China upset in dual NZ Games finals

Australia’s men, led by skip Hugh Millikin, upset China in the gold medal match at the first NZ Winter Games, winning 10-6, tossing out years of recent Pacific Championships results.
Suffice to say, the Aussies are pumped.

“I think this tournament was one of the best sporting achievements we’ve had as a team,” said skip rocker Ian Palangio, in an interview with The Curling News.

“In the end we beat every country in the field at some point. China has had our number for the past couple of years so it was nice to get one back. Part of the magic of the sport of curling is that in a tournament such as this is that there’s a mix of professional and amateur teams, and all can be extremely competitive.”

Of interest was the absence of former China skip Fengchun Wang… who didn’t even make the trip to New Zealand. Rui Liu handled skip duties, as he did for a few games at the 2009 Ford Worlds in Moncton.

In the right-side half of the photo above, Liu calls a shot while Millikin (left, wearing hat) and Palangio observe. Click to zoom in.

Millikin, by the way, is not 61 years old, as many media outlets (including curling media outlets) wrote throughout the week. Only near the end of the tournament did his real age (53) come to light.

The Curling News suspects some fun-loving teammates might have sabotaged Millikin’s page in the official team biographies. But we only suspect.

In the women’s final, Japan’s Moe Meguro (delivering in left-side pic) outscored China’s defending world champions, skipped by Bingyu Wang, by an 8-5 count. More vengeance was displayed here, too, as the Chinese women have dominated their respective Pacific championships in recent years.

In the women’s bronze medal game, the Korean women defeated New Zealand 12-7 while Japan took out Korea 10-7 to win the men’s bronze.

“The Torino Olympics had 2,000 athletes from 60 countries,” Palangio noted.

“This event had 800 athletes from 40 countries, quite a good effort for an inaugural event.”

We’ll have more on this event in the first print edition of The Curling News, which comes out in October. Stay tuned.

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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.

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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.

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Curling Print: the Ferbey Four

So, Randy Ferbey and his troops went back to the future with their absolutely enormous win over Glenn Howard in the final of the Grey Power Players’ Championship.

Actually, it’s been quite a season for the Ferbs.

Their increasingly desperate search for that elusive spot in December’s Olympic Trials saw them travel the country at a frenetic pace, with Ferbey and lead Rocque Marcel competing, at one point, for 10 weekends in a row prior to Christmas.

Then there was the big win at the Casino Rama Skins Game in January, which featured the Ferb’s first win over arch rival Kevin Martin in some 10 or so attempts.

Then came their second straight series of three losses, all to KMart, to lose the Alberta Tankard championship. Off Martin went, to his fourth consecutive Brier.

After licking their wounds, the squad travelled to Bear Mountain – played some golf, threw some rocks – and started gearing up for the Players’ Championship.

And the rest, they say, is history. Or in the case of the Ferbey Four, the chance to rewrite history, come December.

All of this adds value to a special collectible artwork print the Ferbs have for sale, by artist Janet Deane (above, click to zoom in). Yes indeed, the Olympic Dream is alive and well.

Fans can select a limited edition Giclee framed print in two sizes, either 22×35 or 14×22.

Order through this website.

Elsewhere in this world of curling… which is still very much active, by the way…

• The World Mixed Doubles are into the playoffs in gorgeous Cortina D’Ampezzo in the mountains of Italy, and there is tons of stories and pics available front and centre at the WCF website.

. At this time of writing, Hungary has emerged through two sets of tiebreakers to take on Finland, and the winner plays undefeated Canada in one semifinal. China and defending champions Switzerland are in the other semi.

Canadian competitor Sean Grassie is a budding journalist – as we explained during the Canadian Mixed – and Grassie is once again writing a column on his experiences for his hometown Winnipeg Sun. You can find his thoughts, in order, located here, then here, then here, and from today

• And let’s not forget the World Seniors, underway tomorrow in equally gorgeous New Zealand …

• DID YOU KNOW: that a car blog – of all things – got in on the Ford Worlds excitement in Moncton, with two postings, here and here? Well, okay, now you do.

• Speaking of Moncton, Swiss third Jan Hauser, who ranked in the top 5 of the TCN Blog’s “Ford World Hotties” competition, seems to have his very own, er, dedicated fan

• Seems that after saying something rather forceful about Scotland, Cary was forced to eat some crow

• And Canadians should eat crow. Not only did the Lockerbie four win three in a row against the red and white, the hosts then proceeded to play the wrong national anthem… a point we have previously noted, and which gets some (fortunately) good-natured Scottish griping here

• Yes, it was a victorious return for the Scots, and good ol’ Bob was there, too …

• WCF President Les Harrison sent in this letter of thanks to his hometown newspaper …

• It’s finally happened. Osama Bin Laden has appeared in a curling spoof.
Funny yes, or funny no?

• DID YOU KNOW II: that amid the hullaballoo over KMart throwing his world championship away, the Old Bear did it again, at the Players’ Championship?

• Curling has got Jackie going ARRGGHH. We know the feeling …

• And finally, poor Aaron. His curling debut was total FUBAR

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Big Brother Curling

Question of the day: which TV show is credited – or perhaps blamed? – with being the first “Reality” show? Survivor? The Real World? This forgotten oldie?

Big Brother must rank up there, and now the veteran CBS timewaster has become the first to send their contestants curling, as it happened back on week two of this eighth edition.

A modified version of curling, you would think? Definitely (photo courtesy CBS). You can watch the full segment here.

Ah, YouTube. What would we do without you?

For certain, it would be a lot tougher to find things like this clip from New Zealand’s recent outdoor curling spiel (not to forget this one of the Kiwis lunching) … and this look at the tricky ice conditions the Aussies face on a daily basis … plus these peeks (one and two) at the World Curling Federation’s Level 1 Technical course in Füssen, Germany (that’s Canadian Brian Rice doing the lecturing) … and this TV news glimpse of arena curling in Omaha, Nebraska… nor would we easily find vid from Atlantic Canada’s famed Whitecap summer curling camp, available at this user’s page.

Anything else going on? Well …

• Turns out it was an Ottawa curling ice technician who brought down Canada’s most wanted man this week …

• Another young curler has died in a tragic accident, this time in Tillsonburg, Ontario …

• Remember the big hoo-haw over Scotland’s – sorry, Great Britain’s – team selection process for the last Olympics? British Curling has now announced the plan for 2010

• Here’s yet another TV report (including video) of the outdoor Kiwi curlfest …

• Don’t miss Pfeif on The Curling Show, he’s always a great guest …

• Team Jennifer Jones has a new sponsor, and it’s a current CCA partner. Former sponsor Whirlpool, which has been a dynamic supporter of women’s sport – including curling – for years, is now reported to be scaling down their involvement …

• Wisconsin’s Pardeeville Curling Club president has received a well-deserved state honour
(defending U.S. women’s champion skip Deb McCormick is the club VP, by the way) …

• TSN was quick to pick up our exclusive from July 25 …

• and finally, there’s a big sale underway at Ishida Sports, including Mizuno carling pants!

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Bacardi: time to step up

RED ALERT: if you are on the organizing committee of a popular cashspiel and are considering an online entry system, be very aware of the snafus that have entangled athletes and organizers out in Brampton, Ontario.

It’s an ugly situation that will certainly be rectified in future, but will that future include this fall’s event? Time will tell.

By the way, the Bacardi is a fine tournament celebrating its 25th anniversary this fall. But… in the words of a recent champion, it has rarely dished out winnings much beyond what the entry fees bring in.

Think about that.

This leads one to ask: what exactly is it that Bacardi is giving to the event – or perhaps the club? – each year that deserves title sponsorship of this tournament?

It’s one thing to contribute small budget line items to the local market – Brampton is Bacardi’s home – but after 25 years, The Curling News says its high time that this world-class distiller stepped up to the plate and put more hard dollars into the prize purse.

Lots more stuff today, so get your fingers ready:

• The Asham World Curling Tour (AWCT) schedule has been released, and is available through the Tour website as a PDF download. Click away …

• New Zealand is experiencing a nasty winter – barely a squall by Canadian standards – which means joy for curlers, as their outdoor “Grand Match” was able to run for the first time in six years. An ice layer of about 25cm on the Idaburn Dam was enough to support over 250 players and 500 stones. Here’s a preview story; here’s one report, with video, from NZ TV 3; and here’s not one but two more print tales.

Days earlier, the Baxter Cup was also battled for in an outdoor theatre, with 88 curlers taking part.

Those Kiwis are pumped!

• Atlantic Canadian curler Helen Robbins can hold her head high today; she has been awarded the Order of Prince Edward Island …

Ed Lukowich is in the hotseat on the latest episode of The Curling Show

• Curling coaches looking for a challenge might want to consider the largely desert nation of Turkmenistan, which plans to field its first Winter Olympic team at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

“We will certainly take advantage of the Russian invitation to take part in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, for which it is necessary to begin the appropriate preparations already today,” President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov recently told the official newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan.

The president did not say in which events the Central Asian nation — an oil-rich ex-Soviet republic — might compete, but he has ordered his cabinet to draft proposals for participation in the Games.

Turkmenistan has not won an Olympic medal since becoming an independent nation after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. The last time an athlete from the nation won a medal was at the 1964 games when a Turkmen kayaker was part of the champion Soviet team.

Summertime temperatures in Turkmenistan, north of Iran, can reach 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit), and snow is rare in winter.

Sochi, of course, defeated Pyeongchang and Salzburg in a recent IOC vote to host the 2014 Games …

• Remember our online teaser about this new CBC-TV show, and the feature that followed in a print issue last season? It looks like the curling promo shot in Newmarket, Ontario earlier this year has been appended by new scenes shot in nearby Richmond Hill, will indeed become part of a show episode, according to this Toronto Star story; “We have an episode this season with Muslims trying curling, which demonstrates that we are all one, all Canadians,” says show producer Mary Darling

• AWCT followers will note a new spiel in the Alberta town of Brooks, namely the Cactus Pheasant Classic which debuts this November, and with a hefty prize purse of $70,000, which is enough to attract KMart, for starters …

• Over in Ottawa, the Carleton Heights club is in the news, both good and bad. The latter comes from graffiti splashed onto the club over the weekend, which police are investigating. Good is the news that the club is exploring interest in a summer (September) league, so if you are interested, click here and follow up …

• In Winnipeg, new signage is up which rebrands the Asham Arena, aka the Valour Road CC, as the new Thistle CC (confused yet?) which of course saw its original facility destroyed in a fire just over a year ago …

• Saskatchewan’s greatest curling soap opera – concerning the long-proposed and debated Moose Jaw Multiplex – took another negative turn yesterday, with curling now apparently on the outside looking in …

• Finally, we wonder what Chris Daw, featured here last week, would think of the comments posted on this wheelchair curling website (7/12/2007)? Probably not much, as Daw suffered a death in the family over the weekend, forcing him to leave that training camp in Edmonton …

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