With some of the bigger names taking a slight breather after a busy Olympic year, opportunity knocks for up-and-comers on both the men’s and women’s curling scenes.
Fans can catch the next wave of talent as the Vernon Curling Club hosts 24 women’s and 16 men’s rinks at the Prestige Hotels & Inns Curling Classic starting Thursday. These newcomers will battle in a strong field of international and Canadian teams looking for solid starts to the season, and, of course, a slice of the $63,000 purse.
Young rinks such as 2013 Canadian junior champion Corryn Brown of Kamloops and 2014 Scotties silver medallist Val Sweeting of Edmonton are in the mix on the women’s draw, as are national teams from Japan (Ayumi Ogasawara), China (Sijia Liu) and Korea (EunJung Kim).
“There are some new up-and-coming teams in the country,” said Vernon rink manager Dave Merklinger. “These guys and ladies are trying to get good enough to go to the Olympics and they’ve got four years to do it.”
Kelowna’s Kelly Scott, the 2007 world champ, enters the season with a slightly revamped lineup. Mary-Anne Arsenault, who earned a pair of world titles and five national crowns with Colleen Jones, heads a rink from Halifax.
The women’s triple-knockout tournament starts Thursday, 5 p.m. Tickets are $30 for the week (men’s and women’s), or $10 day rate.
Merklinger noted the 8 p.m. draw on Saturday is free, and will be followed by the Shawn Lightfoot Band at 9 p.m.
“This spiel is one of the few spiels where they combine men’s and women’s teams,” he said. “It’s always a good time.”
On the men’s side, Vernon skip Jim Cotter begins the season with a new-look lineup that features local Ryan Kuhn at third. John Morris, last year’s skip (Cotter threw fourth stones), joined Alberta’s Kevin Koe in the offseason. Front-enders Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky round out the foursome.
Koe topped the Morris/Cotter crew 10-5 in the Tim Hortons Brier last season.
“With the addition of Ryan, he’s just a great guy and a fantastic player,” said the easy-going Cotter, of Kuhn, a 2000 world champion. “We’re pumped up and we’re excited for it.”
Cotter will battle Peter Nielsen (third Evan Brantter, second Kyle Duncan, lead David MacDonald) in an all-Vernon affair to open the men’s draw Friday at 1 p.m.
Vernon’s Jamie Sexton (third James McKenzie, second Hugh Bennett, lead Rob Nobert) also gets underway in the 1 p.m. draw against Edmonton’s Brendan Bottcher.
Other cashspiel regulars include Brent Pierce’s New Westminster/Kelowna rink, Sean Geall of New Westminster and Ken McArdle of Vancouver. Similar to the women’s draw, there is a strong Asian flavour with foursomes from Japan (Yusuke Morozumi), Korea (Se Hyeon Seong) and Chinese Taipei (Randie Shen).
Women’s playoffs begin Sunday with semifinals at noon and the championship game at 3 p.m. The men’s quarters are 9 a.m. Monday, with semis at noon and final at 3 p.m.
Visit www.worldcurl.com for the complete draw.