A season of firsts for Chinese Taipei

  • Chinese Taipei open with a win at their first ever World Mixed Curling Championship © WCF / Jeffrey Au

It’s a season of firsts for the Chinese Taipei curling team.

It’s their first time with a mixed team at a World Curling Championship.

Heidi Lin and Amanda Chou, who play vice and lead respectively, are the first female curlers for the country in over a decade.

It’s also the first time behind the glass for coach Brendon Liu, who typically plays second on the Chinese Taipei men’s national team.

Amidst the new experiences and fresh rivalries, the foursome is ready for game play and is embracing every part of their time in Kelowna, Canada. Having only started practicing together four weeks ago, the overall tone for their time at the Winn Rentals World Mixed Curling Championship is that of relaxation with a healthy dose of determination.

Skip Randolph Shen says that the team’s attitude is the first big focal point coming into the eight-day championship.

“One of the main things we talk about as a team is to be comfortable playing here,” he says. “It’s a little bit out of our environment, so we want to make sure we are comfortable and that we’re enjoying ourselves.”

Keeping things light from the start is absolutely vital, he adds.

“If you miss, you remind [each other] that you tried, and refocus on being super positive. We don’t want to beat ourselves up too much.”

Adding to these firsts is the fact that all four are playing for the first time at the world level. Nerves are high, everything is unfamiliar, and the experience presents itself as a welcomed challenge.

Despite the immediate obstacles, their time in Kelowna is geared towards development with hopes that the game continues to gain momentum at home. Currently, there are no Curling Rinks in Taiwan, so the team, who all live in Canada, train in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia. It’s in the rinks of Vancouver, New Westminster and Richmond that they find time to train and practice around busy lives and work schedules. Add to the mix a country that isn’t well known for its winter climate, and you have a group of individuals that must work significantly harder to prove themselves in a winter-based sport.

“We all have jobs and our second Nick [Hsu] has a young family but we’ve been training every weekend leading up to this,” Shen adds, showing their determination.

Playing in this championship also means more ice time for Chou and Lin, who are still playing with the hopes of one day forming a women’s national team. So far, it’s just the two of them representing Chinese Taipei, and recruiting efforts are constant both in Canada and at home.

The final piece of the puzzle that adds an appealing element to game play for the Chinese Taipei team is the chance to play teams from outside of Asia and North America.

“We’ve played in our area of the Asia-Pacifics, played Chinese, Japanese teams and Koreans. We don’t see a lot of European teams,” says Shen.

Their work-life balance often limits travel opportunities, so the chance to play European teams within a four-hour drive away from home creates a bonus. Facing new teams means a different style of play from their usual Friday night league games.

Chou comments that their first game saw a more defensive style of play than their usual draw game which they gravitate towards. Despite the adjustment, the foursome managed to win their first game of the world championship against Poland, 5-2.

For the time being, the experience is rich with heavy emotions and shock – the good kind.

For Heidi, it was a particular moment in their first game when it really sank in.

“It didn’t hit me until we got here and even literally standing on the ice in the middle of the first game. It’s pretty unreal,” she says.

When it comes down to it, games at this championship are more than getting to know each other on the ice and playing a simple game of curling. It’s about representing their country, creating a movement and providing an opportunity that never existed before.

“We’ve curled all of our lives, trying to get to major championships. We’ve played a lot of competitive games, had a lot of defeats, had a lot character building games,” Shen says. “Coming here and having the chance to play against the rest of the world to see where we are at, and how we match up is the perfect environment for us.”

One could call it the quintessential first for Chinese Taipei.

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By feature writer, Katie Maryschuk