A pause that refreshes!
BKT Tires & OK Tire World women’s championship returns to Prince George
By DAVE KOMOSKY
Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?
Oh, yes, Prince George and the 2020 World Women’s Curling Championship — and by now, we should all know how that turned out.
Well, the event is back and ready to pick up exactly where it left off, which was at the starting gate, when many of the world’s best women’s curling teams gather for the 2022 renewal, March 19-27 at the CN Centre.
The names and faces may have changed a bit for the 2022 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Curling Championship, presented by Nature’s Bounty, but make no mistake, it’s the same event, with the same glory at stake.
Nobody is more pleased to see the event back in British Columbia than skip Kerri Einarson and her Team Canada champions from Gimli, Man. They were poised to make their world curling championship debut in 2020 but, just as the event was set to slide from the hacks, the rug was pulled out from under after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
“We’re super excited to get that opportunity again,” said Einarson on a conference call with curling reporters prior to her team’s departure for Prince George. “As soon as we found out it was in Prince George, it was like ‘we have to get back there.’ This year is a little different because there is no Olympic spot on the line and that extra pressure, but having that support from our friends and family and across Canada is going to be helpful and we’ll feed off that crowd.”
Einarson, who is backed by vice-skip Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard, lead Briane Meilleur, alternate Krysten Karwacki and coach Reid Carruthers, earned the right to represent Canada by winning her third straight Scotties Tournament of Hearts title, in dominant fashion, in Thunder Bay, Ont., earlier this year.
The event offers Einarson and her outstanding team something else: redemption. The Canadians made their world debut last season in the Calgary ‘bubble’, and after an extremely slow start, snuck into the playoffs. That was short-lived. The Canadians fell 8-3 in eight ends to Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg in a morning playoff game and was sent packing without a medal.
Canada will also be looking for its first podium finish since Team Jennifer Jones claimed the gold medal with a perfect 14-0 record in 2018 at North Bay, Ont.
A lot of chatter has been about whether Canada needs to relook at how it does things in the international arena.
Carruthers agrees, to a point.
“For us this week it’s about going out there and proving this team is one of the best in the world. And there’s no reason we can’t win this event,” he said. “After that maybe there needs to be some talk among the national coaches and some of the top athletes to see how we could be better in the international competitions.”
The World Curling Federation will trial a new no-tick rule for this event. Guards touching the centre-line that used to be allowed to be ticked off to the side in the free guard zone rule are now untouchable.
“It’s definitely going to change the strategy,” said Birchard. “It means we’re going to see a lot more play towards the middle, and when you don’t have the hammer you’re going to see those double centres quite a bit.
“We’ve been working on that (aspect) the last few weeks. It’s a challenge having a new rule in a world championship, but we’ve a bit of experience with this rule at the (Grand Slam) Champions Cup, so I think we have to rely on a little of that knowledge. Once we see something successful and working, I think we have to go with that.”
It won’t be easy for Team Canada in Prince George, but nothing ever is at the world championship. Hasselborg, who recently won the Olympic bronzze medal in Beijing, China, will be back, along with the defending world champions skipped by Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland. Those teams met in the Olympic bronze-medal game, won 9-7 by Sweden.
Denmark (skipped by Madeleine Dupont) and South Korea (skipped by EunJung Kim) also competed at the Winter Olympics and will have the same lineups in Prince George.
Thirteen teams will be competing in Prince George. Also in the mix will be the Czech Republic’s Alžběta Baudyšová, Germany’s Daniela Jentsch, Japan’s Ikue Kitazawa, Scotland’s Rebecca Morrison, Norway’s Kristin Skaslien, Italy’s Stefania Constantini, Cory Christensen of the United States and Turkey’s Dilsat Yildiz, making her country’s debut at the world women’s championship.
The Canadians open their schedule on Saturday against Italy’s Constantini, who won the mixed doubles gold-medal at the Olympics, and Norway.
Russia was among the 13 countries in the field for the women’s world championship March 19-27 at Prince George’s CN Centre but was removed due to its war against Ukraine and replaced by the Czechs.