Monday, November 25, 2013

From the Coaches' Bench

I have now been to 19 European Championships as competitor, coach, representative and spectator in places as far and near as Ornskoldsvijk and Sofia, Kirkcaldy and Copenhagen and each has had its good and bad points and many have had their problems. I've been to some places I will probably never visit again (the aforementioned 'Ovik') and to others where I have later returned to enjoy a holiday (Grindelwald).

I have stayed in some grand hotels and in some very basic ones, eaten expensive meals and some ropey hot dogs and burgers, spent up to 4 hours in a bus to get from various airports and sat on a variety of coaches' benches either freezing to death (Sofia) or watching in luxury from behind the glass (Karlstad).

But I have never been anywhere that could only offer me black coffee before (there was no milk available - not just once but the next day as well)!!!! Or where a plate of pasta cost over £30. But here we are in Stavanger, oil capital of Norway, and I suppose those who remember the days when Aberdeen was the most expensive place to live in Britain will know what I am talking about.

The stadium here is vast - an indoor speed skating venue so that there is room to have the two ice pads for the A and B Groups in one place, separated just by the scaffolding supporting the A Group coaching, media and TV scaffolding - nicely draped for the A side but exposing the bare scaffolding poles to us here on the B side (see picture below). The curling sheet in the foreground is for the public to have a go.

As usual it is a full programme of games here with 28 nations represented, 26 in the men's competition and 20 in the women's. It is a first appearance in the main Championships by the Romanian men and the Slovenian women who came up through the C Group Championships played recently in Copenhagen.The other quailifiers from that competition were the Welsh men and the Belarusian women who had both been relegated last year.

Although the two ice pads are back to back there is not a great deal of noise filtering through from one to the other unless Andrea Schopp or Thomas Ulsrud is in full bellow setting.

However the standard of the catering in the stadium leaves much to be desired, especially considering it is a purpose built sports venue. There is a small cafe which was the venue of my milk shortage episode mentioned earlier and currently they are unable to produce any hot water for a cup of tea owing to an inoperative water boiler - the idea of boiling a kettle seems alien to them!! (problem has been resolved as just been and got a cuppa).

There is a standard menu of sandwiches, lasagne or chicken kebabs and one dish of the day which has apparently been variable in quality. The lasagne I had was tepid although full of meat. I presume it is getting better as some are still eating there but then people eat in Motorway service area cafes also because they have no choice!

It is funny however, that such a pattern has been repeated many times over the years- it is almost as if the venues have been unprepared for the demand and it is not until halfway through the week that the situation is resolved. The life saver here has been the hot dog caravan which sits next to the Group B ice pad and did a roaring trade in hot dogs last night.

Finally for this short introduction to Stavanger a couple of pictures of the equipment the Norwegian edition of Top Gear is developing for their Christmas special.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Greenacres International Bonspiel

Greenacres has been a very "International" place these last few weeks - they had the Welsh International Bonspiel followed by the European Senior Invitation Curling Championships (or ESICC to its close friends) and then last weekend it was the Greenacres International Bonspiel.

When many of the teams entered for the weekend it was going to be the Gormac as it has been for a number of years, but by the time we got to the rink on Friday the Gormac tag had been dropped (for reasons I am not necessarily able to talk about) and it was the G.I.B..

The International moniker was still relevant as there were 3 teams from England entered, plus the Irish team fresh back from the European C Division at Taarnby in Denmark.

With just 10 teams in total a straight 4-game Schenkel was played and then the top 2 teams played off for first prize and the next two for 3rd prize.

(I was going to blog a detailed account of the games but I cannot find my results sheet just at the moment - first rule of blogging - don't begin to write until you are sure you have all the necessary information ready!!!)

Going into the 4th session Alan MacDougall's England Champions were undefeated and would play Graeme Adam who was on 4 points and 14 ends. Graham Shedden (4 and 13) played James Dixon (4 and 12) and Tony Tierney (4 and 12) played Drew Gemmell (4 and 10) and the top 4 teams would come out of those 3 games. Other contestants were Alan Mitchell and Matthew McConnell (2 points) and Fergus Corbett and  Anna Fowler (0 points).

The first game to finish was the MacDougall - Adam game which Graeme won so that both teams ended with 6 points and 18 ends. By this time none of the other teams were going to be able to match that number of ends and so they would meet again in the final an hour later. The decision on who would play the 3/4 final then  came down to who would win the other games between the teams with 4 points. In the Dixon - Sheddon game the former had opened out a 6-2 lead to be pegged back at the 7th when Shedden took a two. The Dixon team then contrived to play the 8th end so badly that Shedden was lying 5 when James came to play his last stone - but a straightforward nose hit reduced that to 2 and the win went to Dixon by 6-5. The Tierney - Gemmell also went to the last stone before Gemmell squeezed through by 7-5.

And so to the finals - Alan MacDougall knew he would have to leave early to catch a plane back to London and he and Graeme romped through the first 5 ends before Alan left with his team losing. That situation did not change and so Graeme Adam, Drew Howie, Stuart Naismith and Jean Lesperance won the Greenaces International Bonspiel. Runners-up were Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, John Sharp and Tom Jaeggi, while Andrew Woolston also played in two of the games.

In the 3/4 final the James Dixon team never seemed to get into the game and Drew Gemmell's team, skipped in this game by Alec Wilson, won fairly easily by 11-5.

So a good weekend all round on the ice for those who participated - hopefully there will be more entries again next year and we can get back to the 24-team fields of the Gormac in the past.