Regina Worlds: Youth Olympians

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Youth Olympians headed to Innsbruck

Youth Olympians headed to Innsbruck

by Jill Officer

REGINA – It was a packed house last night as Team Canada stepped on the ice. You couldn’t even hear the lone bagpiper during the pre-game march because of the loud Canadian fans.

In front of that same crowd, the Canadian Youth Olympic curling team was introduced at the fifth-end break. The Youth Olympics is a new initiative from the International Olympic Committee that is like the Olympics, but for youngsters between the ages of 16 and 18. The first Summer Youth Olympics was held last year in Singapore, so now the first Winter Youth Olympics will take place in Innsbruck, Austria in January of 2012.

“It was unreal,” said Thomas Scoffin, the skip of the team, after the introduction in front of the large Canadian crowd. “I’ve never been part of anything like that before.”

COME OOOONNNN!

COME OOOONNNN!

The team, made up of two girls and two boys, was selected after a comprehensive process that combined on-ice performance at the recent Canada Winter Games as well as a formal application process – and that included a written essay, academic consideration, involvement in their communities and interest in other athletic and cultural activities.

Wow – I don’t know any curler that has to go through all that to get on a team! These guys, and gals, must be good!

The lucky athletes that were selected are Scoffin, who is from Whitehorse in the Yukon; Emily Gray of O’Leary, Prince Edward Island; Corryn Brown of Kamloops, BC and Derek Oryniak of Winnipeg. The team leader and coach will be Helen Radford of Halifax. It was nice of the Canadian Curling Association to fly them all in for the on-ice presentation, which saw them march out in their different provincial jackets and then be presented with their new Team Canada colours!

The team will execute some preparations and team building in the fall leading up to the event. “We’re going to meet up a couple of times in the upcoming months,” Brown told me. “We need to figure out how everyone plays, and each of our different releases.”

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, this is only the second Canadian national team that is selected – the other being the wheelchair curling team. All other national teams “win to get in” and there are always a few people calling for coaches and officials to select all-star teams for other competitions... like the regular Olympics.

Jon shows Jeff his Hulk Face

Jon Mead shows Jeff Stoughton his “Hulk Face”

And here’s something really interesting: there will be two types of events taking place at the Youth Olys. The first is the regular mixed event, and the second will be... Mixed Doubles, which was not put forward by the WCF for Olympic consideration (this is important as five new disciplines were approved this week, from women’s skip jumping to things like team figure skating and mixed relay biathalon... but that’s another debate).

But the real twist is that these mixed doubles duos will be made up of two curlers from different countries! I wonder how that will work with language barriers?

The editor informs me that my fellow TCN columnist Roger Schmidt, who is based in Switzerland,wrote about the approaching Youth Olympics stuff almost two years ago, and commented at that time how the WCF was scrambling to get its member countries to ensure that they could even field a team. Apparently, that youth age curling bracket is really underdeveloped around the world, and that is easy to understand when we in Canada have a U18 championship that is a) combined with the U.S. and also includes teams from Japan, b) named after a charity and c) isn’t sanctioned by any official associations.

Sweden plans to rock out today

Sweden plans to rock hard today

Now back to the event we’re all watching right now! The men’s worlds are down to the crunch. Whether I’m sitting on the media bench or competing down on the ice, I love playoff time. The music gets pumpin’ between ends, emcee extraordinaire Stu Brown entertains the crowd and the atmosphere is awesome.

Unfortunately, the Page playoff 1 vs 2 game itself wasn’t so awesome. Not that it was terrible, but it certainly didn’t have the entertainment value that people hope for in the playoffs. It was played reasonably wide open, and Scottish skip Tom Brewster missed a few late shots, and all that matters (to me!) is that Canada won and are into the world championship final on Sunday!

Earlier in the afternoon, the red-hot Norwegians beat the scrappy French 5-4 in a tiebreaker and will face Sweden in the Page 3 vs 4 game this afternoon. Earlier in the week, Team Thomas Ulsrud had to accompany Team Niklas Edin out onto the ice before their game against Canada, bow before them, and serve them with their brushes and curling shoes on bended knee... like servants! Pretty funny stuff, and all this was because of a bet the two teams made during a couple of pre-worlds practice games – and the Swedes won both games!

Something tells me today’s game, while friendly, will be taken very seriously. At stake is a spot in tonight’s semifinal (for the winners) while the losers will be bumped down to Sunday’s bronze medal match.

Anil Mungal photos copyright The Curling News® – click on image to increase size