Tomorrow, in the port city of Esbjerg on the west coast of Denmark's Jutland peninsula, the 2011 World Women's Curling Championships shall commence.
Photo via Kreiszeitung
The twelve nations to qualify for this year's championship are as follows:
Denmark qualifies as host, Germany as defending world champions. Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland qualified as top 7 finishers at the 2010 European Curling Championships. The 8th place finisher, Latvia, lost in a playoff with the Czech Republic, the European Group B champion, thus the Czechs won the eighth and final European slot.
Canada qualifies as the top team from the Americas region at the 2010 World Championship. USA is in as the Americas' second team as they were not challenged for the spot by any other Western Hemisphere nation. South Korea and China were the top two teams at the 2010 Pacific Curling Championships.
This year's championship doesn't have the bearing on the 2014 Olympics that it would have under the previous qualification system. Apparently, now only the two World Championships prior to the Olympic year have a direct bearing on the qualification standings. For 2010, it was the three prior years. However, there will now be a separate Olympic qualifying event in 2013 in which the 2011 World Championship nations shall be the participants.
Canada has won the women's championship 15 times, easily the most in the event's 32-year history. As such, they must always be considered among the favorites. Team Saskatchewan won the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, earning the right to represent Canada at the Worlds. This is skip Amber Holland's first senior World Championship appearance. Kim Schneider, Tammy Schneider, Heather Kalenchuk and alternate Jolene Campbell round out Holland's rink.
Germany is skipped once again by Andrea Schöpp (pictured above). She has won the world championship twice, including last year's. Sweden is the current Olympic and European champion as well as the top ranked nation in the world. The Swedes are represented once again by Anette Norberg, two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion.
China won the championship in 2009, the first Asian nation to do so. Bingyu Wang is their skip, making for three women who have previously skipped a world champion in the field. South Korea, however, are the current Pacific champions.
USA has only won the world title once, in 2003, but they've finished as runner-up five times. The US team is lead by skip Patti Lank. She is Canadian born but resides in Lewiston, New York. This will be her fifth World Championship. Her best finish was a silver medal in 1999. The rest of her team are Caitlin Maroldo, Jessica Schultz, Mackenzie Lank (Patti's daughter) and alternate Christina Schwartz. The rink qualified for the World Championship by winning the 2011 US Nationals.
It appears there will be no live television coverage of the event in the United States. However, if you are fortunate enough to get NBC Universal Sports, they will air the championship game, tape delayed: March 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st at 5 pm EDT on all four days. So, I will be following online. If you care to join me, the event website is at http://www.wwcc2011.com/.
I'm thinking that to commemorate the occasion, I will try to work curling lingo into my daily conversation - "Man, you really burned the rock on that one!"