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Yichun Curling: the finale

by Molly Bonner
Action photos courtesy Chinese Curling Association
[click on images to view larger]
Molly throws with Caitlin Moroldo (L) and Mackenzie Lank
YICHUN, China – It’s 10:00 AM here as I begin to write this… and I’ve eaten four pieces of chocolate already. Needless to say, I am making up for all of the Christmas cookies and sweets I am missing out on back in the States.
It’s hard to believe the “most wonderful time of the year” is in full swing as we come to the end of our time in China. Thank goodness I downloaded the “NOW! That’s What I Call Christmas” CD onto my iPhone before this trip (Thanks, Laura, for the suggestion).
I’m planning my jet-lag avoidance strategy the day before my 30-hour travel day home begins, so I can enjoy every waking moment of the season upon my arrival stateside! I am sensing that tea, Starbucks’ lattes (very plural), and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate-covered coffee beans will be heavily relied upon, and that sounds wonderful.
Today is playoff day and our last time at the curling club. Although our team did not qualify, I wanted to spend the day at the rink. I can say with much confidence that this day, already, has been one of my favorites here so far; I was able to enjoy some time chatting with spectators, volunteers, coaches, and competitors while watching the games and enjoying coffee in the “Ice Bar.”
My coffee buddy Katherine, in her volunteer jacket
One person with whom I have visited with is an American transplant in Yichun, who gave me some further insight into the event and the community. Victor is a doctor in Yichun and has served as a liaison to the Organizing Committee due to his involvement in medicine and obvious knowledge of Western culture and people.
In speaking with Victor, I have learned that this event was kept rather private to the general public in Yichun and has been regarded as a prestigious event. In fact, a ticket to the competition costs the same as the average monthly income for a citizen of Yichun, making it far too expensive for many to attend. This explains why the one set of bleachers, which lines the far end of he rink, has not been full all week; this also also acknowledges the fact that curling is still very much a growing and somewhat mysterious sport in China.
Another item I was particularly surprised to hear about concerns the process of snow and ice removal in Yichun – quite the important process for this very cold, wintery city, and something we have been captivated by on a daily basis. Swiss coach Laurie Burrows described the feeling of the temperature best to me this afternoon: it is a “constant chill” in regard our body’s response.
Yichun has workers out on their streets literally all day and night chipping away ice and sweeping away snow.  These workers are not paid for their labor, rather they are university students that are required to perform these duties in exchange for their schooling and residence.  Furthermore, citizens that may have created a crime, or did not follow a protocol of some sort, may be assigned to one of these less than desirable tasks – I think I’d rather sweep the streets than be detained here.
Denmark carbs up with noodles before the final

I also learned that the city does have a fleet of vehicles that perform snow and ice removal duties; however, they are not used because the free labor is most cost-efficient, so not only does this reduce fuel costs, it also limits air pollution.

In fact, the Chinese people are quite thrifty and conservative in their spending habits, more so in northeastern China as we are told. It’s not uncommon for taxi drivers to get into an argument regarding a fare as small as 3 RMB, which is equivalent to only 47 U.S. cents.
The curling action today has been great to watch and both semifinal matches were very close. In the first one, Denmark’s Madeleine Dupont – who has been curling for her country forever, it seems! – took on Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg, who defeated Canada’s Rachel Homan in the 2010 world junior championship final.
In the second semi, Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni (another world junior winner) challenged China’s top women’s team, skipped by Wang Bingyu… who, of course, won Olympic bronze in Vancouver and also gold at the world women’s championship in South Korea a couple of years earlier.
That’s quite a scoreline, SUI!
After two great semifinals – check out the first two ends of SUI vs CHN at left – the Danish and Swiss ladies advanced to compete in the finals.
Interestingly enough, and as some of you may know, both finalist teams have Canadian coaches: Burrows, as previously mentioned, works with the Swiss and Thomas Evans coaches Team Dupont.
Meanwhile, China’s Wang Bingyu used to be coached by a Canadian but Montreal’s Dan Rafael now coaches the Italian national teams. The editor tells me that Italy’s women stayed in the top eight of the recent European championships, which was good enough to qualify them for the 2012 world championships, so Mr. Rafael is obviously working his magic with the ladies once again!
Switzerland won a thrilling semi before falling in the final

As for the winners of the first Yichun International Ladies Competition…? It was the Danes, who walloped Switzerland 11-4 in a one-sided finale, while China took one in the 10th end to win the bronze medal, 6-5 over Sweden. Denmark had leads of 6-0 and 10-2 but, this being a high-profile exhibition tournament, there were no thoughts of early concession until mathematical elimination!

If there is one thing I appreciate and acknowledge today, more than ever before, it is the fact that the strength of a community lies within its people. Today has given me the opportunity to better get to know all of the wonderful individuals that have made this event possible and a success, no matter how big or small a part they have had.
Although I may have said it a few times (okay, that may be on the low side…) during this trip that I am very much looking forward to my own bed and eating a pizza the moment I am back in America (!) I am very fortunate to have met some fantastic Chinese people and reconnected with curling comrades from around the globe.
What an amazing journey and life experience!
Tonight it’s the Closing Banquet and then the enormous final day of travel begins. There may yet be one final blogpost to come, during a layover in Toronto, so do stay tuned curling fans…
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Yichun Curling: playoffs approach

by Molly Bonner [click images to increase size]
China vs Canada (photo by Chinese Curling Association)

YICHUN, China – This trip certainly has two sides to it. Initially, we were tourists in an overwhelmingly chaotic (controlled, however) city, enjoying many historic sights and structures. Now, we are in the full curling swing of competition, located in a much smaller, quieter (and colder!) town.

It seems so long ago that we were atop the Great Wall of China admiring all of the manpower that went into constructing, in ancient times, what is truly a world wonder.
The Opening Ceremonies – where to begin? There were speeches, and more speeches, and the athletes weren’t announced and didn’t have to do a thing! We aren’t complaining, by the way – many enjoyed this, for a change.
And so, it’s become clear that dignitaries are certainly at the forefront of this event; understandably, given the situation and pressure to make Yichun a “curling capital” of China (see the video here) and the resulting heavy political involvement and media presence.
All of the athletes were lined up in front of the stage to listen to the speeches by dignitaries at the Opening Ceremony; however shortly thereafter, swarms of journalists from local and nationwide media blocked our view to the speakers on stage!
Our dining building in Yichun

We are quite lucky to be staying in the best hotel in Yichun – the Forest Capital Hotel. This hotel is where any and probably all foreign diplomats stay when they’re in town.

As I mentioned before, the city is reminiscent of a plantation: quite a large estate and multiple buildings spanning the land. In the largest and perhaps most grand building on the estate, all those involved with the event gather for three meals a day.
When entering the dining hall you can see which teams have opted to head to the supermarket (fourth floor of the department store) for some staple items: yogurt, fruit, wheat bread, oatmeal, etc.
The buffet of food we are presented with at each meal is a wide variety of traditional Chinese dishes, and most of us have found one or two dishes that we really enjoy. At this point, wowever, many of the athletes are looking forward to the “home cooking” that awaits us.
Skipper Patti at the market

We asked our two translators (somewhat jokingly, but with extreme optimism) when the dessert would be served.  Thoughts of chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and cheesecake danced in our heads. Lily informed us that fruit is their dessert; this may explain some cross-cultural physique differences.

Thank goodness the Swiss team is here and handing out chocolates from the Swiss Curling Association’s sponsor, Wernli!)
One item of supreme interest and conversation between many of the competitors is government involvement.
Exhibit A: Heat. As I awoke after our first night’s “rest” in Yichun I quickly realized that heat must be a “hot” commodity. After further discussion, we discovered that heat output is controlled, in fact, by the government! Wow! Which explains the cold living quarters we have become accustomed to. There are no thermostats.
Exhibit B: Internet access. Who would have thought that USA Curling’s website would be regarded as something that must be regulated? Who would anticipate that The Curling News Blog would be difficult to view? (WHAAT?! –Ed.)  Facebook, Twitter, many U.S. news-related sites, and other social or sharing types of sites are blocked. Foreign athletes are all noticing that sites they typically access are unaccessible here due to government controls.
My hotel room

On that note, friends and fans of other teams (Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Canada) can stay tuned for messages from your country’s players coming soon… right here, on this blog!

Yichun is preparing for the annual Winter Carnival, and the nearby park has many artists working on their ice sculptures on a daily basis. We hope some are finished in time for us to  view before we depart the city!
We were looking forward to a night on the town with Team Canada’s Shannon Kleibrink as a brewery tour and tasting had been planned for us.  However, due to the cold temperatures, the pipes are frozen… making the brewery neither tourable nor tastable. On the bright side, you can purchase eight 20-ounce bottles of good beer for only three U.S. dollars. Incredible!
Regarding the competition: the frontrunners right now are China, Denmark, and Sweden who have just one loss each. I speak from experience when I say that you certainly don’t want to let the Swedish ladies get the lead on you in a game… that hit weight is both accurate and deadly!
It’s looking like it will be a tight race for the fourth spot in the playoffs; potentially, three losses might be enough to earn a spot. More game-specific info is forthcoming as the round robin portion of the event comes to a close and playoff time begins. As we will not, unfortunately, be making the playoffs, I will have a bit more time to recap the on-ice action for you.
Thanks for reading, and do pass along the The Curling News web URL to friends and fans!
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Yichun Curling: We made it

By Molly Bonner [click on images to increase size]

Molly practicing for the Opening Ceremonies

YICHUN, China – My apologies for the delay. After an eventful day full of travel and a busy, exciting first day of practice the competition is about to begin… and we are back in action on the blog train!

 

adventure | ad
’ven ch ər; əd- |
(noun)
• an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity
• daring and exciting activity calling for enterprise and enthusiasm

To say that Wednesday was an adventure would be an understatement, and then some. Our Beijing comrades were right: the weather can be very treacherous in a Yichun winter – so treacherous, in fact, that our flight from Harbin to Yichun was cancelled. Oops.

After we debarked the plane in Harbin we were notified of the cancellation, and it was comforting to have familiar curling faces with us, knowing that we were all in the same boat (bus, in this case). Three of the international teams – Canada’s Shannon Kleibrink, Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg and Silvana Tirinzoni’s foursome from Switzerland were all aboard our Harbin flight, along with Keith Wendorf and his wife, Susan – the World Curling Federation emissaries and official umpires of the event.

View from the icy arctic Chinese bus trip

So there we sat in the “Flavor Tang” (the Chinese version of a food court), next to the Swiss team, passing time prior to the much-anticipated (sarcasm) six-hour bus ride on roads that are likely to be icy, dangerous, snow-covered etc… and they were.

After the two-hour wait in Harbin and some pre-boarding chaos, there we were: bus full, luggage that wouldn’t fit in storage piled in the middle walkway, some of us equipped with beer or chocolate to pass the time.

“You just can’t make this (stuff) up,” we kept thinking, as we finally got underway.

While some of us preferred to keep our eyes closed others stayed at the utmost attention, hoping for any sign of Yichun in the distance.

Our destination reminded me of a summer resort combined with an old planation in the southern United States, which made us all the more grateful to be “home” for the next week.

After our first night’s rest and conversations with our translators, we learn of a Chinese belief: that sleeping on a very hard bed will keep women slim!  Let’s just say that many of the competitors are expecting quick results after no less than seven nights of sleep in Yichun!

Thursday, finally, was our first day seeing and curling inside the new venue – after all, the ice was created only a week ago. Each team was allotted two hour-long practices in preparation for the Friday morning start of competition.

Canada’s CTV visited Yichun a week ago: link at right

Yichun – the “Forest City” – is considered a town or small city by the Chinese people. After all, there are “only” 1.3 million people here.

Speaking of million: a sports network (is it CCTV 5? – Ed.)  will be broadcasting every draw of this event, and expects over four million viewers for the final.

It’s fun to see all of the hard work that has gone into this event, and to think of the massive effort required to make  Yichun become the curling capital of China. Watch this online video from Canada’s CTV (screen shot at left) for a report on just how big the sport investment is in this area.

The Chinese people are full of excitement and are showering the foreigners with assistance and gratitude. Our translators, Amy and Lily (English names of course) are true problem-solvers and go-getters, something that seems to be a common theme among the Chinese – they make things happen quick if a situation arises.

As Keith stated at the team meeting, it’s time to “christen the venue, make new friends, and enjoy the competition.” The spirit of curling is now alive and well here in Yichun.

Calgary skip Shannon Kleibrink enjoys Keith’s, er, gift

Last night we sat with Team Canada at the “Welcome Reception.” It was a traditional Chinese meal in which all items are placed on a “Lazy Susan” and circled about the table… quite similar to what one might consider “family-style” dining back in North America.

A few of us American competitors were more adventurous than others (can you guess who wasn’t?) and a couple of those people are feeling a bit ill – be it the food, climate, jet lag or whatever.

Friday brings the Opening Ceremonies, for which the organizers held a two-hour practice session. It is sure to be a great show as local politicians and other dignitaries join us on stage.

Day one of the Yichun International Ladies Competition is next: and I can’t wait to play! Now to dream about things like pizza and chocolate as we go to rest on our “get-slim” mattresses. Cheers!

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Yichun Curling: goodbye Beijing

by Molly Bonner [click on images to view larger]

Patti, Caitlin and Mackenzie wait to try and cross the street

BEIJING – Is it time to curl yet?!  Tomorrow morning we rise at 4:00 AM to head to Yichun, and the main purpose of our trip to China.

Of the people we’ve interacted with over the past couple of days who have heard we are going to Yichun, most of them have similar responses:

“Northeastern China is very country, very traditional.”
”Did you bring warm clothes?”
“You can see Russia from Yichun!”
“Did I mention, did you bring warm clothes?”
“I saw the Reindeer Races in Yichun on the television yesterday.”

Really? Sign me up for that one!

In fact, some of people of Beijing have even laughed when we told them what city our final destination is. Have they no faith?!

The craze of Beijing roadways is truly indescribable and you must experience it for yourself (really, you must!). There are only centimetres between another car, pedestrian, or bicyclist while weaving in and out of traffic, running through red lights and making turns that only the Chinese must understand.

Molly in front of the first of three Forbidden City palaces

Meanwhile, the history of this city is complex, rare, and very interesting. We spent our last day in Beijing taking in as much of that history and culture as possible before we head north to Yichun which, by the sounds of it, will seem like a new country in many ways.

This morning began at 4:00 AM for Cait and I… time change not fully registering. We met our wonderful travel guides downstairs and the seven of us took off in the Honda hybrid for Tien An Men Square (most westerners spell it as Tiananmen; however, proper Chinese is to separate the consonants into three words).

Tien An Men Square is the enormous square in the city center of Beijing, and it received its name from the Tien An Men Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace), located to the north of the square separating it only from the Forbidden City.

Although it is best known to the majority of the world for the protests in 1989, it has great cultural significance for the people of China. One that we discovered the Chinese people are mainly proud of, and rightfully so, is the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, which took place at the Square.

This Hall... allowed women. Of course!

On to the Forbidden City, which is truly incredible. It took 100,000 people 15 years to fully complete. In viewing the ornate architecture and design, it is impressive to believe that this was even possible.

The Forbidden City covers 178 acres, nearly 8 million square feet, making it the largest surviving palace complex in the world. How many curling sheets would it take to fill that? Someone do the math…

While walking through and exploring the City, you cannot help but try to envision what it must have been like when the Ming and Qing Dynasties occupied it for government, religious, and living purposes.

There are many specific Halls, Courts, and Palaces throughout the City, all of which are there to serve a specific purpose. Those purposes very greatly from just about everything you can imagine. Furthermore, there are certain areas of the City in which women were not allowed (raw deal for the Empress, if you ask me!)… typically these areas dealt with “important” government dealings, or were Palaces and Halls specifically for the Emperor.

Late Tuesday morning brought our sightseeing to the Summer Palace – very fitting as this is where the Emperor and his family (wives may be plural) reside during the summer months, and we had just come from the Forbidden City – where they reside for the rest of the year.

Just when we thought the City was the largest community imaginable, we discovered out that the Summer Palace is, in fact, three times as large! This is mostly because of Kunming Lake, the focal point of the residence that spans just over 2.2. kilometers. Even more impressive, this lake is entirely man-made… how’s that for some hard labor?

(Note: unfortunately the air pollution was so strong today that there was a constant haze in the air, making all the Summer Palace photos a bit less than ideal.)

Dragon boats and a Marble Boat at the Summer Palace

The main purpose of the Summer Palace was to have a retreat that would focus on increasing the wellness of the Emperor’s family, in turn promoting longevity. Indeed, the major hill on the residence is named Longevity Hill, and it houses both the actual palace where the family resided along with the Buddhist Temple, which is the main focal point atop the hill.

This amazing area is truly a great spot for tourists to spend an entire day to explore during the summer months. You can enjoy a traditional Chinese tea on the Marble Boat, take a paddle boat or dragon boat to the island, and explore the gardens and wildlife. This, however, was not in the cards for us in these winter months.

Speaking of winter… as I type this (10:00 PM on Tuesday evening in China) it is apparently -17 degrees Fahrenheit in Yichun! I think I’ll be taking the long underwear in my carry-on, for quick access.

Tomorrow, we fly Beijing-Harbin-Yichun: Domestic airport travel in China, this will be an adventure all its own! Until next time… please eat some peanut butter for me (my daily staple is unheard of in China)?

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Yichun Curling: it’s the capital city

by Molly Bonner
[Click photos to view larger]
Moll on the Wall: the Great Wall of China
BEIJING – The Chinese people hold so much pride in their culture, people, and nation. We’ve had the opportunity to spend wonderful time with our two tour guides, Linda and David, over the past 24 hours and I wanted to take some time to highlight what we have been able to see and learn about Beijing and their people.
Here are some quick facts about Beijing:
• There are over 20 million people
• Those 20 million people own 8 million bicycles…
• And 5.3 million cars!
• You can find 20 million McDonalds restaurants – honestly – in Beijing. But there are only 160 KFCs… 
• Get this: it takes between three and four hours by automobile to drive from the city center to the city limits.
Upon arrival it became quite clear that Beijing is one of the cleanest cities we have ever seen. In speaking with our tour guides about a variety of noticeably spotless items, they are quick to reply: “Beijing is the capital city.”
As you travel along roadways, we see that they are lined with workers dressed head-to-toe in orange uniforms, picking up any trash or debris that may taint the appearance of the city. It’s very rare to see any amount of litter or debris accumulated on their amazing, complicated (remember the 5.3 million cars) roadway system.
Very shiny airport floor

Along our drive to the Great Wall, we passed a military base where there were a sea of men training on the roadside. Every male in China is required to serve a minimum of two years of military service.

Another interesting aspect of the Chinese lifestyle is that families typically have three generations living together under one roof. For example, after a couple gives birth to their first son, the mother’s parents then come and live in their home (typically an apartment).  This way, the mother and father can continue to work and the grandmother’s responsibility is childcare, cleaning, and cooking.
The expectations of a parent upon the birth of a son are considerably higher than the expectations when graced with the birth of a daughter. This is in line with the belief that the men do take care of the women in many ways; as a result, the boys must be raised and poised to support a future wife.
The Chinese have a list called “The Big Three” that parents must be able to supply their son with, and these have certainly changed over time. Thirty years ago the Big Three were a sewing machine, a bicycle, and a watch. Ten years ago: gold earrings, a gold necklace, and a gold ring. Today? 1) car 2) apartment and 3) diamond ring.
Linda told us that parents who have a son “must work very hard” to ensure that he succeeds and has “The Big Three,” if not, it is unlikely he will be able to find a wife and reproduce.
Linda and David have asked us quite a bit about sport and athletes in the United States, and you may be surprised to hear what they’ve told us about athletes in China.
Great Wall toboggan ride? Yes please!

As you may know, Chinese athletes are working for the government. And because China is extremely selective about which athletes they choose (they select a small number to fund heavily for success) there is an immense amount of pressure for these athletes to perform.

The performances of Chinese athletes in Olympic and World competition is telling of what their retirement package will look like. For example, if a Chinese athlete never earns an international medal he or she is likely to have a tough living, and his or her family may rank lower on the Chinese caste system.
While many of us play a sport for enjoyment, Chinese athletes that are essentially government employees do not have the leisure of playing solely for enjoyment; rather, they have the future of their family and their own livelihood on the line.
We awoke this morning, well-rested, to a wonderful breakfast buffet. Our hotel in Beijing is very much international, so there are a variety of western, European, and traditional Chinese options on the menu. My personal favorites: the omelette bar and make-your-own latte machine. Caffeinated and nourished, we met Linda and David in the lobby promptly at 8:00 AM to begin our 2-hour drive to the Great Wall of China.
Two hours of Chinese driving is surely enough to send anyone’s stomach for a whirl; the near-accidents and quick turns would likely not fly with police officers in the U.S. But traffic is not regulated here as it is in other parts of the world.
We reached the Great Wall and had a couple of options on how to get to the top: chair lift, gondola, or a hike. It was an easy decision as taking the chair lift gave you the option of a toboggan ride back down the mountain!
Hiking the Great Wall is as challenging as it is scenic. The uneven stairs, high altitude, and steep inclines are enough to put many workouts to shame. The views are truly stunning – too stunning to ever be accurately portrayed unless you have been here yourself.
Restaurant signage!

The Great Wall spans just over 3,000 miles. All of the areas that tourists are allowed on have been refurbished over the years, and aside from that area, the Great Wall remains as it was originally built. Our visit comes at the very low season for tourists, so it was quite pleasant to take our time enjoying the sights and stopping for photos. In the summertime, the Great Wall can be very difficult to navigate through the seas of foreign tourists.

We had certainly worked up an appetite, so it was on to lunch at a local roadside stop for some traditional Chinese eating. We were served jasmine tea and Yanjing Beer (a local brew) along with our six-course meal.
Post-lunch we went on to a tailor shop, a silk shop, and the market. All very typical tourist stops in Beijing. Unfortunately for me, the traditional Chinese cuisine (although they swear we didn’t eat donkey meat) left me a bit under the weather. Good thing we packed quite a few snacks and protein bars!
Until tomorrow… “sshi-sshi” – which is “thank you” in Chinese – for reading.
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Yichun Curling: Up, up and away

Day 1 – A-Traveling We Go
by Molly Bonner
Here's Molly – a new TCN blogstar

My alarm sounds at 4:15 a.m.  Is today really here?!  The three hours of sleep I got last night feels like an eternity and I am so excited to embark on this adventure with my team.

Today, we (Team Patti Lank, aka Team USA for this event) are off to Beijing to compete in the inaugural edition of the Yichun International Ladies Competition. A brief intro would prove that I am the lead for Team Lank; it would also prove that I enjoy writing and social media just about as much as I enjoy sweeping Patti’s rock to the button for the win (that means I really love it).
So, here I am blogging – from China! I plan to give you an insider’s look into what is happening “across the pond” at this new competition. I look forward to taking time each day to recap the event, and also the many entertaining off-ice moments we are sure to encounter over the next week.
While en route to Beijing via Minneapolis, my layover was in Toronto – a 5-hour layover to be exact. Okay, time for a couple of caesars to pass the time with the new friends I met on my first flight of the day.
While waiting to board the 13.5-hour flight, it’s quite clear to me that I haven’t seen this many fanny packs since our family vacation to Disneyworld in 1998. If I were claustrophobic, that would be setting in at this point as I see the hundreds upon hundreds of travellers stand in line to hop on the same flight as I.
I was able to get bumped to an aisle seat, Hallelujah! Happy as a clam, I make my way back to the nosebleeds of the airplane, row 62 to be precise. I find myself seated next to an extremely jovial Chinese man. To say the least, I am quick to learn that I should have taught myself to say “I don’t speak ANY Chinese” within the first few seconds of our interaction (twitter tag: #oops). He touches my red hair and says “flower.” I smile and nod – this is going to be a good flight.
We spent an extra two hours on the runway (post-entire flight being seated, mind you) as “A carry-on bag is being held by the bomb squad,” word for word as our lead flight attendant announced over the PA.
WHAT?!  
Yichun (A) is in northern China – click image to view larger
How’s that for some comforting pre-flight communication?  If communication strategies have changed that much “since I was in school,” (really not long ago enough to use the phrase) it looks like I better get back to the classroom ASAP. But, hey, you’ve always got to value honesty. Mom: now aren’t you glad I wasn’t giving you text message updates today?
With Tylenol PM at the ready, a new iTunes playlist, and my lavender-scented eye mask, I recline my seat at the earliest moment possible after take-off.
I think you are due for a little information on what exactly is happening on the ice in China. This is, after all, a curling blog, right? So here’s the scoop…
The Chinese Curling Association (CCA) has established the Yichun International Ladies Competition. This is Yichun’s first international curling tournament, and the city and CCA are extremely exciting to host teams as they work to further develop the sport of curling.
This is an eight-team, 10-end round robin bonspiel that “officially” begins on December 15… however, the Organizing Committee has done a great job in terms of scheduling sufficient travel and practice time for the participating teams.
The eight participating nations (teams) are as follows: Canada (Team Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary), China, China Juniors, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, United States and Yichun. The 10-end games will be are held at 10:00 am and 4:00 pm daily and, needless to say, for those that qualify (hopefully that’s us!) nine games in a  five-day timeframe will be great training for the U.S. playdowns that will be arriving before we know it.
Keith Wendorf, the Director of Competitions for the World Curling Federation, is the Chief Umpire of the event, and I must say that the Chinese have done a rather impressive job of putting this all together.
The next 14 hours become a blur of turbulence, my affable neighbor taking up way too much space, clock-watching, and rice and noodles. In just a couple of hours we will land in Beijing, where it will be 5:00 pm. I very eager to get sightseeing and interact with the Chinese people. Likewise, I am also looking forward to seeing our hotel (in downtown Beijing) … and my bed.
After three days in Beijing we’ll  travel to Yichun on Wednesday, after a stop in Harbin – the home of most of China’s top-level curlers.  Again, I am excited to bring you photos and stories throughout this adventure… stay tuned for an update after some sightseeing ventures!
Molly Bonner is way too indecisive to give a few descriptors of herself, but will try. She is an eternal optimist; big fan of health, wellness, and all things sports; and is currently deciding which one of her two-dozen passions should be turned into her dream job. Follow her Chinese adventure here, and also on Twitter: @mollbon
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Curling calendar girl video

Kate hanging around at ECC 2009

After a full day of agonizing – should we or shouldn’t we? – we have decided: YES, we shall showcase a rather eye-popping online video.

After all, we are The Curling News and we’ve claimed (ad nauseum) to be the ultimate source of curling info going right back to our first year of 1957, so… if it’s got a curling theme, we are the ones to unearth and magnify it, right? Whatever it is, correct?

So read on, if you dare.

As you should be aware, the 2012 Women of Curling Calendar is now available and sales are going well. The product finally started shipping late last week, so why not make a purchase yourself? You will be supporting a remarkable charitable cause – one which each of the 12 lovely athlete models have chosen to support – and the calendar does make a great holiday gift.

(NOTE: For more great curling-themed holiday gift ideas, make sure you grab the current and check out our feature story on page 10, The Curling News Shopping Guide. It’s got no less than 12 gift ideas for that curling fan of yours: subscribe today)

But back to this eye-popping video.

One of our curling calendar models is veteran Russian curling star Ekaterina Galkina, who has been a mainstay on the Russian national team since their surprise 2006 European championship title. And yes, she is the subject of this video.

Russians and curling have been appearing in the news often, to wit…

• The country recently hosted its first world championship (unfortunately during the Icelandic volcano);

• Galkina and Co. regularly compete each fall on the World Curling Tour in Canada, and even won the 2011 edition of the prestigious Sandra Schmirler Classic;

• Right now, the women’s and men’s teams are battling on home ice at the 2011 European championships in Moscow;

• And, of course, the sport world was quite shocked when the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi was announced as hosts for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Now, our “Kate” may not be a high-profile skip or third – like teammates Liudmila Privivkova and Anna Siderova – and she might not get the attention those back-end players do, but it turns out that our Kate also posed months ago for photo shoot for which a brief promotional video has only recently been found online… and which caused our jaws to, well, drop.

So much for getting attention!

It behooves us to note that this photo shoot was NOT the one commissioned for Galkina’s appearance in the 2012 Women of Curling Calendar. In fact, all of the images in the WoC Calendar are a step away from the racy images that marked the origins of the original Fire On Ice calendars, which debuted before the 2006 Olympics and were published through 2009. So if you are offended by the nature of the content shown in this video (and the content is somewhat explicit, ie. NSFW), rest assured that you will not find the content of the Women of Curling Calendar offensive.

But enough of the preamble. Click here to view this promo video of Kate at an unknown photo shoot, and be warned – again – that this is NSFW, aka Not Suitable For Work…

[Photo of Ekaterina Galkina is COPYRIGHT by WCF/Urs Raeberclick to view larger]

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Vol. 55 Issue 2: December 2011

  • Layout 1ON THE COVER: FIVE ROCKS? HOW ABOUT SIX?

    Rodger Schmidt reveals his involvement in the Free Guard Zone rule 21 years ago… and poses big questions about the state of curling today

  • THE CURLING NEWS HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE

    Ideas on the perfect Christmas gifts for your curling friends

  • THE CURLING NEWS CONTEST ALERT

    How about a VIP hosting package, live at the Skins Game?
    How about an HP Notebook computer, with sleeve included?

  • ATTENTION U.S. CURLING FANS

    It’s a very special, made-for-the-USA deal for you from The Curling News

  • THE CURLING NEWS TV GUIDE

    All you need to know about television coverage in December

  • CURLING IN AMERICA

    Our monthly U.S. column: Curling in Las Vegas

  • CANADA CUP EXPLAINED

    Larry Wood hears from the CCA

  • THE DOMINION CLUB CORNER

    Regardless of the number, club anniversaries must be celebrated

  • DECEMBER NEWSDESK

    The Shot, the Canadian Mixed and more

  • THEY SAID IT

    Our popular collection of quotable quotes from around the curling world – including Twitter and Facebook

  • … and more! Don’t delay, subscribe today!
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Canada Cup curling weekend

Look who’s back… it’s TCN Blog Superstah Margo, fresh off a family vacation. Are you ready for some TV curling? She certainly is…

Jeff Stoughton battled rival KMart on Friday aft

by Margo Weber

CALGARY – There’s curling on TSN tomorrow! Woot!

Yes. Instead of silly football, or that whole hockey nonsense that’s going on, it’s finally my turn to control the remote at my house. Booyah.

Let’s do a little update for those of you who haven’t been stalking the curling websites over the past few days.

The Capital One Canada Cup of Curling is well under way in Cranbrook, B.C. with some big name teams on the men’s side doing very well. Kevin Martin’s Edmonton squad (4-0) and Jeff Stoughton’s Winnipegers (4-0) are leading the pack and are battling head-to-head as I write these words. Mike McEwan’s team, also from Winnipeg, has to be disappointed with their (2-3) start. Ontario’s Glenn Howard beat out Edmonton’s Kevin Koe earlier today, so the guys in green are still hanging around.

On the women’s side, Manitoba’s Chelsea Carey (4-1) is alone at the top of the standings with Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink (3-1) following close behind. Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones (2-2) is currently scuffling with Carey, and needs the win. Hanging tough is Edmonton’s Heather Nedohin and Ottawa’s Rachel Homan and bringing up the rear is Amber Holland’s Saskatchewan foursome at 1-3.

The women’s and men’s semis will be televised live on TSN on Saturday, with the finals playing out on Sunday.

The winner of the event, which has seven teams on both sides, will go directly into the 2013 Olympic Trials – the very first teams to qualify. Because there are only seven teams, you can bet there are quite a few players sitting at home this weekend, quite frustrated that they aren’t in Cranbrook competing for one of these spots. Make it a double-whammy that they aren’t even eligible for the points that would come with qualifying in this event. Needless to say, the foursomes competing this weekend have been training for it as one of the most important events of the year, with the Sochi 2014 Olympics being very much on everyone’s mind.

I think I’ll flip on the tube tomorrow and give the women’s semi a watch for sure. I’m feeling a little Vic Rauter withdrawal, to be honest. Then, if I can convince my hubby to watch the men’s semi with me, we’ll have a glass of wine and thoroughly disappoint the kids with a night of curling.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some of the tweets from the players:

BennyHeebz (Ben Hebert): 4-0 going into Friday… Huge battle vs #TeamGHow! Always a #barnburner… #Bearstillattacking #CanCup  #SpiceRum Now!!

mcewencurling (Team Mike McEwen): 2-3 record, need to beat Kmart and @TeamStoughton to TKO Howard! #stayin’alive #CanCup #curling

TeamHoman: Tough one, good battle but extra end loss this morning. Last round robin game tonight vs Kleibrink. Need a win! #CanCup

TeamKevinKoe: Not sure we deserved the chance to win in 10 but we couldn’t quite pull out our deuce and lost. Need win and some help now! #cancup #curling

CraigSavill (of Team Howard): Three deer just outside the arena in Cranbrook, BC. Someone tell me again why I live in Ontario.

 

[Photo COPYRIGHT by CCA/Michael Burns: click on image to view larger]