The international curling focus turns to Östersund, Sweden, where the 2012 World Junior Curling Championships get underway today.
Altogether ten junior women’s and ten men’s teams will compete at the Z-hallen in Östersund in the heart of Sweden, the third time Östersund has hosted this event (1999 and 2008).
Alberta’s Jocelyn Peterman (skip), Brittany Tran (third), Rebecca Konschuh (second), and Kristine Anderson (lead) will represent Canada in the competition against nine other teams in the Junior Women’s draw.
Last year in Perth, Scotland, Eve Muirhead won a record fourth junior world crown. This year, Scotland’s Hannah Fleming will try to retain the title. Cory Christensen skips USA. Italy, skipped by Federica Apollonio, became the last European nation to qualify when they won the European Junior Curling Challenge in Denmark earlier this year to complete the European line-up.
Japan won the Pacific-Asia Junior Championships to claim their place in the line-up and now Sayaka Yoshimua and her team will be hoping to improve on the eighth place they secured last year. Other teams returning this year with the same or similar line-ups are: 2011 Junior Bronze medallists Russia (skipped by Anna Sidorova who also won bronze at the European Curling Championships in Moscow), Norway (skipped by Kristine Davanger), Sweden (Sara McManus skipping instead of her older sister Jonna), and Switzerland (third Briar Hürlimann and lead Janine Wyss returning).
Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher (skip), Evan Asmussen (third), Landon Bucholz (second), and Bryce Bucholz (lead) make up Canada’s entry in the men’s ten-team draw.
Hosts Sweden won gold in 2011, and it falls to the team led by Rasmus Wranå to defend the gold medals won in Perth by Oskar Eriksson’s team. As in the women’s event, the Italian men were victorious in the European Junior Curling Challenge, allowing skip Andrea Pilzer and his team to join the line-up, while China, represented by Xiuyue Ma’s team, won the men’s section of the Pacific-Asia Junior Championships.
Three teams in the men’s line-up are almost the same as last year: Norway, who won bronze in Perth, has Markus Høiberg moving up to skip. The Czech Republic, skipped by Lukas Klima, finished ninth last year, while the Finnish team led by Iiro Sipola was ranked one place above them.
Among the other newcomer teams at this level are Scotland, skipped by Kyle Smith, Switzerland skipped by Dominik Märki, and the USA skipped by Stephen Dropkin.
Round-robin play commences on Saturday, March 3 and continues until Thursday March 8, followed by tie-breakers (as needed), and Page Play-offs, with the gold and bronze medal games being staged on Sunday, March 11.
Curling.ca will be providing daily reports from the Canadian contingent, and fans can also follow the World Junior Curling Championship news, live scores and galleries on the event website: http://www.wjcc2012.curlingevents.com