Readers of the print edition of The Curling News are familiar with the musings of Rodger Schmidt, our European columnist. As a man of all things curling throughout his life – as a competitor (including World Men’s finalist in 1987), coach and consultant (including Italy, Austria and most recently the U.S.) – the Canadian-born Schmidt knows of what he speaks. And now he is in Italy, at the 2010 Capital One World Men’s Championship.
by Rodger Schmidt
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – It took a little time to change the mood here in Cortina following the near fatal fall of a professional rock climber who challenged the enormous roof of this 1956 Olympic Stadium.
Stefano Dimai, the president of the local climbing club, was carrying the ceremonial opening curling stone that was going to be thrown by longtime curling builder and Cortina Hoteliere Ivo Lorenzi. Ivo, whom I know well – and he is one of the classiest, kindest men in Italy – is in his eighties and was quite excited to be throwing the opening stone. He had even been practicing!
Two other climbers had come down their ropes – from up in the arena rafters – to deliver the two brushes to be used by the ceremonial first-stone sweepers. They landed successfully with their much lighter loads and were all were waiting for the man with the rock in his backpack to deliver. But horribly, Stefano made a tragic error in his rope adjustment and when the rope released, he fell some 20 metres and landed on the stone – and on the carpet – just behind the ice surface.
There were gasps, and stunned silence, for the singer had stopped singing. The announcement came within minutes – which seemed like hours – that the opening ceremony would be terminated. The curling world, here at these Worlds, was praying for the life of this 32-year-old, and all were relieved to learn, some hours later, that he was alive and would survive… albeit with two broken hips. Everyone is extremely grateful that the injuries, though severe enough, will heal.
So far there has been no news of Stefano taking up curling once he recovered, and learning to deliver stones in a more conventional manner. This is surely one for the curling history books, and a record achieved with a curling stone that no one will, or should ever, attempt to duplicate. Stefano will forever hold the record for the high hard one, and everyone here wishes him a speedy recovery, as painless as possible.
Two rounds have been played on ice and the atmosphere in this building was quite boisterous, as the Cortina fans did their best to duplicate that metal foot-stomping music that was used so loudly in Vancouver.
For the record, hosts Italy scored the first point of this championship – a single point on end one – as all the other games were blanked in the opening frame. I suppose it will much more interesting – and important – to see which team will score the last point of this event.
Scotland has enlisted David Murdoch as their fifth player, and entrusted him with late-night stone-testing duties. He is a professional curler by vocation, so hopefully he can handle the job. He is probably the most accomplished stone tester on the ice as I write this.
Three teams are here, mostly intact from the Vancouver Olympic Games. Norway are one of the three, and a favourite for gold, but they are not intact due to the forced turn-around at the Venice airport of their skip, Thomas Ulsrud (due to family ilness). The Norwegians just as quickly flew in Thomas Loevold – while Ulsrud was skyward in the opposite direction – and now the talented Loevold has finally moved up from stone tester to actual competitor in a Championship. He has been waiting in the shadows of Ulsrud and Pal Trulsen for some time, so this could be a golden moment for him, one way or another.
Germany and Denmark, both teams intact from Vancouver, have in one day won almost as many games as they did over two weeks in Vancouver, and more importantly are both undefeated after day one.
[WCF photo by Urs Raeber]