If you like watching paint dry - literally - you will have been glued to the webcam to see the ice tech teams transforming the arenas in O'Vik for the European Championships which get underway on Saturday. Take it from me (yes, I have been watching it!), the transformation has been remarkable in just a few days. Head ice technicians are Stefan Röthlisberger of Switzerland in the A arena, with Scott Henderson as his assistant. In B it's Kerth Hedin with Göran Linbäck, both from Sweden.
The Editor though will be just another fan next week, interested in what's happening and following the scores from afar, from the comfort (and safety) of Skip Cottage. Christine Stewart will have the blog from Sweden.
However, I note in today's press release: "In partnership with the pan-European multilingual sports TV channel Eurosport and Curlingkanalen.se, the World Curling Federation will provide curling fans with a record number of hours of coverage, beginning on December 6 and ending with the men's and women's championship finals on December 13. Ten matches will be televised in High-Definition, and live webstreamed game coverage of 24 total matches, including the men's and women's A division semifinals and finals, will be available on the new Eurosport Player for a discounted price via access code. Eurosport Player can be found at: http://player.eurosport.com and the access code for each country on the WCF website at: www.worldcurling.org."
As I write this, the access codes for your discount are not yet on the WCF site, but I've been sent these two for those of us in the United Kingdom:
dependent on whether you want to pay for one month, or a full year.
The Eurosport Player is apparently not available in North America, so online viewers there will have to link via CurlTV.
So, what's to watch? Christine has supplied the following preview for those interested primarily in the Scottish teams:
The European Curling Championships kick off on December 6 with Scotland men against Germany in the opening game at 08.00. David Murdoch, Ewan MacDonald, Peter Smith, Euan Byers and fifth man Graeme Connal will be defending the title won in 2007. What do they face through the round robin stage?
The game against Germany is going to be tough one. Andy Kapp, Andreas Lang, Uli Kapp, Holger Hohne and Andreas Kempf have years of experience at both European and World level, which team will be brightest at eight in the morning?
Spain is next up, that should be an easier game. Spain is new to Europeans and qualified for the A league for the first time last year.
Sunday means another two games for the men, the Czech Republic in the morning and Norway in the evening. The Czech Republic is another new nation, they have improved a lot in the past couple of years and held on to their A league spot last year. It’s Norway so it’s Thomas Ulsrud who took over national duties for Norway when Pal Truslen retired. Ulsrud has three European bronze medals and three World bronze medals, he’ll be aiming to improve this time.
Monday’s games... impossible to predict. First up is Mathias Mabergs for Sweden, it’s a new team with no track record, so from me, no comment. The evening game against Switzerland has much the same feel, Stefan Karnusian is the skip, Christoph Schwaller, third, got bronze at the Olympics in 2002, the front end Hurliman (no not that one, this one is Robert) and Rolf Iseli last played Europeans ten years ago.
Murdoch and his team have just one game on Tuesday against Denmark, all well kent names but in a new line-up, Ulrik Schmidt, Johnny Frederiksen, Bo Jensen, Lars Vilandt, Mikkel Andrup Poulsen. Schmidt has a couple of Euro silver medals before. He’s got a new coach this year… James Dryburgh!
Wednesday is the last round robin day for Scotland’s men, and on paper it doesn’t look too bad for them, France followed by Ireland. But France! We know too well these guys are unpredictable. Skipped by Thomas Dufour they are a tough team to beat and can pull it out of the hat when needed.
Ireland has a new line up this year. It's listed as John Jo Kenny, Peter J.D. Wilson, Bill Gray, Neil Fyfe and John Furey. But John Jo has been sidelined with an injured knee, and a long road is ahead for him in getting back on the ice. (JJ - we're all rooting for you. Ed)
Scotland's men should make it to the knock out stages.
Kelly Wood, Jackie Lockhart, Lorna Vevers, Lindsay Wood and Eve Muirhead line up for Scotland. They got silver last year and will want to go one better in 2008.
Day one means the Czech Republic and Russia. The Czechs, like their men’s team, held on to their A league position in the 2007 Europeans. And it’s the usual suspects for Russia, Ludmilla Privivkova, Olga Zharkova, Nkeiruka Ezekh, Ekaterina Galkina, Margarita Fomina with lots of international experience.
On Sunday the team have just one game and it’s a big one, the lean, mean curling machine from Sweden, Anette Norberg, Eva Lund, Cathrine Lindahl, Anna Svard, Kajsa Bergstrom. Anette is reigning European Champion, in 2006 she got Olympic and Wold Gold and there are a lot more medals in her trophy cabinet.
Monday, the team will be up bright and early to face Switzerland’s Miriam Ott, another legend in women’s curling. She’s played two Olympics getting silver, lots of Europeand, one gold medal, one World bronze. The afternoon game is a tough one as well, Denmark, Angelina Jensen with theDupont sisters Madeleine and Denise, Camilla Jensen and Ane Haakansson Hansen. This team got World silver in 2007, they came from behind to beat Wood in the play off. Then Wood got the bronze.
Tuesday, it’s the turn of Italy and the Netherlands. The Wood four should win both these games.
Wednesday afternoon is Germany: Andrea Schopp, Monika Wagner, Melanie Robillard, Anna Hartelt, Stella Heiss. Andrea first appeared on the international stage in 1980 and twenty eight years later is still going strong. Monica has been with her nearly all the way and of course Andrea is fresh from winning the European Mixed title.
Thursday is Scotland’s last round robin game against England skipped by Kirsty Balfour who took the team to the A league at the 2007 Europeans. They’ve played a number of WCT-e tour events this year but it should be a win for Wood!
Overall I think the women have the harder task but should be there at the knock out stage.
The event website is here, and apparently the link for live scores will be here (Swedish language lesson included).
Added later. Just a PS. I was pleased to see that Mike Haggerty will also be reporting after all the Scottish games on the RCCC website. See his preview here.
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