Hans Frauenlob has been tabbed for colour commentary duties.

“By my reckoning that’s 28 hours of live curling,” Frauenlob told The Curling News. “I’m going to need throat lozenges.”

Incidentally, Frauenlob received his “Olympic Number” this year, along with his teammates from New Zealand’s 2006 Olympic curling squad. These stories (here and here) explain the program, in which Kiwi Olympians are “numbered” according to the first Olympic Games in which they competed, and alphabetically within that team, and receive a ring commemorating their achievement.

Frauenlob is number 986.

On the ice, powerhouse women’s teams include defending world champions China, skipped by Bingyu Wang and 2007 world semifinalists Japan, skipped by Moe Meguro. They are challenged by teams from New Zealand (Bridget Becker), Australia (Kim Forge) and Korea (Min-A Park).

On the men’s side, Japan’s youthful Yusuke Morozumi is one to watch, as is 21-year-old U.S. skip Jerod Roland, who has been named captain of the entire U.S. team. China’s Fengchun Wang is a definite gold-medal threat, while Korea is represented by Min-Chan Kim, Australia is helmed by veteran Hugh Millikin, and Karel Kubeska’s Czech Republic is there, too.

Two other men’s teams of note: Canada is represented by Calgary’s Cliff Butchko, who commands a team of forty-somethings from the Huntington Hills Curling Club. It’s the first international appearance for the squad, which has been described as a decent Superleague foursome. We’ll watch these rookies with interest!

[UPDATED: a story on the Canadians has just been posted here]

Finally, the host team is skipped by Dan Mustapic, another expat Canadian and a former teammate of longtime national team skip Sean Becker, who was rejected for the Games by a selection panel earlier this month. You can read all about that controversial decision here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Canuck Curling Coaches

As faithful TCN readers already know, the Swiss coaching experiment starring Russ Howard is more-or-less over but a dual Manitoba-Swiss experiment, at the national team level, has just begun.

Yesterday’s news that Alberta’s Rennee Sonnenberg has agreed to coach the Danish Olympic women’s team is just one more example of Canada’s influence in the world of curling. And there already exists an example within Denmark: Winnipeg’s John Helston, who won the 1984 Brier with skip Mike Riley, has been working with the Olympic men’s team – skipped by Ulrik Schmidt – for a few years now.

Which brings us to another Schmidt. We understand that the U.S. Olympic teams will be jetting to Switzerland, tomorrow, for 10 days of training, accompanied with teams from Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

The training centre is the Kussnacht Curlinghalle, which just happens to be one of the stomping grounds of Rodger Schmidt, the Canadian-born curling coach who has been based in Switzerland for many years.

Schmidt, of course, is the well-regarded European columnist for The Curling News... although we dug this news up from our side of the Atlantic, using Swiss search engines and U.S.-based spies.

And the Canadian coaching beat goes on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Brazil, New York Times Curling

The New York Times, and Brazil, are both back on the curling trail.

This new Times story focusses on icemaking guru Hans Wuthrich and why he wants to make Vancouver’s Olympic curling ice “bumpy”. There’s nothing necessarily Brazilian about this story, except for the accompanying Yannick Grandmont photo (shown above).

It is interesting to see this kind of entry-level story coming out in mid-August, given that variations of this tale will be told and retold again from about January right through the round-robin portion of the Games.

Let us pray for one thing, however: if the Times is to continue publishing curling stories – which would, of course, be fantabulous – we need to get them some new curling stock pics. Yes, January’s Brazil story (and the pics) was interesting... but that is so last season.

Incidentally, we can expect to hear of another Brazilian challenge for a berth into the 2010 Capital One World Men’s Championship in Cortina, which the United States will be expected to host again, early in the new year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Curling Corn Maze

Guess what?

Kevin Martin’s Corn Maze has been open since August 1.

Yup... a curling corn maze. Now you too can get lost inside Kevin Martin, which is precisely what so many curling fans were doing, quite loudly, back in April at the Ford Worlds in Moncton.

Incidentally, if you’ve never seen KMart’s exclusive sit down-and-telestrate-what-the-heck-he-was-thinking, head over to the curling page and click on “April 19: Kevin Martin Explains What Happened at the Worlds”.

Meanwhile, the official Corn Maze website is located here, and you can also follow the official Edmonton Corn Maze Twitter account, which features such gems as this one from August 8: “Never before have I been outwitted by a vegetable.”

Naturally, this is all part of the advance promo for the Olympic Trials – er, sorry, the 2009 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings – which gets underway in Edmonton on December 6, and which has a website conveniently located here.

Thanks to make-it-known for the email notice. We had previously spotted your blogpost, but had filed it away for a rainy day. And we’ve had a few of those this summer...