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Ford World Women’s Curling Championship begins Saturday in Swift Current

A rookie Canadian skip will take aim at ending a seven-year dry-spell when the 2016 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, presented by Meridian Manufacturing, gets underway Saturday at the Credit Union iplex in Swift Current, Sask.

Team Canada, from left, front, Laine Peters, Jocelyn Peterman, Amy Nixon and Chelsea Carey. Back coach Charley Thomas, alternate Susan O'Connor. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

Team Canada, from left, front, Laine Peters, Jocelyn Peterman, Amy Nixon and Chelsea Carey. Back coach Charley Thomas, alternate Susan O’Connor. (Photo, Curling Canada/Andrew Klaver)

Newly crowned Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion Chelsea Carey and her team from Calgary will represent Canada in the 12-team field, looking to give her country its first gold-medal at the Ford Worlds since Jennifer Jones’s victory in 2008 at Vernon, B.C.

Round-robin play gets underway Saturday at 2 p.m. (all times Mountain).

But while it will be Carey’s first time wearing the Maple Leaf on the world stage, her teammates have all done it before.

Vice-skip Amy Nixon played vice-skip for Shannon Kleibrink’s Canadian team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, winning bronze, and was the alternate for Heather Nedohin’s team at the 2012 Ford Worlds in Lethbridge, Alta., winning another bronze.

Second Jocelyn Peterman skipped Canada at the 2012 World Juniors in Östersund, Sweden, losing out in a playoff tiebreaker, while lead Laine Peters played lead for Nedohin at the 2012 Ford Worlds, and was the alternate for Colleen Jones’s team at the 2003 Ford Worlds in Winnipeg (silver) and 2001 in Lausanne, Switzerland (gold).

Swiss skip Binia Feltscher is looking for her second world women's title. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Swiss skip Binia Feltscher is looking for her second world women’s title. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Rounding out the list, alternate Susan O’Connor played third for Cheryl Bernard’s Canadian team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where she won silver, while coach Charley Thomas is a two-time world junior champion (2006, 2007) and also played last year at the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Sochi, Russia.

The Canadians, though, will face numerous stiff challenges on their path to the medal podium.

Leading that list will be a Swiss team skipped by Binia Feltscher, whose last trip to a Ford World Women’s Championship, two years ago in Saint John, N.B., result in a gold medal, beating Canada’s Rachel Homan in the final.

Swiss teams, in fact, have claimed three of the past four world titles. Last year in Sapporo, Japan, Alina Pätz claimed gold, beating Canada’s Jones in the final. And in 2012 at Lethbridge, Mirjam Ott’s Swiss team defeated Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson in the final.

Sigfridsson, a four-time world silver-medallist, will again skip the Swedes, while 2013 world champ Eve Muirhead of Scotland also will be in the playoff picture, as will Russia’s Anna Sidorova — bronze-medallist at the past two world women’s championships and the reigning European champion.

The field is rounded out by Danish veteran Lene Nielsen, Finland’s Oona Kauste, Germany’s Daniela Driendl, Italy’s Federica Apollonio, Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa, South Korea’s Ji Sun Kim and Erika Brown of the United States.

While the focus is on the 2016 Ford Worlds, the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, will certainly be on the minds of the players in Swift Current.

It will be the first opportunity for countries to secure qualifying points to earn Olympic berths — the combined results of this year’s event in Swift Current and next year’s world women’s championship in Beijing will determine seven of the 10 teams that compete in South Korea. The host country is guaranteed a spot, while the other two countries will be determined in a last-chance qualifying event in late 2017.

Scottish skip Eve Muirhead will be among the favourites in Swift Current. (Photo, WCF/Richard Gray)

Scottish skip Eve Muirhead will be among the favourites in Swift Current. (Photo, WCF/Richard Gray)

With a medal-podium finish in Swift Current, meanwhile, Carey’s Canadian team will qualify directly for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings in Ottawa — the event that will decide Canada’s four-player teams for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Round-robin play in Swift Current will continue until Thursday, with the top four teams advancing to the Page playoffs, which see the first-and-second place teams playing Friday, March 25, at 7 p.m. (all times Mountain) for a berth in the March 27 gold-medal game (3 p.m.). The loser of the one-two game drops to the semifinal (March 26, 7 p.m.) against the winner of the Page three-four game (March 26, 2 p.m.). The semifinal loser and Page three-four loser will play for the bronze medal on March 27 at 10 a.m..

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcast partner of Curling Canada, will provide live coverage of Canada’s round-robin games, in addition to all playoff games.

It’s the 14th time that Canada has hosted the World Women’s Championship since it began in 1979 in Perth, Scotland, and the second time it’s happened in Swift Current. In 2010, Germany’s Andrea Schôpp won the gold medal, beating Muirhead’s Scots in the final. Canada’s Jones won the bronze.

Canada has won a leading 15 gold medals at the World Women’s since 1979, followed by Sweden with eight.

You can find ticket information, draw times, team lineups and live scoring, and more, at the event website: http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/

Prior to the 2 p.m. opening draw on Saturday, the Ford Worlds will kick off with the opening ceremonies, beginning at noon at the Credit Union iplex.