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…