Friday, March 30, 2012
Rock Stars: Basel
Image via World Curling Federation
The 2012 World Men's Curling Championship kicks off in Basel, Switzerland tomorrow. Basel is, of course, Roger Federer's hometown. There's an ad in a recent issue of The Economist for a job in Basel. I've been joking to My Wife that I'm sure Fed would put us up for a while as we got settled. He seems like an awfully nice guy!
Back to curling, while the Canadians are always among the favorites for the women's event, they own this one. Canada has won 33 world titles in men's curling. Scotland and Sweden are tied for second with - ready for it? - 5 each. Only three other countries have won titles: USA (with 4), Switzerland (3) and Norway (3). Quick math, Canada's won more than everyone else put together. So, it should come as no surprise that this year's favorite is...
Photo via Gripper Bits
Glenn Howard is the only skip in this year's tournament who has won a World Championship before. What's more, he's won three: two as a third for his brother Russ and one as a skip in 2007. It can only be considered an upset if anyone manages to wrest the gold medal from the Canadians.
Here's a quick rundown of the top challengers:
Photo via Canadian Curling Association
The Norwegian rink led by Thomas Ulsrud deserves enormous credit for putting curling on the pop culture map. Their snazzy pants were an overnight Internet sensation at the 2010 Winter Games and they have not lost their sense of style yet. However, they have yet to win gold at either the Olympics or the World Championships, though they have a perfectly respectable silver and three bronze to show for their efforts. They are the current European champions and probably present the strongest threat to the Canadians.
The hosts are led by Jan Hauser, who skips the team from the third position (most skips play fourth, meaning they throw last stones). Perhaps the home crowd can cheer his team to glory.
The sport's inventors should never be discounted. Skip Thomas Brewster, Jr. has won two medals at this level: a bronze in 2002 and a silver last year.
Photo via Curl for SickKids
The American representatives are based in Irvington, New York. Skip Heath McCormick is a dual Canadian-American citizen. He's been competing in the United States for the past two years after a long career in Ontario.
In Sunday's curling post, I noted a similarity between The Squid's three favorite sports - tennis, baseball and curling - with the promise of sharing my findings today. It occurred to me that the role of time is very similar in all three games. Generally speaking, the period of game play is not ultimately determined by a clock. A tennis match ends with the final point of the final game of the final set. A baseball game ends with the final out. A curling game ends when the last stone is thrown in the last end.
I also mentioned in that same post that curling merits an asterisk in this regard. Curling does use a clock but it functions more the way a chess clock does - i.e., each side is allotted so much time to hem and haw between throws. The intention is to keep things moving. At least in my limited experience, a game rarely comes down to a time forfeit. Interestingly, there is occasional discussion in both baseball and tennis of similar limited clock usage, allowing only so much time between pitches or serves. Looking forward to this summer's Olympics, I think of three other sports that share this characteristic: badminton, table tennis and volleyball - all net sports, interestingly.