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Winter Youth Olympic Games curling action underway in Innsbruck

The opening ceremonies of the first Winter Youth Olympic Games kicked off in Innsbruck, Austria, on Friday, January 13,  and Canada’s curlers were looking forward to finally hitting the ice on Saturday.

Corryn Brown, Emily Gray, Thomas Scoffin and Derek Oryniak take in the view from the top of Innsbruck's Bergisel Stadium, site of the 2012 First Winter Youth Olympic Games (Photo H. Radford)

Team Canada’s Thomas Scoffin, Corryn Brown, Derek Oryniak and Emily Gray, along with coach Helen Radford, spent a week getting acclimatized to the athletes’ village and preparing for the first day of competition. They’ll compete in the both the Mixed Team event, and a scrambled Mixed Doubles event, in which curlers from different countries are paired in a two-on-two curling format.

With the opening ceremonies behind them – team vice Corryn Brown had the honour of carrying the Canadian flag into Bergisel Stadium – the team’s focus is now on the ice.

Day One of competition began with a postponement: a power outage at the Innsbruck Exhibition Centre Curling Hall forced the rescheduling of the first draw to later in the week.

As a result, Canada’s first game was Saturday afternoon against Austria, who earned a 6-5 victory over the Canadians, cheered on by the home crowd.

“It was a back and forth game and the home town team played very well and kept the fans entertained,” reports coach Radford.

The power failure did create some issues with the ice, but according to Radford, the team adapted well to the conditions.

Coach Helen Radford and Team Canada second Derek Oryniak practice before competition got underway at the Innsbruck Exhibition Hall (Photo courtesy WCF/Richard Gray)

“The ice held up very well and had great curl.  Our sweepers started the game with a hair broom as it was leaving the synthetic brush too wet.  After a few ends, most of the frost had disappeared so we used synthetic for the rest of the game.”

The Youth Olympic Games were created by the International Olympic Committee in July 2007 with the intention of inspiring young people “all around the world to do sport, and adopt and live by the Olympic Values of Excellence, Respect and Friendship.” Innsbruck marks the first winter games, following the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games, which took place in Singapore in August 2010.

From over 60 nations, a total of 1,059 athletes between the ages of 14 and 18 will compete in the seven sports represented at the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. In addition, they will take part in a Culture and Education Programme which focuses on the Olympic Values.

Scoffin, Brown, Oryniak and Gray have been training together since being chosen for Team Canada last March. They’ve attended curling camps, participated in training sessions with Canadian Curling Association high-performance coaches, and competed in junior bonspiels in Ottawa and Brandon, all of which involved travelling from their home clubs in Whitehorse, Yukon, (Scoffin); Kamloops, B.C. (Brown); Winnipeg, Man. (Oryniak); and O’Leary, P.E.I. (Gray).

“The team really enjoyed their first game wearing the maple leaf,” says Radford, noting that there are 16 countries in the curling competition. “It’s great to see so many young people curling all around the world.”

Tickets for the curling venue are sold out, which means a full house for the rest of the curling competition. Action for Team Canada continues Sunday with games against Italy and Great Britain.

Team Canada (l-r) skip Thomas Scoffin, vice Corryn Brown, second Derek Oryniak and lead Emily Gray (Photo courtesy WCF/Richard Gray)