The stakes will be high at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2017

  • Switzerland's Silvana Tirinzoni will represent the host nation Photo: © WCF / Alina Pavlyuchik

For many of the teams taking part, the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2017 will either be a last championship warm-up for February’s 2018 Olympic Winter Games or a final dress-rehearsal for December’s Olympic Qualifying Event.

For all 26 men’s and 20 women’s teams taking part, these championships – being held in St Gallen, Switzerland – also provide the chance to qualify for the World Curling Championships 2018.

This year, a total of 27 Member Associations will take part from the World Curling Federation’s European zone. The ten teams in each of the men’s and women’s A-Division will play in St Gallen’s Eissportzentrum Lerchenfeld, and the 16 men’s and ten women’s B-Division teams will compete in the Curling Center St Gallen, next door.

Round-robin play begins on Saturday 18 November and will continue until Thursday 23 November. The first semi-finals will take place on that same Thursday evening. The gold medal and world challenge games will bring the event to an end on Saturday 25 November.

The ten A-Division women’s teams are: Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, 2016 champion nation Russia, Scotland, Sweden, hosts Switzerland, and Turkey.

Russia has won this title in the last two years, with two different teams, and this time 2015 champion and current world silver medallist Anna Sidorova returns to lead her team. Last year’s silver medallist Anna Hasselborg returns for Sweden, as does 2016 bronze medallist Eve Muirhead, who will lead Scotland for her tenth appearance at this event. All of these athletes will compete at the upcoming Olympic Winter Games too.

Five more familiar skips will be competing, in the shape of Anna Kubeskova of Czech Republic [fourth last year], Denmark’s Madeleine Dupont, Daniela Jentsch from Germany [seventh in 2016], two-times mixed doubles world champion Dorottya Palancsa of Hungary – who led her team to promotion by winning the B-Division in 2016 – and Italy’s Diana Gaspari.

By contrast, Turkey, skipped by Dilsat Yildiz, will make their first-ever A-Division appearance, having gained promotion out of last year’s B-Division, along with Hungary. Lastly, Silvana Tirinzoni has the honour of leading the home team in what will be her second appearance in this event.

The ten A-Division men's teams are: Austria, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, defending champions Sweden and Switzerland.

Of these, Sweden are skipped by Niklas Edin, who is now looking to win three-in-a-row and a sixth title in total. Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud skipped his team to silver last year, while Switzerland, skipped by Peter de Cruz, took bronze last year in Braehead, Scotland. Edin and de Cruz’s teams have also been selected to compete at the Olympic Winter Games, while Ulsrud and his team must secure a fourth place finish to guarantee their place representing Norway.

The Netherlands, skipped by Jaap Van Dorp, will be returning to A-Division action, moving up from the B-Division in 2016, while Austria, under skip Sebastian Wunderer, will be playing in the A-Division for the second successive year.

Germany are once again skipped by Alexander Baumann [fifth in 2016]. Italy, skipped by Joel Retornaz, finished seventh last year, while Russia, under skip Aleksey Timofeev, missed out in last year’s bronze medal final. Slovakia have qualified from the 2016 B-Division to make their first-ever A-Division appearance under skip Juraj Gallo, and, completing the line-up, former world junior champion Kyle Smith leads Scotland into action for his second appearance at this event. Smith and his team will represent Team GB in PyeongChang.

Meanwhile, the women’s B-Division consists of ten teams: Belarus, England, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Spain.

Some 16 teams will compete in two sections in the men’s B-Division. They are:

Group A: Belgium, England, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Latvia and Spain.
Group B: Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Turkey, and Wales.

Spain’s men’s and women’s teams both gained promotion to the B-Division after winning first-ever C-Division gold medals in Andorra, in May 2017. C-Division silver medallists - Poland women and France men – also qualified for the B-Division, while the Norway and Finland women dropped down to the B-Division, following relegation from the 2016 A-Division, as did the men from Denmark and Finland.

From these championships, eight women’s teams will qualify their Member Associations for the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship 2018, scheduled for North Bay, Canada between 17 and 25 March. A further eight men’s teams will qualify for the World Men’s Curling Championship 2018, being held in Las Vegas, United States from 31 March to 8 April.

In a best of three series, the winners of the B-Division will go on to challenge the eighth ranked teams in the A-Division for the final places at the World Curling Championships.

Curling fans around the world will be able to follow live coverage of these championships via the World Curling Federation’s broadcast partners on Eurosport 1 and 2, Eurosport Player, Eurosport Asia Pacific, RTS, SRF and RSI (Switzerland), SVT (Sweden), TVP Sport (Poland), La Chaine Equipe (France), TSN (Canada), NBCSports (United States) and the Olympic Channel. Coverage will also be available on the event website, the World Curling Federation’s Facebook and YouTube Channel, (note geo-blocking will apply in certain territories).

To keep up-to-date with all the action from these championships, and the teams’ journey to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #ECC2017 #curling