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World Mixed Doubles and Seniors in Chelyabinsk

Northern lights in faraway Chelyabinsk, Russia

Did you think it was over?

Nope, this wild 2010 Olympic season is not yet done, as there are many stones being thrown in faraway Chelyabinsk, Russia, the site of the combined World Mixed Doubles and World Seniors Championships.

The venue is a mammoth winter sport training facility, the Ural Lightning Ice Palace, and no less than 11 sheets of curling ice (!!) have been created, with an enormous long-track speed skating ring wrapped around them.


The photos of the opening ceremonies are, as we have shown you here, quite spectacular. Head to this page for more superb images, and you can click on the ones republished here to increase size.

For the World Curling Federation and the Russian Curling Federation, this is a landmark event as it is the first time that the Russian Federation has hosted a World Curling Championships. It also paves the way to the country organizing the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

The event has been, sadly, kicked around by a few things. First off is the Icelandic volcano. The effects of the Europe-wide airspace freeze prevented some nations from competing in the Mixed Doubles, such as Scotland, Sweden, Norway, and Korea. On the Seniors side of things, Wales, Netherlands, and Estonia are missing and the Netherlands were forced to withdraw as they had only a partial team.

In fact, it sounds like there would have been 14 sheets of ice created (!!) if all teams had been able to make it to Siberia.

The blimp! The blimp!

There is one other team, of note, that failed to arrive in Russia for the Mixed Doubles… and that is Canada’s husband and wife team of Mark Dacey and Heather Smith-Dacey of Halifax.

Their tale is a wild one. According to this Winnipeg Sun story, the couple were sightseeing in London and arrived at Heathrow airport to head to Russia just 90 minutes after the shutdown. D’oh!

“The WCF gave us a deadline of Monday to try and make it there, and they were going to try and re-schedule missed games,” said Smith-Dacey in an e-mail. “That night we watched the news and surfed online for other ways to get from London to Moscow. The train was showing it would take about three days, so we decided not to do that thinking the ash cloud would only interrupt our travels for one or two days max.”

As it turns out, that was another oopsie.

With the airport still closed, they spent two hours on hold with Rail Europe Friday afternoon before going to their office in downtown London.

The girls! The girls!

“When we turned up at their office, it was lined up out the door, down the street, around the corner and down the other street, about 1,000 people in line,” said Smith-Dacey, who noted the line was about the same length at the train station they went to after. “Obviously we were not the only ones trying to get out of London.”

After finding out that Eurostar railway was adding trains leaving from London, the Daceys booked tickets to Brussels (Belgium) since it was on the train route to Moscow. They got there Sunday afternoon, waited two hours to speak to an agent, and by then the train they could have got on to in Cologne (Germany) would have arrived too late to catch the overnight train to Moscow.

“Our final hope was for the airspace to get clearance on Monday and we would attempt to fly from Brussels to Moscow to Chelyabinsk,” Smith-Dacey said. “But Sunday night around 9:00 pm it was announced that the airspace would be closed until at least 7:00 pm Monday night and with that we would not be able to go.”

Incidentally, do you recognize the name of the Sun writer? It’s none other than Sean Grassie, who partnered with Allison Nimik of Calgary last year to represent Canada at the World Mixed Doubles in Cortina, Italy, the site of the recent 2010 World Men’s. Grassie and Nimik won bronze. Hoe about that?

Anyway, back to those battling Daceys and their travel week-plus from hell. An earlier report out of Halifax had the couple travelling by train to Paris in hopes of finding a flight home, with planes booked out of Barcelona and London in hopes that one would work out.

“We’re fine, other than we’d rather be in Russia curling,” Smith-Dacey said Monday.

That is one big arena

Dacey said he hopes the Canadian Curling Association will consider appointing the couple to a future world mixed event. The couple are expected to arrive in Halifax today.

The second thing affecting this event is substandard internet connectivity. Email and phone contact has been a problem, which of course is a problem for the media, but the event website has found a way to update results fairly quickly, via PDF downloads. Sometimes the standings page is updated, too.

As such, we are aware that Canada’s two Seniors teams are into the playoffs with undefeated records, and the Swiss men have also qualified.

In Mixed Doubles, Russia have qualifed for the playoffs with an impressive 6-0 mark, while Russia and China are engaged in a Pacific battle in that group. In the second of three WMD groups Switzerland are undefeated at 2-0, and that’s not too surprising given that the squad of Toni Mueller and Irene Schori are the two-time defending world champions, and in fact have never lost a game at the Worlds. Yeesh.

In the third and final group, all eyes are on Spain as the pint-sized cousin combination of  Irantzu Garcia and Sergio Vez are at 3-1 and gunning for a playoff spot.

Only 13 and 15 years of age when they first debuted at the inaugural WMD championship two years ago, they lost last year’s Spanish final to Sergio’s parents, who managed to win a game at last year’s event, garnering a flurry of Spanish media coverage in the process.

Now, The Kids Are Alright in Chelyabinsk, and we wish them good luck the rest of the way.