European success qualifies eight Member Associations for Ford World Men’s Curling Championship 2017

  • Joel Retornaz of Italy Photo: © WCF / Jeffrey Au

The field for the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship 2017 (WMCC) is set to rock the ice in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

This event will take place between 1 and 9 April at the Northlands Coliseum. This will be the last event where teams are able to earn qualification points for the upcoming 2018 Olympic Winter Games (8-25 February) in Gangneung, Republic of Korea.

Based on their showing through different events, teams are able to earn their Member Associations a spot in the World Curling Championship (WCC). Of the 12 countries who have fought their way to earn their nation a place, eight of those grabbed their ticket early in the season through the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2016 (ECC) and are joined by two teams from the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships 2016, and two teams from the Americas Zone.

The American qualifiers consist of hosts, Canada and USA. USA beat Brazil in a best-of-five series to add their country to the championship roster after the Americas Challenge in January 2017.

Sweden became the first team to lock their country’s spot in Edmonton after skip Niklas Edin and his team captured their third consecutive ECC gold medal in November, along with the first qualification spot after a 6-5 extra end victory in the final against Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud. Peter De Cruz of Switzerland defeated Russia’s Alexey Timofeev for the bronze medal, where Germany, Scotland and Italy finished within the top eight spots. Netherlands rounded out the qualifying teams after a successful best of three World Challenge Series versus Austria to seal their berth in Edmonton.

Once the Member Associations are qualified various qualification processes or events happen to decide, which teams represent their country. Here’s a look at how the men’s teams qualified:

Team Sweden

Currently sitting as Europe’s best on the World Curling Tour, Team Sweden opened the season as WFG Master’s Champions winning the first Grand Slam event of 2016 defeating current Olympic Champion Brad Jacobs in the final. Not only that, this was the first non-Canadian men’s team to win a Grand Slam event. The Swedish team didn’t stop there, as they captured back-to-back Grand Slam titles, downing Scotland’s Kyle Smith at the Tour Challenge in November. This year the foursome mixed things up, adding Rasmus Wranaa at the second position for the first line-up change since 2014.

Fourth: Niklas Edin (skip)
Third: Oskar Eriksson (vice-skip)
Second: Rasmus Wranaa
Lead: Christoffer Sundgren
Alternate: Henrik Leek

Team Norway

Fans won’t be seeing Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud and their fancy pants at this year’s championship for the first time since 2010. Steffen Walstad [pictured above, photo: © WCF / Céline Stucki] won his team the chance to compete at the worlds after winning the Norwegian National Championship over veteran Ulsrud 6-3. But the rookie skip didn’t pack his bags just yet, as the team still had to face team Ulsrud once again in a best-of-three series due to tour qualification points. Walstad proved they weren’t a one-time show, beating Ulsrud 6-3 in the final match of the best-of-three series.

Fourth: Steffen Walstad (skip)
Third: Markus Hoeiberg (vice-skip)
Second: Magnus Nedregotten
Lead: Alexander Lindstroem
Alternate: Sander Roelvaag

Team Switzerland

Starting off the season with an early victory over Thomas Ulsrud in the Baden Master’s final, the foursome kept the momentum going to earn an ECC bronze medal over Russia. Former world junior champion, skip Peter De Cruz, continues to build his team’s profile after an impressive rookie appearance at the 2014 World Curling Championship in Beijing, where Switzerland landed the bronze medal. De Cruz’s team won the Swiss Championship Elite to win the right to represent Switzerland in Edmonton, by beating Felix Attinger in the final, 8-6.

Fourth: Benoit Schwarz (vice-skip)
Third: Claudio Paetz
Second: Peter De Cruz (skip)
Lead: Valentin Tanner
Alternate: Romano Meier

Team Russia

Playing lead for Team Russia at last year’s World Curling Championship in Basel, Alex Timeofeev has had some early success skipping this young team. With three of the four players coming from representing Russia at the 2017 Winter Universiade Games in Kazakhstan, this season has been dedicated to gaining experience on the WCT. They entered 2017 with a third place finish in the German Masters in Hamburg. Furthermore, to reach the worlds Timofeev’s team beat their Russian opponents, lead by Arthur Ali, by four games to two in a six-game platdown.

Fourth: Alexey Stukalskiy (skip)
Third: Alexey Timofeev (vice-skip)
Second: Timur Gadzhikhanov
Lead: Artur Razhabov
Alternate: Evgeny Klimov

Team Germany

A repeat returnee, skip Alexander Baumann will be in Edmonton hoping to build on his single win at last years’ World Men’s Curling Championship. This squad had their strongest showing at the ECC – finishing in fifth place – with impressive wins over Norway and Scotland to land themselves tickets to the big show. Baumann’s team reached the final of German national championship and won – against Marc Muskatewitz’s team – after the Draw Shot Challenge decided the finalists with three of the four teams on three wins and one loss.

Fourth: Alexander Baumann (skip)
Third: Manuel Walter
Second: Daniel Herberg (vice-skip)
Lead: Ryan Sherrard
Alternate: Sebastian Schweizer

Team Scotland

This familiar face is back skipping his team at the World Curling Championships for the first time since 2013. David Murdoch, 2014 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 world champion, won the Scottish Curling Championship by rolling through round-robin play – finishing with a seven wins and two loss record and a 10-4 victory over Bruce Mouat in the championship final.

Fourth: David Murdoch (skip)
Third: Greg Drummond (vice-skip)
Second: Scott Andrews
Lead: Michael Goodfellow
Alternate: Ross Paterson

Team Italy

Skip Joel Retornaz is curling in Italy. Putting his country on the curling map at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Retornaz has been busy on the WCT ever since. The team returns to the world championship once again after being unable to qualify in 2016.

Fourth: Amos Mosaner (vice-skip)
Third: Joel Retornaz (skip)
Second: Andrea Pilzer
Lead: Daniele Ferrazza
Alternate: Simone Gonin

Team Netherlands

Jaap Van Dorp, skip of Netherlands had a longer road to the world championship than most teams. After winning the B-division at the ECC, the foursome geared up for the World Challenge Series versus eighth place finishers in the A-division, Austria. The two teams battled it out in a best-of-three games series where Austria won the first match 7-6. With experience on the WCT since 2012, the Netherlands came together for the two necessary final victories in heart racing fashion – tied with hammer in the tenth end. Van Dorp and his team booked their tickets to Canada’s curling capital by a final score of 6-5.

Fourth: Jaap Van Dorp (skip)
Third: Wouter Goesgens (vice-skip)
Second: Laurens Hoekman
Lead: Carlo Glasbergen
Alternate: Alexander Magan

These eight teams have more to fight for than usual each game, as there is more than just becoming world champions on these athletes’ minds. Earning as many points as possible on the journey to represent their country at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games ensures each match will not be taken lightly.

Check back next week to find out more about the journey of the American and Pacific-Asian teams to WMCC 2017.

To keep up-to-date with all the action from the WMCC 2017, and the teams’ journey to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #FWMCC2017 #Roadto2018 #curling

by Emily Dwyer, feature writer