The B arena at a European Championships has its own atmosphere away from the glitz and glamour of the A arena and, as the week progresses, a little community establishes itself therein. Some in the past have been further away than others so that it felt like a different competition – last year’s train ride down the mountain from Champery was probably the most extreme, but the tram ride in Basel and the journey up from the Linx Arena beside the beach to the Curl Aberdeen club were not atypical. In fact is not since 2007 in Fussen that it has been possible to easily see both A and B groups at the same time.
Here in Moscow it is probably a good five minute walk between them but it is all indoors as you wander the corridors of this massive building. We are located in an ice hockey rink though there is very little spectator space so I imagine it is either mainly used for practice or for minor league games. The changing rooms are well fitted and each small bay in the locker room has a lockable box for valuables though not for our use this week. The ice crew is led by Jurgen Larsson and the umpires by Dor Borthwick and both have long days with four sessions beginning at 0800 and finishing at about 2300.
Security is everywhere and without the right pass you do not get anywhere – even if you have been going past the same man every day I can see that there would be a 'Niet' for you if you ever appeared without one – pins are a great bargaining tool of course. A players’ restaurant is open from 0900 to 2100 with hot food, including breakfast, on offer all day.
At the end of a long four game day for the coaches yesterday our women's team gave us an additional present by going to an extra end against Finland! This was a great game and a super fightback from the team who had lost a three at the first end against probably the strongest team in the B Group. Unfortunately Anna’s last draw just refused to turn enough and the Finnish skip was able to tap it back for victory to stretch their unbeaten run to four games (now five after a straightforward win over Slovakia this morning).
Poland are probably the surprise of the Group. The current Polish junior team came through from the C Group after last year’s exclusion of Poland for non payment of subscriptions and have gone four games undefeated including a win over the experienced Hungarians. Their one flaw is possibly their commitment to throwing big weight takeouts which leave little room for error. [Having written this before our ladies played Poland I have now been hoist by own petard as it was only their ability to throw such a big weight that enabled Poland to beat England with a high speed tick-out at the last end this morning!].
After yesterday’s close encounter with Estonia, who also took Netherlands to an extra end later in the day, the England men won a fairly comfortable game against Belgium who had to bring on their alternate after threeends. The game was also notable for the first coach interaction call from an England team when yours truly had to go down and give Alan MacDougall some advice – not something I ever expected to see written down in black and white! So that is three out of three for England with Ireland also undefeated in that group. In the other group it is Hungary who lead the way with four wins out of four.
Top: The B Arena in the Megasport Complex.
Above: John on the coaches' bench.
Photos © Leslie Ingram-Brown