Suppose basketball, globally, had a bunch of teams in the USA and a few elsewhere. Then for Olympic basketball, each country selected one team from within its country. Maybe the USA sends the Miami Heat, Spain sends Barcelona, etc. That’s curling, except that we put Canada in place of the USA.
Curling has a lot of competitions through the year, some on the World Curling Tour. Check the list of men’s teams on the WCT, and you’ll see a lot of Canadians. Then you have the World Championships and Olympics, in which each country is limited to one team.
Obviously, it’s a bit more competitive to win Canada’s slot than it is to represent a lot of other countries. But that doesn’t mean Canada is always a shoo-in, especially in women’s curling. Scotland is the sport’s birthplace, and a lot of European countries are moving up. The U.S. men had to fight for an Olympic spot this time around, winning must-win after must-win to make it to Sochi.
Your humble blogger here loves curling. And he loves having so much information so nicely compiled. The World Curling Federation has a gateway site full of Olympic-related curling news. Some nice person at Wikipedia is collecting links to each country’s team nominations. And the World Curling Federation has overall rankings along with the Olympic qualification rankings combining the results from the last two World Championships. That gives us more data than we’ll have for men’s hockey, which we’re going to predict with a dartboard and some Molson.
To the rink we go …
MEN (skips in parentheses)
Gold: Canada (Brad Jacobs)
Silver: Sweden (Niklas Edin)
Bronze: Britain (David Murdoch)
Also considered: Denmark (Rasmus Stjerne), Norway (Thomas Ulsrud)
Olympic qualification ranking: Canada, Sweden, Britain***, Norway, Denmark, China, Switzerland, USA 8th*, Russia 11th**, Germany 14th
2013 World Championship: Sweden (Edin), Canada (Jacobs), Scotland (Murdoch), Denmark (Stjerne), Norway (Ulsrud), China (Riu Liu), Switzerland (Sven Michel),
Czech Republic, USA (Brady Clark), Russia (Andrey Drozdov), Japan, Finland
(Sochi skips who weren’t at Worlds: USA’s John Shuster, Germany’s John Jahr)
Overall ranking: Canada, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, China, USA, Germany, Russia
2010 Olympic medalists: Canada (Kevin Martin), Norway (Ulsrud), Switzerland (Ralph Stöckli)
Gold: Sweden (Margaretha Sigfridsson)
Silver: Britain (Eve Muirhead)
Bronze: Canada (Jennifer Jones)
Also considered: Switzerland (Mirjam Ott), USA (Erika Brown)
Olympic qualification ranking: Sweden, Switzerland, Britain***, Canada, USA, Russia**, Denmark, South Korea, Japan 10th*, China 11th*
2013 World Championship: Scotland (Muirhead), Sweden (Sigfridsson), Canada (Rachel Homan), USA (Brown), Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni), Russia (Anna Sidorova), Japan (Satsuki Fujisawa), Denmark (Lene Nielsen), China (Wang Bingyu),
Italy, Germany, Latvia
(Sochi skips who weren’t at Worlds: Canada’s Jones, Switzerland’s Ott, Japan’s Ayumi Ogasawara, South Korea’s Ji-Sun Kim)
Overall ranking: Sweden, Canada, Britain, Switzerland, China, Denmark, USA, Russia, Japan, South Korea
2010 Olympic medalists: Canada (Cheryl Bernard), Sweden (Anette Norberg), China (Wang)
*-qualified for Olympics through Olympic qualification event
**-qualified for Olympics as host nation
***-“Britain” is really “Scotland.” England and Wales have their own teams, but they’re not contenders for Olympic berths.
Niklas Edin (Sweden): Fourth in 2010 Olympics. Third in 2011 and 2012 World Championships, then world champion in 2013.
Brad Jacobs (Canada): Second in 2013 World Championships. Won three of six World Curling Tour events in 2013.
David Murdoch (Britain): Fourth in 2006 Olympics; fifth in 2010. World champion in 2006 and 2009; second in 2005 and 2008; third in 2010 and 2013.
John Shuster (USA): Played on Pete Fenson’s 2006 Olympic bronze medalist team. Moved on to skip his own team in 2010 Olympics and struggled. Joined Craig Brown’s team, then moved back on his own with a reshuffled lineup.
Rasmus Stjerne (Denmark): World junior champion in 2009. Fourth in 2013 World Championships. His father was a World Championship bronze medalist.
Thomas Ulsrud (Norway): 2010 silver medalist. Three-time World Championship bronze medalist. But most importantly, check out the pants.
Erika Brown (USA): On two World Championship runner-up teams (1996, 1999) and the U.S. team for the first official Olympic competition in 1998. Now reunited with Debbie McCormick, who was also on the 1998 team and went on to be a world champion skip (2003). McCormick skipped the 2010 team and joined up with Brown for a team with tremendous international experience, finishing fourth in the 2013 World Championships.
Jennifer Jones (Canada): 2008 world champion; third place in 2010 Worlds. Has eight Grand Slam wins.
Eve Muirhead (Britain): Only 19 when she skipped at 2010 Olympics. Went on to take silver in 2010 Worlds and win the 2013 world championship. Also plays bagpipes.
Mirjam Ott (Switzerland): 2002 and 2006 Olympic silver medalist; 2012 world champion. Seven World Curling Tour wins in the last four years (four in 2010-11).
Margaretha Sigfridsson (Sweden): Four-time World Championship runner-up (2002, 2009, 2012, 2013). A rare team setup — she’s skip, but she throws the first rocks.