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Cheryl Bernard joins Curling Skins Game

Cheryl Bernard (left) and her 2010 Olympic silver medallists will battle the boys at the 2011 TSN Curling Skins Game.

Bernard and her Calgary women’s team will take on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic men’s champions from Edmonton, Team Kevin Martin, in one of the two event semifinals played January 22, 2011 at Casino Rama just outside of Barrie, Ontario.

The other semi will feature the 2010 defending champions, Team David Murdoch of Scotland, against the new world men’s champions from Edmonton, Team Kevin Koe. The two semifinal winners will compete in the final on January 23.

The Skins Game is a three-match, made-for-television competition featuring four teams in a unique style of play. Money – a total of $100,000 – is the key to scoring, and teams must either score two or more points with the hammer or steal a point to win a “skin”. The total amount of money earned determines the winner.

All three matches will be televised live in High-Definition on Canada’s TSN (The Sports Network).

“We’ve never had the opportunity to take on such a high calibre of men’s teams so we jumped at the chance to participate in the TSN Curling Skins Game,” said Bernard in a news release. “The venue, format and interaction with the fans will definitely make for a fun weekend of curling. But watch out guys – we are playing to win.”

Team Bernard is only the second women’s team to compete in the Skins Game. Two years ago, Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones battled Glenn Howard at Casino Rama and were crushed, scoring just a single skin over the eight-ends of play.

Bernard’s inclusion means Team Howard will not compete in the 2011 event. Howard, who resides in nearby Midland, has been invited to the three previous Skins Games and enjoys a large local following.

It also guarantees another summer and fall of off-ice debate, regarding the ability of female curlers to compete with their male opponents. Here’s an excerpt of a recent interview between Canwest News and Team Martin third John Morris:

CANWEST: If your team, the men’s Olympic champs, played 100 games against women’s champ Anette Norberg of Sweden, how many would you win?

MORRIS: Oh, I’m going to get myself in trouble for this answer, I bet. I would say 90.

CANWEST: Why such a disparity? Why such dominance by the men?

MORRIS: Well, you can compare it to (the gender difference) in tennis or golf. First of all, the sweepers are a lot better in men’s curling. And being able to throw the rock really hard can be a big weapon. So, the advantage of sweeping and the advantage of throwing the rock harder would be enough to unbalance the scale, I guess.

The Curling News has blogged live from all three previous Curling Skins Games, providing exclusive behind-the-scenes anecdotes and photos. You can catch up on previous coverage via our blog archive, during the months of January in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

After all, you never know what you’re going to see at the Skins Game. Like this.

[Anil Mungal photo copyright 2010 The Curling News. No reproduction is permitted]

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Olympic curling star returns to ice wars

Norberg (top) and Team Ostlund (below)

When news of her Olympic team breakup came just two weeks ago, legendary Swedish women’s curling skip Anette Norberg indicated she would stay involved with her sport, and seek to nurture young talent for the future.

Norberg has taken that one step further. The two-time world and two-time defending Olympic women’s champion has formed a new team and will embark on yet another run for gold at Sochi 2014.

Norberg has joined forces with Team Cissi Ostlund, the young Swedes who lost the bronze-medal game at this year’s 2010 Ford World curling championship to hosts Canada, skipped by Jennifer Jones.

Ostlund had lost the 2010 Swedish finals to Team Norberg, but the veterans declined to compete at the worlds, preferring to focus entirely on Vancouver 2010. Ostlund and company, the 2008 world junior silver medallists, did a great job in their first adult worlds appearance and the future clearly beckoned.

But so did Norberg, who despite decades of competition and a jammed trophy case – she’s also captured seven European championship titles in her career – just doesn’t want to quit. Norberg will be 47 in 2014.

“I would like to help build a competitive Swedish team, and these girls are already well on the way,” said Norberg in a statement.

“I am really looking forward playing with Anette,” Ostlund told The Curling News. “She’s a great curler with a lot of excperience and I think that we will learn alot from her. The goal is to represent Sweden in the 2014 Olympics in Russia and I definitely think that this team has what it takes to be there.
“We haven’t decided the positions in the team yet,” Ostlund added. “We’re having a meeting in the middle of June so we’ll talk about it then.”

Norberg had spoken to Reuters shortly after her Olympic team breakup and gave hints that her winning confidence is still very high.

“(My team’s retirement) doesn’t really make much difference,” said Norberg at the time. “If I continue playing, I will carry on as before. I still haven’t made a decision about the future, but if I decide to continue I’m sure I can win another gold medal.”

Norberg had also spoken highly of her apparent heirs, telling Svenska Dagbladet that “There is nothing to prevent Cecilia Ostlund from being as good as we are… (if) all four stay together and make the effort required, they have absolute potential and possibility.”

Norberg now joins forces with Ostlund, Sara Carlsson and Lotta Lennartson, the girlfriend of Swedish Olympic men’s skip Niklas Edin, to represent the Karlstad Curling Club. Former Ostlund teammate Anna Domeij has left the squad and will reportedly take a break from high-performance competition.

[Anette Norberg photo by Anil Mungal, copyright The Curling News 2010. Team Ostlund photo by Victoria Times Colonist]

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Big bucks for Sick Kids

Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club played host

TORONTO – They came, they curled (and played golf, tennis and croquet) and now they’ve departed… and the SickKids Foundation is a lot richer for it.

24 celebrity curling skips joined 72 other curlers/fundraisers and, together with a fine collection of event sponsors, raised over $65,000 for charity at the Capital One Celebrity Bonspiel in support of SickKids Foundation.

Not bad for a first-time event, which had an initial hope of some $30,000 in monies raised.

“We are delighted with the response from the participants and our sponsors,” said co-chair Jeff Steski. “We were also pleased to announce the return of the event next year, on June 3-4, 2011.”

Capital One marketing honcho Ian Cunningham confirmed his company’s continued support next season.

“We’ve been involved in the sport for three full years now,” said Cunningham. “And one thing that continues to impress us is the people.

“Curlers and curling fans are fantastic, they love to give their time and effort for great causes and we love to work with them.”

Funny? You should see the pics before this one

What turned into a multi-sport weekend in T.O. finally ended when Laura Crocker’s team upended L’Equipe Brenda Nicholls (funny photo at left) to capture the title. The second event went to the Glenn Howard foursome, while Geri-Lynn Ramsay and friends earned third event honours.

In the Odyssey White Ice Challenge, event qualifiers attempted to putt a golf ball down a sheet of ice into a carved-out button. 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue came closest, stopping the ball directly on the tee line… albeit in the 12-foot rings.

In addition to major sponsors Capital One, The Dominion and Callaway Golf, the event was supported by Campbell’s, iShares, Mackenzie Investments, Bruno’s Fine Foods, DELSO Group of Companies and Paulin, plus a host of team sponsors, including The Curling News.

As U.K. Olympic ice queen Eve Muirhead declared, “It’s for the kids!” And it certainly was.

[The Curling News images by Anil Mungal. Click on an image to increase size. See event website later today for additional images]

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Tiger Woods goes curling

The new era of curling/golf cross promotion has begun

Prior to the release of today’s incredible Tiger Woods curling footage (link below) there already was a connection between the golf legend and the Roaring Game.

U.S. curling athlete Bill Todhunter won bronze at the 2007 world men’s championship with Team Todd Birr. Later, Todhunter was curling with Beau Welling, a USA Curling board member from South Carolina… who happens to design golf courses.

“Beau was curling with me in Green Bay,” Todhunter recalled. “It was his second bonspiel. We were talking curling and golf and he sent a text message to Tiger to remind him about the Ailsa Craig.

“Tiger’s response was something like, ‘it’s funny how I already know that’”

Todhunter eventually met Woods, and the two discussed curling for about 10 minutes.

So, what’s the Ailsa Craig, you may be asking? As faithful blogreaders know, we wrote about Tiger’s recent experience with the Craig at the British Open, here and here.

Now for today’s news.

This morning, a video promo was released by Electronic Arts, and the unthinkable has finally happened: Tiger went curling.

Without further ado, here is the link.

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Wine Auction for Sick Kids

Welcome to June, everyone.

The Capital One Celebrity Bonspiel in support of SickKids Foundation is getting closer (June 4-5) and the first celebs are due to arrive in town Wednesday night, June 2, when Scottish stars Eve Muirhead and Anna Sloan arrive at the airport.

On that same night, a special Wine Auction in support of the bonspiel and the Mike Weir Foundation will be taking place at Centro in midtown Toronto.

Bonspiel Co-Chair Peter Steski will welcome up to 40 guests for an amazing evening, and there are still a couple of table spots left. Here’s what participants are in for:

• 6:00pm – cocktails/appetizers

• 7:00 – three-course dinner with a main course of beef tenderloin, accompanied by three 95 point-plus Australian shiraz wines: 2003 Dead Arm, 2001 Elderton Command and 2002 Elderton Command (values between $225 and $275 per bottle)

• Wine Auction featuring Penfolds Grange, Solaia, Insignia and Harlan Estate

The evening also offers a $100 charitable tax receipt against the $250 cost. “It’s a great deal,” said Steski. “The minimum value alone is at least $400 a person.”

Wine appraisals are by Ken Lewis of KDL Food and Beverage Consultants Inc.

Anyone interested in Wednesday night’s winefest can contact Steski directly at 647-287-7311. RSVPs are required.