Thursday, April 26, 2012

Switzerland, Denmark and now Scotland

Just got back from Denmark on Sunday after the sensational Senior Finals on Saturday and now here I am in Scotland - up to attend the Carmunnock and Rutherglen club dinner and see a few other people.

So no I am not in Turkey and so cannot add any extra information over and above what you can get on the official World Mixed Doubles website - sorry!!

At the moment I do know that England have won 2 and lost 3 and I think Scotland are the reverse. What is clear is that the draw seems very random - with 3 groups and 5 sessions per day some teams seem to have played 5 games while others had played just 3 - so very difficult to work out who is doing well relative to others in the Group - except of course those who are undefeated!!

I usually look at the games lost in this situation rather than the games won - don't know why but it seems to give a better impression of how teams might finish up!!

And the worst kept secret was revealed on Monday when Fredericton in New Brunswick was announced as the venue for the World Seniors and Mixed Doubles next year - so yet again I will have to decide which one to aim for as it will be impossible I would imagine to do both though Hugh Millikin of Australia has tried in the past and John Sharp of England was forced to do so in Chelyabinsk when half of the Senior team could not get there.

One problem with visiting Scotland this time is that my mother-in-law has no computer / or broadband and so currently in a cafe in Glasgow - I know I could get a dongle - when I did that at Christmas it worked once and then my laptop would not recognise it. But I will try and keep blogging as much as I can!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Unbelievable scenes here at Taarnby as Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, Tony Tierney and David Hume won gold for Ireland in the World Seniors. A slack shot by Canada set up a double for 5 for JJ at the 4th end which he slightly miscued but still got 4 and led 4-1. That was the last score for the Irish until the 8th end when JJ was forced to draw for one to tie the score up at 5-5 after the Canadians had clawed their way back into the game.

And so to the sensational extra end. Everything seemed to be going Canada's way until the last Irish stone when JJ played an unbelievable run back triple takeout to lie 2 and when the Canadian skip was long with his draw it was celebrations all round for one of curling's smallest nations who have no curling facilities on their home ground but play in Scotland.

And here is the proof!!

Barabara Watts' Scotland ladies ran into a hurricane in the shape of Heidi Hanlon's Canadians and were 4-2 down at half time. Further scores of 3, 2 and 3 left Canada clear winners at 12-2.

Bronze medals in both competitions were won by Sweden.

And here is one very confused Englishman!!

It's the British Isles v Canada in the finals

The "Shot heard 'round the world’" is a phrase that has come to represent several historical incidents. The line is originally from the opening stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn" (1837), and referred to the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.

Since then, the phrase has also been used to allude to the importance of single actions in sporting as well as other cultural and social events.

  • In baseball, it refers to Bobby Thomson's game winning home run that clinched the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants.
  • In International Men's Ice Hockey, it refers to the winning goal of Paul Henderson in the final seconds of the 8th and final match to secure Team Canada's victory in the 1972 Canada-USSR Super-series.
  • In golf, it is used most often to describe Gene Sarazen's albatross on the fifteenth hole at the 1935 Masters Tournament, which helped propel him into a 36-hole playoff with Craig Wood.
  • In US soccer, it is used to describe the goal scored by Paul Caligiuri for the United States against Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain in 1989. The win propelled the team to the 1990 FIFA World Cup, helping to start a resurgence of American soccer.
And now we can maybe add two more shots that were heard around the World, certainly around the world of Senior curling.

They were Jonjo Kenny’s hit and stick which gave Ireland a victory over Norway at an extra end in the men’s semi-final and Barbara Watt’s similar shot which ensured that she and her unheralded Scottish team would face Canada in the women’s final. Ireland will also face Canada.

The Scottish and Irish flags were flying high above the hotel in Taarnby this lunchtime:

Full details of Ireland's 5-4 extra end victory can be found on Louise Kerr's blog here.

I was a wee bit late getting to the rink this morning and the Irish and Norwegians were already on their half time break with the score at 1-1 but my eyes were raised by the other scores - New Zealand were leading Canada by 3-1 in their women's semi-final and Scotland were 3-0 up against twice World Champion Ingrid Meldahl from Sweden. Sweden had taken a 2 at the first in their semi-final against Canada though Canada had replied with a 3 before Sweden squared it all up with a single.

The latter game swung back and forth with no steals but unfortunately for the Swedes, while they were taking 1 when they had last stone the Canadians were taking 3, and they eventually shook hands after 7 ends with the score at 9-5 to Canada. Canada thus maintained their record of appearing in every Senior Men's final since it began in 2002, but it only the third time they have not faced USA. What a day for Irish curling - and let's hope it can get even better!!

Canada's women have only missed out getting to the Seniors' final on one occasion - in 2005 when Scotland won their only gold medal against Japan in the Lagoon Centre in Paisley after the round robin games at Greenacres. They started off slowly and were 3-1 down after 3 ends but struck a killer blow when they scored 5 at the 4th end. However, the Kiwis fought back and were only two down going into the last end without the hammer. In the end they could only score 1 and so Canada marched on undefeated into the final by 7-5.

The Canadian team are vastly experienced and have 36 appearances for New Brunswick at the Canadian National Championship Finals (the Tournament of Hearts) amongst them. The skip Heidi Hanlon and third Katthy Floyd have 11 appearances each, the lead, Judy Blanchard has 8 and the second Jane Arsenau has 6, all between 1984 and 2004. On none of those occasions did they play together as a team ironically and they have not won any Canadian Championships but when you play against that class of competition it is difficult not to be overawed, but Wendy Becker and her team were certainly not overawed today.

This is a new team from New Zealand, all 4 players coming from the Otago region, the heartland of NZ curling. Wendy Becker is the mother of Sean and Scott who did so well for New Zealand in Basel the other week and has played in 5 previous World Seniors while Carolyn Cooney first played in 2009. Christine Diack and Helen Greer are at their first World Seniors but have represented their country at a number of Pacific Championships previously.

And what about the Scottish ladies. I have no record but I imagine that Barbara Watt is possibly the oldest player to represent her country in a World Championship final. She is of course the mother of Janice Rankin who won gold for Great Britain as lead for Rhona Martin at the 2002 Olympics, and she has won a number of competitions across Scotland, including the Henderson Bishop in 2005, playing with Janice and her other daughter Shona, and 1989 when playing third to Marjorie Kidd.

She and her team of Jean Hammond, Maggie Barry and Valerie Mahon surprised everybody, including themselves when they won the Scottish title and, after a shaky start which saw them lose to Russia, they have gone from strength to strength. The last Scottish women's team to get to the final was Kirsty Letton in 2008.

In today's game they lost their good early lead when Sweden got a three, but only by means of an angled raise onto the guarded Scottish stone. The Scots gave Sweden little room to work in and some great work in the 5th end left Barbara to draw for 4 shots. Again at the 6th end there were lots of Scots stones in and around the 4 foot and they were lying 3 before Sweden's last stone. When the dust settled there was still one Scottish stone counting and it was 8-3 with two ends to go.

When Barbara caught a guard with her first stone at the 7th it enabled the Swedes to lie 2 frozen. Barbara removed one but Ingrid had a free draw for two and then came a nervous last end for the Scottish supporters. Barbara's first stone was a half freeze on the Swedish shot but it was then removed leaving the Swedes lying 3 and Barbara needing to remove 1 for the win. Halfway down the ice the arms were raised and they were in the final.

Friday, April 20, 2012

World Seniors - men's quarter finals

After all the mathematical calculations involving dsc it was down to the simple task of knocking other teams out of the competition today. As reported earlier the day started very well for Scotland with the men winning their tie breaker against Italy and their quarter final qualifier against Switzerland, while the women won their tie breaker against USA.

So on the ice this evening in front of a packed house it was Australia v Norway, Scotland v Canada, Sweden v New Zealand and Ireland v Finland - for a full review of the Irish game see Louise Kerr's blog on the Irish Curling Association website here - suffice to say here that the Irish came from behind and took advantage of a dreadful error by the Finnish skip who more or less gifted them a steal of 4 shots to help them win by 8-4.

Scotland v Canada was the match that attracted a lot of attention, firstly just because it was Scotland v Canada and secondly, how would the 2 extra end matches already played today affect the Scottish team.  The two teams romped through the first 4 ends in about 52 minutes at which point Norway and Australia were still on their third end, and when the seventh end began the latter were still on their 5th!! Two contrasting games, yet equally interesting.

With last stone Canada took a single at the first end when I am pretty certain they were trying to blank and Scotland then blanked the second end when my notes say just one word - "Yawn". You can guess how that end was played out!! Scotland tried to get something going in the 3rd end by immediately drawing around a Canadian centre guard twice (great stuff from Tommy Fleming) and forced the Canadians to remove their own centre guard. The Scots had built up 4 stones in the house but then 3 double take-outs by the Canadians reduced Keith Prentice to trying to blank the end - unfortunately he nosed it and Scotland were all square without hammer.

The 4th end was very much like the second and Canada blanked it - so at half time it was 1-1. At the 5th end we had a Scottish miss and after the Canadian third split the house the end ran out with successive hits to give Canada the 2 they were looking for and a 3-1 lead. At last at the 6th end we had a guddle - sorry - an aggressive end!! There were lots of Canadian stones in play in the house but a great draw by Lockhart Steele got one in among them though this was bettered by the Canadian skip before Keith Prentice tapped a Canadian rock back to lie shot himself at the top of the button. It looked then as though the Canadian skip decided that he would give Scotland one and so he added another stone to the pile to stop Scotland getting another shot but there was still a draw on the other hand which Keith then went for but he came up slightly short and just scored one for a 3-2 scoreline to Canada.

At the 7th end Scotland tried again to get something going to get their 2 but eventually they had to be content with playing out the end for the blank. So last end and Scotland need to steal. Two good centre guards from Tommy Fleming while the Canadians threw through began the end. Two good draws by Robin Aitken while the Canadians peeled the guards and then a guard again by Lockhart Steele, which was also peeled, followed. Lockhart's next guard was slightly offline and the Canadians elected to ignore it and go for the shots in the house. A nose hit double removed one and moved the other to the side leaving, it seemed, the Canadian shooter as shot. Keith then tried to draw inside that stone but played it heavy and ended up in the back 12 foot. The Canadian skip, Kelly Robertson then drew to the top of the 4 and Keith's last shot simply pushed the other Canadian stone in at which point hands were shaken,with the final score 5-2 to Canada.

This very lonely corner guard was spotted during the Scotland v Canada game:

I was sitting at the side of the ice to escape the heat from the bar and so I must apologise to Sweden and New Zealand for paying less interest to their game than those closest to me. However it seemed all over when the Swedes raced into a 5-1 lead after 6 and the Kiwis got only one back at the 7th, but Swedish skip Connie Ostlund was facing 3 new Zealand Counters when he came to play his last stone. Unfortunately for the New Zealanders he hit one and rolled out to secure his passage through to the semi-finals where he will play Canada.

Sheet A next to where I was sitting was Norway v Australia who were trying for their third successive semi-final.This game was played at a slow pace for the first half and the first three ends took nearly 55 minutes. But there were a lot of guards in play and neither team seemed content to be defensive and both played aggressive curling.

At the first end Eigil Ramsfjell had to draw the 4 foot against 2, which he did, At the second end Hugh Millikin had to draw the 4 feet to get 2, which he failed to do. At the third end Hugh tapped his own stone to the back of the 4 foot well guarded but Eigil found a couple of angles on short stones to raise his own stone to the button and take a 2-1 lead. Again in the 4th end we had lots of stones in the 4 foot.Unfortunately a missed Australian peel took out one of their own stones and Hugh was left with a outside edge double which he just failed to get totally correctly and he only scored one - 2-2 after 4.

In the 5th end two great stones by the Australian second, Steve Hewitt - a draw and a hit and roll behind a centre guard left them lying one guarded after Sjur Loen was short with a draw. This time Eigil could not find the correct set of angles and Australia stole 1 to go 3-2 up.

The 6th end was the killer for the Australians. Norway had a corner guard with one stone behind and after an Aussie mistake it became two stones behind. Australian third, John Thierault played for the freeze but simply sat alongside the Norwegian shots at which point Sjur Loen then played a great soft weight hit and roll into his own shots to lie a closely grouped 3 shots. In attempting to remove these shots Hugh Millikan then wrecked on the corner guard which was followed by an exquisite hit by Eigil on an Australian stone at the top of the house and a perfect roll to lie guard on the 12 foot. Hugh then tried to remove as many as possible but only caught the front one leaving Eigil a free draw for 4.

Some great peeling by the Norwegians at the 7th end but there was still a guard left to draw around. Eigil then wrecked on the guard but then another mistake by Australia left a simple double for Norway which was followed by Hugh Millikan blanking to keep last stone at the 8th. The last end seemed to be a pretty straightforward affair although Rob Gagnon hogged a guard for Australia. and then Morten Sogard simply ticked a centre guard rather than peeling it and then Sjur Loen missed a peel and Eigil was left with a hit on one of two Australian counters either of which could have easily jammed on a back Norwegian stone, but he made it and Norway were through to meet Ireland tomorrow morning - in about 9 hours time actually!!

Good Friday - at the moment

If the Scottish men win the World Senior Championships they will have done it the hard way. Today they have so far played two games - beating Italy at an extra end in the tie breaker and then beating Switzerland in the quarter final qualifier - again at an extra end. At 1900 tonight they will face Canada who are so far undefeated and if they win that then the semi-final is at 0900 tomorrow morning and the final at 1400.

Barbara Watt's ladies team also qualified for the play-offs when they won their tie breaker against the USA and they will now play Ingrid Meldahl's Swedish team who have won this Championship twice in the past and won silver last year at St Paul.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The lonely blogger.........

OK then - are you sitting comfortably? - then I will begin.......

Here I am sitting in my hotel room with a hot keyboard  which will probably blow up with the effort required to understand the comings and goings at the World Seniors today.

I will start with the ladies - as they are simpler - no I do not mean the ladies are simpler, I mean the explanation of what is happening is simpler.

Group A

7 teams with 2 to qualify for semi-finals

Today they had 2 games and at 1230 nothing much exciting happened!! Canada beat Denmark, USA beat Finland and Scotland beat Ireland What did this all mean - well it meant that the Scottish ladies had guaranteed themselves at least a tie breaker against the USA, each team having 4 wins and the USA with no more games to play. If Scotland could beat Canada tonight then they would go through to the semi-final, if not they would play USA in a tie breaker.

In tonight's game they could not beat Canada and so the final standings in the group (with the Draw Shot Challenge scores) are:

1   Canada (6-0) (dsc - 21.02)
2   Scotland (4-2) (dsc - 98.54)
3   USA (4-2) (dsc - 58.34)

Canada qualify and the winner of a tie breaker tomorrow morning between USA and Scotland will qualify. For what its worth (not a lot), Scotland were ranked second in the group as they beat USA but they need to play a tie-breaker under WCF rules as teams are not meant to go out of a competition without losing a game BUT SEE LATER!!

the rest of the rankings were

4   Ireland (3-3) (dsc - 102.90)
5   Denmark (2-4) (dsc - 32.28)
6   Finland (1-5) (dsc - 102.50)
7   Russia (1-5) (dsc - 86.82)

Finland ranked above Russia as they beat them in the round robin.

Group B

7 teams with 2 to qualify for semi-finals.

Sweden had already qualified top of this section with 6 wins and  they were joined today by the surprise of the ladies' competition, New Zealand who defeated Japan 10-2 to qualify ahead of Switzerland who did what they had to do by beating the Czech Republic (but it was not enough), while Italy won their first game by beating Slovakia. So final standings are quite straightforward:

1   Sweden (6-0) (dsc - 74.28)
2   New Zealand (5-1) (dsc - 72.44)
3   Switzerland (4-2) (dsc - 77.00)
4   Czech Republic (3-3) (dsc - 75.00)
5   Japan (2-4) (dsc - 102.24)
6   Italy (1-5) (dsc - 70.18)
7   Slovakia (0-6) (dsc - 125.02)

So the semi-final line up is Canada v New Zealand and Sweden v Scotland / USA

And now for the men - and we shall take the simplest group first!! But first an explanation.

There are 4 quarter finals in the men's competition so we need 8 qualifiers from 3 groups. The first two teams in each group are automatic qualifiers as is the third placed team with the best dsc score. The other two third placed teams will play a quarter-final qualifier to get the 8th team.

Group B

This group had 2 games today and so at 0900 we had Finland beating England and Ireland beating Latvia (at an extra end). These two teams therefore remained undefeated and their afternoon game would decide who finished first and second. Switzerland beat USA and Russia beat Slovakia. this meant that third place was still up for grabs but with Switzerland due to play winless Slovakia in the last game they were hot favourites to qualify in third place ahead of England who had to beat Latvia to have any hope and only if Switzerland lost.

In the end Switzerland did win to be ranked third and Latvia defeated England (with yours truly playing second in place of John Summers who had a hot lunch date). The USA also beat Russia and this meant that Latvia, England and the USA all finished on 3 wins and 4 losses and, since Latvia had beaten England who had beaten USA who had beaten Latvia, the dsc would decide the ranking. Meanwhile the table top battle went to an extra end (Ireland's second of the day remember). In the end JohnJo Kenny did not need to play his last stone to win and ensure Ireland finished top. Final positions:

1   Ireland (7-0) (dsc - 48.63)
2   Finland (6-1) (dsc - 64.02)
3   Switzerland (5-2) (dsc - 94.37)
4   England (3-4) (dsc - 29.32)
5   USA (3-4) (dsc - 32.12)
6   Latvia (3-4) (dsc - 62.02)
7   Russia (1-6) (dsc - 81.97)
8   Slovakia (0-7) (dsc - 136.02)

And just to blow England's trumpet and particular Michael Sutherland's - England had the lowest dsc of the group and Michael's consistency was excellent - his 7 last stone draw distances were as follows:18.1, 34.2, 38.6, 30.4, 55.8 (discarded), 34.3 and 20.3. As these are centimetres from the button you can see that everyone that counted was inside the 4 foot circle.

Group C

Had one game today and the three qualifiers were already decided - Australia, Norway and Sweden - it just depended on the order in which they qualified. In today's games Sweden defeated Denmark and Norway eventually broke the deadlock against Australia with a 5 in the 7th end. The other games saw wins for Germany and Austria. So all three qualifiers had 6 wins and 1 loss and the dsc would decide the order as they had beaten each other - and it worked out like this:

1   Norway (6-1) (dsc - 33.15)
2   Sweden (6-1) (dsc - 33.60)
3   Australia (6-1) (dsc - 41.88)
4   Germany (4-3) (dsc - 43.43)
5   Austria (2-5) (dsc - 43.47) (Austria beat Czech Republic in round robin game)
6   Czech Republic (2-5) (dsc - 41.57)
7   Wales (1-6) (dsc - 71.95) (Wales beat Denmark in round robin game)
8   Denmark (1-6) (dsc - 40.42)

Group A

And now you need to concentrate!!!!

There were only 7 teams in this section but we still needed to find the top 3 qualifiers. Canada and New Zealand had already qualified before tonight's games and since Canada defeated New Zealand they finished top with an unbeaten record with New Zealand second. That left third place between Italy, Japan and Scotland. Japan were not playing tonight and had finished with a 3-3 record. If Italy lost to Netherlands and Scotland beat Hungary they would also have 3-3 records and normally two tie breakers would be required to get one team from three with equal records. In the end Italy did lose and Scotland did win and so comes the change to the tie breaker rules I sort of trailered earlier.

First an apology as I got it wrong yesterday as I thought that we would have ended up with the three teams having beaten each other but in fact Italy had beaten Japan and Scotland and so they were ranked 3, while Scotland had beaten Japan and were ranked 4 with Japan ranked 5. Now normally with three teams equal on wins for one place the bottom ranked pair would play first (in this case that would have been Scotland and Japan) with the winner playing the top ranked team (in this case Italy) with the winner qualifying.

But as an experiment in the minor Championships this year the WCF are restricting tie breakers to one and so a team can exit a competition without having the chance to stay in it by winning another game. And so the unfortunate Japanese became the first team to be eliminated in such a fashion and one tie breaker for third place will take place between Italy and Scotland tomorrow. If Scotland had lost tonight then the tie breaker would have been between Italy and Japan - with one end to go Scotland were 4-3 up without the hammer against Hungary but fortunately for them they held on to win

The final rankings in this Group were therefore:

1   Canada (6-0) (dsc - 15.10)
2   New Zealand (4-2) (dsc - 20.34)
3   Italy (3-3) (dsc - 106.66)
4   Scotland (3-3) (dsc - 44.56)
5   Japan (3-3) (dsc - 15.14)
6   Netherlands (2-4) (dsc - 20.66)
7   Hungary (0-6) (dsc - 76.68)

Having now worked out the qualifiers we can rank them in the following order based on Group position and dsc:

1   Canada (1st in Group - dsc - 15.10)
2   Norway (1st in Group - dsc - 33.15)
3   Ireland (1st in Group - dsc - 48.63)
4   New Zealand (2nd in Group - dsc - 20.34)
5   Sweden (2nd in Group - dsc - 33.60)
6   Finland (2nd in Group - dsc- 64.02)
7   Australia (3rd in Group - dsc - 41.88)
8   Either Scotland if they win the tie breaker to be third in Group- dsc of 44.56 or Switzerland  (dsc of 94.37) if Italy win the tie breaker
9   Either Switzerland if Scotland win the tie breaker or Italy (dsc 106.66 ) if they win the tie breaker.

The order of the last two rankings is unimportant - basically Switzerland will play the winner of the tie breaker in the quarter final qualifier to decide the last quarter final place. It would have been more complicated if Australia's dsc was higher than one or more of Switzerland,Scotland or Italy.

So tomorrow at 0900 Scotland play Italy in tie breaker and at 1400 Switzerland play the winner of the tie breaker in the Quarter Final qualifier.

Got that????

And based on the above rankings the quarter finals will be:

Game 1   Canada v Switzerland / Scotland / Italy
Game 2   Norway v Australia
Game 3   Ireland v Finland
Game 4   New Zealand v Sweden

I hope I have this right as I have not seen a draw yet but as these do not take place until 1900 tomorrow I have time to rectify the information!!

And the semi-finals on Sunday will be winner of Game 1 v winner of Game 4 and winner of Game 2 v winner of Game 3.

Right I think that is enough for tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Chapter 2

Sweden's ladies won their last round robin game tonight when they beat Japan by 11-4 with the help of a 7 in the 6th end. This means that they finish top of their section with an undefeated record. In a surprise result, Wendy Becker's New Zealand ladies defeated Switzerland and so they are now in second place with 4 wins while Switzerland and the Czech Republic have 3 wins each. The last two play each other tomorrow and so the winner of that game will have to hope that New Zealand lose to Japan to give them a chance of qualifying via a tie-breaker.

In men's play Australia went to the top of their group by defeating Sweden and have got one game left against Norway. A win for Norway and a win for Sweden against Denmark would leave all 3 teams tied on 6 points with DSC scores deciding the ranking.

Note that the men's championship has a quarter-final stage while the women go straight to semi-finals.

So the umpires will be keeping their fingers crossed for at least some of the qualification issues to be resolved without the need for tie-breakers!!

Re James' comments to the last blog I will try and confirm what happened in Winnipeg in 2003.Certainly the Championships were held in two clubs - one for the men and one for the women but there were only 15 men's teams and I cannot imagine that there would have been time issues. 

Wednesday Chapter 1

Where to begin??

With a 1230 start for our game today I was not present at the rink for the first session of play and so missed seeing Scotland's men losing to Italy when Keith Prentice and his team lost a two against the hammer at the last end to go down by 5-6 though they still have a chance of qualifying for the quarter finals as described further down in the blog.

Also this morning Wales went down to Germany by 4-10 having been 1-8 down after3 ends.

It was difficult to know where to look during the 1230 session. But let's start from left to right.

Sheet A - Ireland v Slovakia - this was a fairly straightforward victory for Ireland and preserved their unbeaten record, though Tony Tierney had to leave the ice after 6 ends with a strain to be replaced for the final 2 ends by David Hume who had also played the first game of the week when Bill Gray was late arriving owing to a family wedding at the weekend. Slovakia stole a one at the third end to take a short lived 2-1 lead but 7 shots without reply left Ireland comfortably playing out the last end.

Sheet B - Norway v Sweden - the game between the 2 big guns in their section and this was a thriller which went to an extra end, won by Sweden. Some great shot making full of delicate touches and it was one of those low scoring games that are a joy to watch.The lead passed to and fro and it was 3-3 after 8. Norway were unable to get their last raise correctly angled against 3 and the Swedes maintained their 100% record.

Sheet C - England v Russia - this of course was where my focus was and England continued their aggressive strategy which had produced such good results against USA. A good first end which left them lying 4 before the Russian skip produced a fine double and roll behind forcing Michael Sutherland to draw for just 1. A reply of 1 by Russia before Michael produced a super split on a front stone to collect 3 at the third end, reinforced by a stolen 2 at the 4th and from there there was no way back for Russia.

Sheet D - Switzerland v Finland - another low scoring game, but unlike the one on Sheet B this was a very defensive game which saw the score at 2-2 after 5 ends with Finland holding last stone. Two blanked ends from Finland set up the last end and after the Swiss had built up a wall which the Finns gradually knocked
down the Swiss skip's final draw came up short leaving Timo Kauste with a draw anywhere in the circles for the win. Having played hits all game he probably had no idea of the draw weight and the stone sailed through the back. Extra end!!

A similar pattern emerged with guards out front. The Swiss skip's first stone was hit out of the circles by Kauste and his attempted raise with his second stone was achieved at an angle which left his shot fully exposed for a nose hit by Finland to win. The take-out was overthrown and the shooter rolled out for another blank end - that was 4 in a row and so a second extra end would ensue. Or would it - for some reason the Swiss team seemed to think that only one extra end was allowed for in the rule book, which has never been the case and still is not. They called for the Chief Umpire and after almost 10 minutes of argument the teams rightly began the second extra end. In the end the Swiss were left lying shot with a biter at the front with another Finnish biter lying close to it but second shot. While images of a widely thrown stone removing both biters and the shooter ran through many people's minds Timo Kauste this time achieved the nose hit on the Swiss biter to win with his.

The question is why did the Swiss skip think that such a rule existed - all games have to be played to a result  in Championship curling - how would they have decided who won? One comment heard was that this had happened to the same skip in the 2003 Championships in Winnipeg and so if the rule existed then so it must exist now - but of course the rule did not exist in Winnipeg and there the same Swiss team had lost to the Japanese after 2 extra ends!!

We are not finished yet!!!

Sheet E - Ireland ladies v Denmark ladies. A low scoring game which was notable for the Danish skip removing her own stone at the 6th end to give Ireland a steal of 1 and an eventual 5-3 victory.

Sheet F - Australia v Denmark. A rumour ran around that there was a chance of an 8 for Australia in this game and Hugh Millikan did indeed have a shot to lie 8 with the last Danish stone to come - in the end his shot jammed the Danish counter onto his own and he lost 2 shots when Denmark drew for the second shot. In the end though it was an 11-7 win for the Australians who remain undefeated but have Norway and Sweden still to play.

Sheet F - finally - Austria v Czech Republic. It was 5-2 for the Czechs after 3 ends and then singles at the remaining 5 ends brought the score to 6-6. Yet another extra end and this time a straightforward 3 for Austria to record their first victory of the Championships.

The afternoon session has just finished and there is still hope for the Scottish men after they beat Netherlands by 6-3 but it would require them to beat Hungary, and Netherlands to beat Italy which would leave the decision down to the Draw Shot Challenge results between Scotland, Japan and Italy to decide which two teams play the single tie break allowed for in the timetable to decide who is third in the section behind Canada and New Zealand. The team with the worst DSC would be eliminated.

Scotland's women kept themselves in contention with a hard fought 6-5 win over the USA. They have two games left tomorrow, versus Ireland and then Canada who were stunned in this session by the Russian ladies who were 4-1 up after 4 ends before losing a 3 and 5 to the favourites.

Off for dinner now!!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday - and this will be a long one........

Minor panic tonight at the curling club as I could not get into any websites even though I had a good wireless connection but now back at the hotel and everything is OK - phew. A number of other people have been having problems of varying types with their laptops and I was concerned it had "gone viral" as the phrase seems to be these days - or maybe that should be "toxic".

Anyway I do not know whether to begin with the curling which I am sure you want to know about or with the adventures of the English curling team which may be of more interest to a certain type of reader.

But let's start with the interesting stuff...... well I was not at the curling club for the first two sessions today and so any news will be strictly factual and you have probably read it elsewhere!!! Main thing was that Scotland's men at last got their first win with a 7-4 victory over Japan though that did depend on a 3 at the 7th end to break the deadlock. Meanwhile Canada and New Zealand continued their winning ways with victories over Netherlands and Italy respectively. Scotland's next game is at 0900 tomorrow against Italy.

Earlier on today Wales lost to Sweden by 4-8 and later to Norway by 2-6, holding their own in the latter game after going 0-4 down in the first 3 ends. They are currently on a 1-3 record.

The third session was highlighted for British fans by a win for Scotland ladies against Finland and one for the Irish ladies against Russia. Finland, who had lost the previous evening by 1-15 to Denmark who Scotland had beaten, were 4-1 up after 3 ends and then some great play by Barbara Watt's team registered a big 5 at the 4th end. But the lead was only 2 shots and after 7 ends the Finns had fought back to 7-7. A miss by Barbara on her first stone at the last end went unpunished when the Finnish skip failed to change the situation and Barbara's last stone, a repeat of her first, ran true to hit and lie for 3 to loud Scottish cheers all round.

Meanwhile a few sheets away Ireland broke the deadlock against Russia with a 3 at the 6th end and eventually ran the Russians out of stones at the 8th to win 6-4 and record their first win of the week.

One unexplained scoreline shows that Sweden beat Germany 5-4 after 6 ends with X's in the 7th end implying that the end was not finished. I did not check but I can only presume that the German skip missed with his last shot and left the Swedes lying a bundle and he then conceded with the Swede's last stone and the 8th end to come.

And so to tonight's final session of the day where the games of interest were England v USA and Ireland v Switzerland.

England have never beaten the USA in 6 previous meetings but it has to be said that this has probably been the poorest performance by a US team at the Seniors, at least going by results so far. In the previous 10 World Seniors USA have reached the semi-final 9 times and the final 8 times, winning twice. This year after 4 of the games they are almost certainly out of the play-offs with just one win from 4 games. Oops - for those of you paying attention I have just given the result away - so yes England defeated the USA by 7-2 tonight to keep their hopes alive of at least a third place finish and possible quarter final place.

After the disappointment of the loss to Ireland last night the English men had had all day to relax and re-focus and it was a much more aggressive performance all round which forced the Americans into mistakes as the pressure was cranked up.A steal of 2 at the first end and another stolen single at the second end had echoes of the game against Ireland but tonight it was only a 2 that was lost at the third end and that was the last that the US came close to scoring, England eventually running the Americans out of stones at the last end.

Meanwhile through in the annex and invisible to us in the main bar Ireland and Switzerland were going to an extra end after reaching the eighth end tied at 3-3. With last stone still to come JohnJo Kenny placed his first in the 4 foot to lie 2 shots and he did not need to play his last stone when the Swiss skip, Karl Grossmann (who played in the 1979 Europeans in Varese), failed to disturb them.

So a good finish to a successful day for British teams.

So how did the English men relax and re-focus - by getting a bit of culture - Phil and John and their wives went to the design museum and had a cruise on the river / canals while Michael, Tommy and JB went to the Museum devoted to the Danish resistance against the Germans in WW2. There now follows a picture diary of some of the day's activities.........

Nyhavn (below) is one of the tourist traps of Copenhagen - a small dock where numerous cafes and bars offer food and drink of varying quality and price. Many have outside tables but the flurries of snow deterred anyone form partaking of these.

Tommy and Michael found the holes being dug very interesting - maybe they were looking for somewhere to lose the rest of the team!!

Across the water was the impressive new Opera House...

while on this side Tommy and John spotted this floating crane and as there was a sign at the end of the gangplank welcoming you aboard they did ........

whee they found that it was used to erect wind turbines at sea and on board was this single 18 ton arm from a wind turbine, which as you can see from Tommy's size was quite impressive - being plastic and so incredibly smooth that as you approached it you could hardly tell where it was as there were no imperfections to give you any depth of field of view.And even in the light breeze blowing along the deck the arm was flexing so what it must be like when mounted 120m up in the air.........

So a busy day on and off the ice now comes to a close and I will post this now for all my early morning blog viewers to read before going about their business of the day.

Just 2 final things - Louise Kerr is doing a blog on the Irish Curling Association website and it is many happy returns to Deputy Chief Empire Glenda Barrowman who was 49 again today!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

And the rest of Monday's action........

Much of my focus this afternoon was obviously on the England v Ireland clash which pitched members of the same club in Scotland against each other. And it turned into quite a battle, though many of the scores came from mistakes rather than positive shots. England raced into a 3-0 lead after 2 ends but a 4 for Ireland followed by a steal of 1 put them in the driving seat. England came back with a 2 to level things after 5 before a 3 for the Irish opened up a gap which England could not overcome - final score was 8-6 to Ireland.

The USA finally won their first game,beating Slovakia, while Finland and Switzerland continued their unbeaten runs - they plus Ireland lead this section on 3 wins, 2 clear of England, USA and Latvia with Slovakia and Russia winless.

In women's play New Zealand opened their account with a win over Czech Republic while Japan won a hard fought tussle against Italy and Sweden did enough to beat Slovakia.

Tonight's final session featured one of the most anticipated matches of the week, as usual, when Scotland faced Canada. After exchanging ones in the first two ends the game was more or less settled by a 4 for the Candians in the third end with the final score being 9-4. Also in that section the New Zealanders continued to win, this time against Hungary, while Japan beat Netherlands. Canada and New Zealand are undefeated on 3 wins each in this section followed by Italy and Japan on one loss and Scotland, Netherlands and Hungary still looking for their first win. 

In women's play Denmark thumped Finland 15-1 in 6 ends while Canada turned a 10-0 lead after 3 ends into an 11-2 win over Ireland, also after 6 ends.

Tomorrow I do not have a game to watch until 1930 and intend to go and do a tour of Copenhagen so news from the early part of the day about the curling will be scarce until my evening round up.

Monday - session 2

There seemed to be an air of urgency about the games in the second session at Taarnby today. There were three games finished after 6 ends - Norway defeated Austria 12-1, Sweden defeated the Czech Republic 9-1 and the Canadian ladies beat their US counterparts by 12-1 - a surprisingly one-sided contest.

It looked as though the Scottish ladies would be off early as well as they were 6-0 up against Denmark after 4 ends and, although the home team fought back with a 2 at the 5th, a further 2 left the Scots 8-2 up after 6. Then the Danes took a 3 at the 7th and all of a sudden it was time for a nervy last end which the Scots negotiated successfully.

Meanwhile Australia blanked the first two ends against Wales who then shocked the Aussies by stealing 1 at the 3rd. A 3 for Hugh Millikan's team at least justified their tactics but Wales clung on with a 1 at the 5th. This just gave the Australians last stone which they used to score another 3 before a single for Wales led to a handshake from the Welsh at 7-2 to the Australians.

The other 2 games saw victories for German's men against Denmark and the Finnish ladies against Russia.

One interested spectator this week is the English mascot, George the bear, seen hear wearing his competitor's badge, but not the Loudmouth trousers of the England team.

And, owing to a request from one of my readers, here is a picture of another popular character here this week:

Monday morning 9am

Early morning at Taarnby and 4 men’s games in the Red Group are on the ice. This group might have looked on paper as being 6 teams fighting for third place behind USA and Switzerland but results from yesterday and progress on the ice today show that this is far from the case. The USA are struggling again, this time against Ireland where JohnJo Kenny continues to play some great stones – none better than a hit against 3 which removed 2 US stones and rolled all the way across the rings to freeze on the third shot. In the end as I write this hands are shaken with the score 7-3 to Ireland after 7 ends.

Finland who outhit the US yesterday were being pegged back by the Russians after 5 ends (2-2) before they stole a 2 at the 6th but the Russians responded with a 3 at the 7th. A total miss by the Russian skip with his first stone at the last and a rollout with his second left Timo Kauste with a straightforward draw for 2 and the game by 6-5.

England and Switzerland were tied 2-2 after 4 but a 2 and a stolen 1 for Switzerland gave them an advantage which England could not get back in spite of a clutch draw against 3 by Michael Sutherland in the 7th end after a double take-out by the Swiss skip.

The only game which could not match these for excitement was Latvia against Slovakia where Latvia, after a 2 at the first end kept out of reach, in spite of gallant efforts by Slovakia, with a further 2 and a 3 to win 7-4.

So after 2 rounds it is Finland, Ireland and Switzerland on 2 wins who lead the way.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Early action from Copenhagen

The first games were finished today before the opening ceremony took place!! Nine o'clock saw three men's games which produced what looked like a straightforward victory for Canada over Hungary and two much tighter wins for Italy against Japan and New Zealand against Netherlands. And then after the teams for the next session had done their practice and thrown their last stone draws we had a 5 minute opening ceremony - surely the shortest ever. A brief speech followed by the raising of the flag and the first stone, delivered by Kristine Jensen wife of Johannes the driving force behind the Taarnby rink.

Some photos below will give you a flavour of the event:

Then it was straight into the second set of games and a couple of surprises with the Slovakian women at their first event taking the Swiss medal winners from last year to an extra end and the Finns, who won the European Seniors, defeating the USA with some big hitting.

The England team, resplendent in their Loudmouth trousers as modelled below by Tommy Campbell, came through against a dogged Slovakian team while the shot of the session was JohnJo Kenny's last stone for Ireland against Russia. After the Russian skip had used a plant to knock out the Irish shot, JJ then played a great runback to remove the Russian shot and win the game 7-5. Elsewhere there were routine wins for Switzerland men against Latvia, Sweden women against New Zealand and the Czech Republic women against Japan..

Having had a bye in the first session because of the non-appearance of the Polish team, Scotland's men then suffered a shock defeat against New Zealand by 2-6 in the day's third session, Hans Frauenlob carrying on from Peter de Boer's successes last week. Barbara Watt's Scottish ladies also lost, to Russia while Ireland's ladies lost to the USA. Elsewhere Canada's two teams had early finishes as they defeated Italy and Finland and Japan's men defeated Hungary.

Today's final session will see the first appearance of Wales and of Eigil Ramsfjell's Norway in a full session of 7 games (4 men's and 3 women's).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Welcome to Copenhagen

The cream of the World Senior curlers gathered in Denmark today and got their first glimpse of the ice where the two titles will be decided over the next week. Since the Championships were last here in 2006 two extra sheets have been added as can be seen from the two pictures below. One comment likened the two new sheets to the back sheets at Greenacres.

Above the two new sheets is a large function suite where the team meeting was held this morning chaired by Chief Umpire Herb Kupchik with contributions from WCF Competitions Director, Keith Wendorf.

It was a very colourful scene as the the 37 teams representing 23 nations gathered beneath their national flags.

For Austria (men) and Slovakia (men and women) it was their first appearance at a World Seniors and they would have been joined by Poland's men but they unfortunately they had to withdraw. The big star name here this week is undoubtedly the Norwegian Eigel Ramsfjell with his team of Sjur Loen, Morten
Sogard and Dagfinn Loen who are all former World and European Champions.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Some images from Basel

With apologies for the delay I have now downloaded some photos from my phone which I took in Basel last week.

Good Friday in Switzerland is very much a public holiday and everything shuts down - the occasional bar / restaurant opens and the trams still run - but as the following picture taken in early afternoon shows, the streets are pretty deserted!!

At the arena on Good Friday it was the tie breaker between New Zealand and Sweden at 1400. There were no tickets on sale as the box office was shut and so admission was free but it also meant that there was no catering at all in the arena and the kiosks and shops around were also shut.

This is a photo I took of the NZ team coming into the arena for the tie breaker and look at those crowds!!

The arena for the Championships was not actually an ice rink but, like the Kelvin Hall in 1985, the ice was laid on a normal floor as has become quite standard practice for a number of Championships in recent years.. Interestingly, for just the second time in recent history, the ice was laid on top of a mat of pipes which was rolled into place.

In addition extra seating was built at the end of the sheets and as this picture shows it was a massive construction which probably gave those at the top a nosebleed!!

The Swiss were of course cock-a-hoop over the success of Mirjam Ott and her team in Lethbridge at the World Women's and the team made a special appearance to sign autographs and to give their fans a chance to be photographed with them. Not sure who the chap in the middle is but the others are from left to right:

Carmen Kung (2nd), Janine Greiner (lead), Mirjam Ott (skip), Carmen Schaefer (3rd) and Alina Patz (alternate)

And finally a picture of another tram (or maybe 2) - the public transport system in Basel is wonderful and from outside our hotel it was possible to get to the arena in 20 minutes - out of the tram at the arena, up the stairs and you were in the building. Here is a picture of a brightly coloured tram - and closely followed by another one!!!

Friday, April 06, 2012

All was going really well until........

All was going really well at the WCF Annual Assembly today and at 1220 we had reached the end of the elections and were looking forward to the last couple of agenda items. An hour later we were still there!!!!

But more of that later!!

And first of all let's go back to last night and the Swiss Curling Association's reception when Kate Caithness, WCF President, received a couple of gifts from the SCA - the first was, unsurprisingly, a cow bell and the second was a bar of Toblerone - except this bar weighed 4.5 KILOS!!

So this morning's first task was to give the Toblerone to Bruno Schallenberg chair of the organising committee together with a hammer so that he could smash the bar down into smaller pieces for the delegates to share at the coffee break.

Onto the main business, and with the following countries being represented, there were 48 representatives present from 29 countries carrying 77 votes and a further 16 proxies being carried representing 22 votes - a total of 99 votes available. Plus representatives of 2 provisional members were present.

Scotland, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Netherland, New Zealand, Norway, Russsia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA who are all full members and Luxembourg and Chinese Taipei who are provisional members.

Proxies were being carried for representatives of Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Ireland, Wales, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, USA.

The main news about next season's competitions that had not been announced before was that the World Seniors and World Mixed Doubles would both be held in Canada in 2013 between the 13th and 20th April. No venue as yet as contract still being negotiated.

When it came to the Board elections Kate Caithness was unopposed as President, Andy Anderson was unopposed as Finance Director and Bent Ramsfjell of Norway was elected Vice President in a straight fight between him and Celal Cuneyt Isgor of Turkey.

The current WCF Constitution gives automatic places on the Board to Scotland, Canada and the USA and also has a requirement for there to be one "missing gender" - i.e as most of the time the candidates are male, the "missing gender" is female. Kate Caithness fulfilled the Scotland and "missing gender" roles while Andy Anderson is from the USA. There were 5 nominations for Members - at - Large, but ,as one of these was Graham Prouse of Canada, he was automatically elected to the Board. The other 4 nominations had to be reduced to 3 and unusually for the WCF elections each position was filled at the first ballot as follows: Leif Ohman (Sweden), Young C. Kim (Korea) and Toyokazu Ogawa (Japan).The unfortunate unsuccessful nominee was Niels Larsen of Denmark. For the first time there will be 2 Asians on the WCF Board and none from Central Europe following the resignation of Patrick Hurlimnann of Switzerland.

So there we were at 1220 with just the acceptrance of new Member Associations to be carried out - Mongolia were unanimously accepted but then, in a surprise to most of the delegates, the application of the Kosovo Curling Federation was announced. We were also told that a letter of protest had been received from Serbia and after the presentation from Kosovo, the representative of Serbia, Dara Gravara-Stojaovic made a passioned plea that Kosovo should not be admitted as this was contrary to UN, IOC and evenWCF constitutions!! 

Graham Prouse had been asked to check through various documents and had concluded that nothing in the WCF Constitution precluded Kosovo's acceptance. However a motion, proposed by Canada and seconded by Scotland, to put the application on the table at the WCF Congress in October was passed as an amendment to the motion from Germany and seconded by France that Kosovo should be accepted!! Whatever the ins and outs of the political situation this is a disappointing situation which, as Kate Caithness passionately indicated in her final remarks, goes against the whole 'Spirit of Curling'. We shall see what transpires at Turnberry in October.

After the meeting  it was off to the arena to see a disappointing play-off when the Kiwi dream finally died at the end of a 2-10 defeat by Sweden. 

This is my last blog from Basel as I return tomorrow in order to spend time at home before I go off to the World Seniors in Taarnby where I will be continuing with the daily blogs. 

Finally the first of my pictures from here which I have managed to access for this blog.They do say that some people come to worship their idols at the World Championships and here is the proof !!!


Thursday, April 05, 2012

Basel belongs to New Zealand

No it is not a delayed April Fool - I was there and I saw Glenn Howard play at just 67% (allegedly) and lose at an extra end to Peter de Boer and his Kiwi team. Cue pandemonium in the arena as Peter's last stone tapped Canada's red one out of the shot position. With Tom Brewster and Scotland having just qualified in second place it was a good half hour for all the Scots in the arena.

I think I have probably missed out a meeting or two in my reports - so where was I - Wednesday morning we found out that the WCF have recently received a further $5million form the IOC and currently have $16m in the bank!! And there was good news for those who curse and swear that they cannot get webstreaming of the games from Canada on You Tube - this may change very soon and next season we should be able to see as much curling as we want on the internet!! So fingers crossed that You Tube can get agreement from the broadcasters to show web streaming in competition to TV broadcasts.

Today was the European Curling Federation semi-annual general meeting and after the regular business of the meeting was done, the main discussion under any other business was the future of the ECF. The ECF Board had met and discussed their options and now asked the members what they wanted. It was disappointing that there were no options provided by the Board for the members to consider and the answers to many of the questions that were put were, in one person's words, wishy-washy.

It is not clear whether there is a reason for the ECF to exist if the WCF's proposals for a European Commission come to fruition - in the words of one delegate should it be "put into a sleeping bag" to be resurrected if something should happen to the WCF or should it be consigned to the annals of history? With a very limited budget from its Member Associations there is little it can do without any other financial input and in all my years at ECF meetings I have never seen any plans for development of the sport for example. The ECF exists to run the European Championships, but even that is very much beholden to the resources of the WCF.

I personally find it difficult to justify to my members that the ECA pays a 500 Euro subscription to the ECF and then entry fees of 500 Euros for the Mixed Championships and 700 Euros for each team at the European Championships - a total of 2400 Euros when the total ECA subscription income is just over £3000. There are many more ways I would like to spend that 2400 Euros to help develop the sport in England especially when the members are usually set against even a modest increase in their ECA subscription of £25!! However I was told that the decision on the ECF should not just be about the money side - but with no development plans from the ECF or any other ideas on how our money can be spent it is difficult to see what else I can prioritise in my decision about the future of the ECF.

Anyway enough for tonight. WCF Annual General Assembly tomorrow with elections to follow - could be a long one!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Basel - the future of the WCF?

When the International Curling Federation was formed in 1966 its 7 member associations were from countries where curling was a well-established mature sport, played competitively and recreationally. The 7 were Canada, Scotland, USA, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. Germany joined in 1967 and then Denmark and England in 1971 and Italy in 1972. The Dutch followed in 1975, Luxembourg in 1976, Finland in 1979 and Wales and Austria in 1982. The first non European / North American member was Japan in 1985 with Australia following shortly after in 1986.

When the drive to get Olympic recognition was at its height, led by Gunther Hummelt, a number of other member associations were signed up as members to ensure that the WCF, as it had then become, was fully compliant with International Olympic Committee rules. Countries like the US Virgin Islands (1991) or Liechtenstein (1991) have played little or no part in WCF affairs since they were admitted although others have developed into World curling power, such as Korea (1994), Czech Republic (1990) and Russia (1992).

By the end of the last century the total number of Member Associations had risen to 32 and since curling has become a recognised Olympic sport there have been a further 16 Member Associations added to the list. Some have been and gone (e.g. Mexico), while others have been, gone and come back again (Romania, Kazakhstan). It is my understanding that we may see Mongolia added to the list this week or very shortly.

All of this makes the WCF and its Member Associations a totally different animal to that which started life 46 years ago - it is reaching maturity you could say. The recent confrontation between the WCF and the European Curling Federation when led by Andrew Ferguson-Smith saw many begin to question how curling was being governed and a Governance Commission was set up by the WCF, chaired by Board Member Graham Prouse from Canada with members John Anderson (AUS), Laura Lochanski (CAN), Willie Nicoll (SCO), Bent Ramsfjell (NOR), Olli Rissanen (FIN), Gerrit-Jan Scholten (NED) and Colin Grahamslaw (WCF).

Their first comprehensive report on their findings was made to Member Associations at the Open Meeting yesterday with a further follow-up session during today's Open Meeting.

Their Mission Statement for the Commission was / is : "To create and maintain a robust organisation which maximises the potential of curling". They have set out what the requirements are for an enhanced Governance structure and also the goals for that Improved Governance Structure as follows:

  • be efficient and effective
  • ensure accountability
  •  respect tradition while embracing progress
  • take account of volunteer Board capacity
  • ensure Member engagement and sustainability
  • minimise risks on the organisation and its people
  • describe clear lines of authorities and responsibilities
  • empower those delivering the operational outcomes
  • encompass today's best business practices
  • avoid non-conformance with the constitution
  • a democratic organisation
  • strong foundations in place which can grow with the sport
  • solid and transparent finances
  • good succession planning
  • a dynamic election process which attracts quality people
  • influence from the athletes
  • the right person in the right job
  • a professional and efficient staff empowered by the Board
  • Board remains responsible for sound operation of the organisation
 So once you get around the management-speak, just what are its recommendations and how did it get to them?

Two benchmarking exercises were carried out comparing the WCF constitution, firstly to other International Federation constitutions and secondly to other related organisations including a number of Member Association constitutions. Best practice in other sport organisations and non profit making bodies was investigated, IOC policy had to be considered and there are also issues around Swiss Law since the WCF Head Office is based in Switzerland for tax purposes (note the operational HQ are of course in Perth).

The main recommendations are as follows (though note that this is still very much work in progress and a new constitution is not going to be approved until the WCF Congress in 2013).

Recommended that the WCF should be structured on a continental zone basis, initially Europe / the Americas / Pacific Asia with the provision to increase the number of continental zones or to amalgamate where appropriate as determined by the General Assembly.

The Board structure would be President, 3 Continental Vice Presidents and 4-6 directors (initially 4). The President would be elected for a 4 year term at the General Assembly (GA) after the Olympics, one of the three VPs would be elected at the 2nd, 3rd and 4th GAs following the Olympics so that they would not all go off the Board at the same time. An important proposal is that the Continental VPs would be elected "at large", that is not just by the MAs from that Continent - so even if the members of a continent favoured one particular person it would be possible for the other continents to vote a different person as the VP.

A very important change would be that no MA would have a guaranteed place on the Board. At the moment Scotland, USA and Canada are guaranteed a place and this would mark a big shift of power from the founding members to others. There would be a minimum of 2 from each gender - currently there has to be one female member of the Board. Candidates for the Board would have to be nominated by their MA but perhaps controversially they would not be required to have attended a WCF GA as an International Representative, opening the door for candidates from outside curling being brought into the Board.

Two other recommendations requiring a bit more thought are that successful candidates for the WCF Board should not be simultaneously sitting on their MA Board - to avoid a conflict of interest but not really workable in smaller countries, and whether or not there should be a maximum age for appointment to the Board. Directors or VPs would be able to sit for a total of 3 x 4 year terms with an additional 3 x 4 years if they became President - so in theory a Board member could be there for 24 years!!

Another big issue still being discussed is how to allocate votes to MAs - currently the system is weighted such that the bigger MAs get more votes. Perhaps uniquely among sport, the MA with the largest number of curlers (Canada) has 90% of the reported curlers in the World while the 5 MAs with the largest number of curlers have a combined 96% of the reported curlers.

Alternative options which could be considered are one MA,one vote (which gives 43 out of 48 votes to the MAs with an aggregate of 4% of the curlers), or the number of votes directly proportional to number of reported curlers (which gives Canada a whole lot of voting power!!). I think the current system will survive but with more refined recording of the number of curlers in each country. This will probably mean changing the current thresholds for the different weighting of votes to recognise the changes in the growth of curling, a way being devised of verifying the number of curlers reported and a standard definition of what a reported curler is.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the proposals and one which could change the whole scene of European curling is the idea that there would be 3 Continental Commissions set up. These bodies would be chaired by the respective continental VP and would be structured as follows: each Continental Commission would be made up of one representative of each MA in that zone, and within each Continental Commission the Members could decide to set up smaller groups to organise the work of the commission, look after specific projects or to carry out specific roles identified by the commission as needing additional attention.

The Continental Commissions would have the following roles: hold an annual meeting of MAs to discuss matters of interest / relevance to that zone; provide a channel of feedback to the Board through the VP; develop specific projects which can be promoted to the WCF Board for funding and staff support - e.g. other competitions, regional courses etc, and at the request of the WCF Board set up sub groups for specific projects. Also the Commissions would take decisions on matters allocated to it by the WCF Board or GA; support projects being delivered in that zone, and the VP would have a leading role in ceremonies at any Championships within that zone.

And then comes the paragraph which should make tomorrow's European Curling Federation meeting fairly exciting:


The WCF has already started discussions with the ECF about the organisation of future European Championships and when the question was asked at today's meeting about who held the rights to those Championships there was a difference of opinion between the WCF and the ECF!!

So tomorrow the members of the ECF will be asked to give their views on the future of the Federation if the WCF takes over running the Championships and if the Continental Commission system is approved when the new WCF constitution becomes adopted.It could mean that the AGM of the ECF in Karlstad in December could be its last, either for ever or until a new ECF is resurrected in the future.

Personally I find it difficult to see where the ECF can go from here. If the European Championships are organised by the WCF I can see no real reason for the ECF to exist unless it can change its direction, but for a federation covering 38 countries and with a budget of tens of thousands of Euros only, it is difficult to see what it can do without bankrupting its own member associations.

Sorry this has been so long but there was a lot to tell - look out for more tomorrow from the ECF meeting.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Basel - Edition 3b

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin........

Today was the first day of the WCF Open Meetings held here in Basel - the last time that there will be such meetings at this time of year as the new system will have them at the Annual Congress to be held in October each year. There will still be the opportunity for Member Associations (MA) to call a Semi-Annual meeting if they feel it is necessary but the norm would be just the one set of meetings each year.

Today's meeting started off fairly easily with a short presentation on rules and competitions from Keith Wendorf:

There will be no rule changes before the Sochi Olympics in 2014 but a draft questionnaire has been developed for players and others to comment on a number of issues for consideration after that. The questionnaire has been piloted with the players and will be mounted on the WCF website for responses to be made between May and September. The main topics are: length of the game; timing of the game; playoff system; free guard zone; tie break games, and time-outs.

There was a discussion about the need for official accreditation to be available for an eighth person at major Championships - currently 7 are provided for the 5 players, the team coach and another team official. Basically the eighth person would normally be a medical or fitness person but it would all depend on the facilities available at venues. 
And the final point on the competition side was that, as confirmed in Moscow, the current system of qualification for World Championships would remain but that the WCF would seek to control their own qualification events, e.g the European Championships - and this would have further implications for the European Curling Federation. The working groupon World Qualification had now been disbanded.

The next item was a report back from the Mixed Doubles Working Group. Having decided in Champery in 2010 not to apply for official inclusion of MD at the Olympics, this group had been set up to see how the discipline could be taken forward.

Colin Grahamslaw of the WCF had led the commission with other members being Greg Stremlaw (Canada), Georgy Nagy (Hungary), Edith Loudon (Scotland) and Peter Becker (New Zealand).

They had initially considered other alternatives to an additional discipline for the Olympics - e.g mixed, singles / hot shots, skins but confirmed that MD seemed to be the best one to promote. It would provide an extra medal, would be gender balanced, would require few additional athletes, no extra facilities and would enable 16 nations to compete and remain in the same time frame - an important factor for the Olympic Games.

A questionnaire to all MAs had brought 25 responses, 21 of them hosted or planned to host Championships which ranged in entry numbers from 2 to 35 pairs (Italy)!!

The players who were interviewed loved it (though they tended to be those already playing it!!) with a few points about rules concerning the umpires placing the stones at the start of the end (why not let the players do it), stones thrown out of order (not clear what the options were), and the use of the stabiliser (which if used for delivery tended to chucked aside at the end of the slide to pick up a brush and then left for the other team to pick up!!. Time clocks were seen as vital. 

There was a positive feedback from the press interviewed but they needed to be told more about the intricacies of the game and some well known faces were needed to be seen participating.

So the first action was to try and get more nations to hold Championships and send teams to World Championships to get over the requirement that over 50% of the MAs had to hold Championships to help Olympic approval. The idea was mooted about giving a grant to teams participating in World Championships, either specifically for travel or for accommodation or just a general grant for each MA to use as they saw fit.

Secondly an education pack was being put together for the media and it was also decided that live webstreaming is a must – this will happen from Erzurum in April and in 2013 there will be TV broadcasting from theWMDCC.(Venue will be announced on Friday).

On reflection I have decided that my report on the rest of the meeting, which discussed the work of the Governance Commission will have to wait until tomorrow as otherwise it will make War and Peace look like a paperback novelet.

So good night from Basel for this evening.