Tuesday 17 November 2015
They may not have won a game, they may have managed to score a total of just twelve points in their campaign, and found themselves on the receiving end of an eight-ender by Australia, but newcomers Hong Kong were one of the undoubted hits of the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (PACC) 2015, in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
All the way from their rendition of "If You're Happy and You Know It" at the opening reception, the Hong Kong team – skip John Li, third Ko YukHang, second player Justin Wan, lead ChunKuen Chan, alternate ChoKam Law, supported by coach Julie Morrison – made a lasting impression on everyone at the event, with their smiles and good-natured acceptance of their position at the foot of the table.
The Hong Kong Curling Federation only joined the World Curling Federation (WCF) in 2014 and, according to skip John Li, their participation in PACC 2015 was an important step.
He said: " This is a very important milestone for Hong Kong, that we take that one step forward and are participating in an international WCF event. We made a lot of mistakes, but we've learned from that – next time we'll be better prepared for the PACC."
“In the future we will bring more men and women into the game and to World Curling events. Not just competitions, for example last year, we participated in a curling festival. It was fun, we had five days training and five days competition."
There is every chance that Hong Kong will be able to provide its own dedicated ice facility in the near future. The federation is in discussion with the YMCA, owners of a downtown property that has a large area for sports facilities, including an indoor soccer hall that could be converted into dedicated curling ice, and Li is hopeful of making good progress with this project.
"We can have six sheets there. If we can gain the collaboration to build this, then we will eventually be able to host the PACC and other events," he continued.
As part of its development, the Hong Kong Federation is working closely with the Korean Federation in a number of areas.
Li said: " I've talked to the Korean Curling Federation President and we will organise the Asian Curling Festival in July or August in Korea. This is important because it will help us develop curling further in Hong Kong.”
Justin Wan, the team's second player is the personification of how curling is making progress in Hong Kong. He said: "I took part in a curling course out of interest, and playing is great fun. Before, I just watched the game and thought it was boring, but now that I'm playing, it's exciting.
"I never thought that the other teams would talk so much to us – they have been most welcoming."
Now skip Li can look back on what he and his team regard as a positive PACC experience.
He finished: "We have been welcomed by everyone, especially by Kazakhstan. The biggest memory for me is that we now have a team in international competition. This will be in our history books.
“This is the first step, but we have more steps to come. We will encourage more curlers and we can provide opportunities on the international stage for those who are ready.”
The international curling family will only be enhanced by what Hong Kong can offer and achieve in the future. The Hong Kong team has made curling happy... and we know it!