Saturday, November 5, 2011

Worlds Qualifying Day 1

Team Switzerland
Manfred Bolliger, Felix Wagner, Claudia Heuttenmoser, Eric Decorvet, Melanie Villars
[Photo: Katja Kiiskinen/World Curling Federation]
The World Wheelchair Curling Qualifying Tournament began today in Lohja, Finland, with nine teams competing for the final two places in the ten team 2012 World Championship in South Korea next February.

Manfred Bollinger, the tournament's most experienced skip, edged his team to a 7-6 win over Japan in the opening draw. Team Japan had interrupted their Qualifier training camp to compete in the Friendship league in Hokkaido, Japan, at the end of October (where they finished bottom of the table) and with Japanese curling centred in the north of the country so badly affected by the earthquake, tsunami and its repercussions, had not had the easiest of preparations. So holding the Swiss was an encouraging result for their experienced skip Yoji Nakajima and his rookie squad.

The good times were rolling again for Germany, whose skip Jens Jäger had been alarmed at my previous description of ebullient. (It had somehow become mangled in translation.) They beat the Czechs 7-4.

Team Germany has a new coach (Bernd Weiser) and traveling team official Petra Schlitt professing general happiness with everything, adding: "This new group has great team spirit, and more than anything else, they want to keep the playing fun for everyone." Those of us who fondly remember their traveling supporters singing in the stands at the 2009 Worlds, hope the fun lasts the week.

Team Finland
Vesa Hellman, Tuomo Aarnikka, Markku Karjalainen,  Sari Karjalainen, Riitta Särösalo
[Photo: Katja Kiiskinen/World Curling Federation]
Hosts Finland were feeling confident before their opener against Latvia. Their skip, Vessa Hellman, said: "Practice went well and the ice feels quite good. The stones are quite a lot less swingy than last year, but they give us a good amount of curl."

Unfortunately for the home fans, the Finns lost to Latvia 3-7. It was Latvia's first win at this level. "Playing in Scotland last month was good preparation," an excited vice-skip Ojars Briedis said.

Slovakia, also relative newcomers to the sport at the World level, beat Denmark 11-4 in the remaining match, while Italy had a bye.

Rock moving and time-keeping duties are being performed by student volunteers led by Jari Moberg  "The students are extremely active in helping out in the tournament. It serves as good practice for them in how to organise and help out in sporting events and thus it is a useful experience for them also in their studies. The fact that it is an international event is always a nice addition because the students get a chance to use English."

Draw 2 begins at 10.30 local time.  Tournament organizers plan live webcast coverage of some games.

The draw and game schedule can be found HERE. Results will be posted HERE.

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