There may be no direct Scottish interest this year, but one of the most important competitions for junior curlers takes place this weekend in Prague. The first games of the European Junior Challenge are today (Thursday) in the rink in Prague. Junior men's teams from twelve countries, and junior women's teams from eight nations, will fight it out to get to the World Junior Championships in Ostersund, March 1-9.
Because the World event will take place in Europe this year, the lineup at Ostersund will include two teams from North America, one from the Pacific region and seven from Europe with Sweden, as host, having an automatic place. Another five European countries which finished highest in Eveleth at last season's WJCC (these include Scotland) are going to Ostersund, and these will be joined by the winner from this weekend in Prague.
In last year's WJMCC, it was the Czech Republic which finished in tenth place, and was relegated. Kristof Chaloupek's team has home ice advantage in an attempt to get his country back into the World lineup. Not an easy task, with eleven other teams contesting! The men play in two sections, and then playoffs.
Last year at the WJWCC, things were a little different. The Swedish girls had not qualified, and did not compete at Eveleth. However, Sweden is host this year, and must be in the draw at Ostersund. That meant that two countries were relegated, and there is only one place available for a qualifying team. Italy finished tenth (on 1-8) and went down. The Czech Republic were ninth on 2-7 and were also forced into prequalifying. Anna Kubeshkova, who played at Lockerbie just before Christmas, skips her team in the Prague event, a single round robin with playoffs.
Anna Kubeshkova at Lockerbie. Photo by Bob.
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