China Rocks Canadian Curling
Without a doubt, the biggest news from the 2008 Ford Women's World Curling Championships was the play of Bingyu Wang and her Chinese team.
During the week in Vernon, British Columbia they beat the host Canadian team, led by Jennifer Jones, two out of three times. China ended up losing the final, after beating Canada in the round robin, and the one versus two page playoff game.
Canadian fans found themselves asking "Who are these Chinese kids?" Truth is, they are kids. The average age of both women's and men's teams are less than 24.
Curling is a sport where experience is like gold. Take Canada's Brad Gushue as an example. When preparing for the Olympics, a fifth man is needed. Gushue's team picked the legend Russ Howard. This choice proved pivotal as the young squad hit a rough patch and Howard's cool head and experience helped lead them to a gold medal.
Fast forward to today and China's next big win. This time it was the men's side. Grand Forks, North Dakota is hosting the Men's World Curling Championships and with Winnipeg just a two-hour drive away, the crowd is pro-Canada.
Imagine the shock when Fengchun Wang, China's skip, wins in an extra end. China handed Kevin Martin and Canada their first loss in the round robin. The difference with the men's team is that they have four loses (at this point) in the 11 game round robin while the women's team had only two loses out of the 11.
This year promises to be a turning point in the development of curling in China.
Currently, there is only one dedicated curling rink in the entire country. The six sheets rink in Huairou is a long trip from Harbin, where all of the players are raised, and is in finacial trouble.
Harbin is a city of 10 million people and will play host to the next Winter Universiade. Already there are plans for two curling rinks to be built in Harbin but they are the smaller three sheet variety.
The strong finishes by both Chinese teams may indeed punch their tickets to the 2010 Winter Olympics. This will be just the beginning as curling becomes popular in the worlds most populous country. If only 0.1 percent of the 1.3 billion people take up the sport, it would pass Canada in participation and probably double the number of curlers in the world.
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