February 13, 2016

LILLEHAMMER, Norway (AP) The Olympics often produce surprises and at the second Winter Youth Games in Lillehammer, one name that stands out in the curling competition is Brazil.

Surprising because in a country studded with tropical beaches and the Amazonian rainforest, its curling coach says there isn't a stretch of ice big enough for a team to play at if they wanted to.

As the Brazilian players only took up the game in October, it's no mystery that the results haven't been very encouraging so far. The team has lost both its matches, 19-0 to the Czech Republic and 17-0 to Sweden.

In charge of the team is Marcelo Mello, one of the members of the first adult Brazilian curling team that took on the US in 2009.

He, like all the young players on his team, lives in Canada. He said since that 2009 match he had managed to spread the word about curling in his homeland even if there's been little success yet.

''We come from a country where there is no winter really, no winter sports and you have no arena in Brazil so we must develop athletes abroad and even if you have many Brazilians that live abroad, we don't have tradition in this sport.''

Despite the losses, he was positive about the experience that his players were gaining at the youth games in Norway.

''It's tough to be beaten hard,'' he said, but ''I think it will be a great experience for them because they will grow up as athletes and even as people.''

''It's very difficult to play against experienced people when you have no experience especially in curling because it's very important to have experience to understand the game because it's not just technical issues, it's a lot about maturity in the game to understand situations.''

Curling has become more popular in Brazil, Mello said. The TV audience has been growing since the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 when he was asked to provide commentary on the games.

The prospect of Brazil's adults playing in the Olympics is much harder than for their younger players as they must first compete in the World Curling Championships. The Americas region only has two spots and that would mean Brazil would have to beat either the US or Canada.

They have played the US three times, in 2009, 2010 and 2015, and lost them all.

The key to start to make Brazil more competitive as a curling nation would be to build an arena, Mello said. While Brazil has economic issues, it's a prospect that could only be a couple years away. ''Different to most winter sports, (with) curling we can reproduce the same conditions anywhere you want, it's just a matter of investment,'' he said.

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