Roarin' game goes global

JOE PAVIA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

It used to be mainly a Canadian pastime, but curling is now sweeping the globe.

The Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel -- in which the Ottawa Curling Club's Rachel Homan beat China's Bingyu Wang in Monday's final -- was one of two Canadian bonspiels last weekend that featured Asian finalists.

In Kamloops, B.C., the South Korean rink skipped by Mi-Yeon Kim defeated Marla Mallett in an extra end at the Strauss Crown of Curling. Liudmilla Privivkova's Moscow team also qualified in the same event.

More foreign curlers are competing in Canadian bonspiels this season than ever before. Besides competitors from China, South Korea and Russia, curlers from the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and Scotland are also entering events on Canadian soil.

The same story holds true on the men's side. Not only do international teams play in Canada, many also train here. The Brazilian men's team, which has yet to compete in an international event, attends college in Sherbrooke.

Why? Chalk it up to the chance to take part in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. For example, the U.S. stages its Olympic trials in February, and American teams are coming to Canada in droves to hone their skills.

Furthermore, many countries are turning to Canadians for expertise in running their elite national programs.

Former Brier winner Ed Lukowich is the U.S. national coach, while Neil Harrison of Team Ed Werenich fame coaches New York's Patti Lank. Ottawa's Earle Morris guides the Australian men's squad. Russ Howard coaches Swiss skip Ralph Stockli. Daniel Rafael of Montreal coaches the Chinese teams.

China's squads are especially potent. At this year's women's world championship -- where Wang's team lost to Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones in the final -- China's success prompted TSN analyst Ray Turnbull to question whether foreign teams should be allowed to compete in Canadian bonspiels.

Many argue the rising skill level of foreign curlers motivates all elite players -- Canadians included -- to get better. Keep 'em coming!

UP THE VALLEY

Jeff McCrady defeated Neil Sinclair 5-2 in seven ends at the Arnprior Cashspiel on Sunday. McCrady's back-to-back steals of two, then a single, sunk Sinclair. McCrady won $2,500 and Sinclair $1,500. Other money winners were Dave Murphy and Susan Schmidt, who took home $1,000 each.

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT

The JSI OVCA Junior Super Spiel's six qualifiers were determined on Sunday. Those teams moving on to November's big event are: Stephanie Brown, Graham Rathwell, Kurtis Byrd, Jamie Sinclair, Ryan McCrady and Casandra Raganold.

THE GLASS CEILING

Marian Dupont and two other women were inducted into the Governor General's Curling Club last Friday. Another inductee was Toby McDonald. The hundred or so members of that club were polled to determine if the club would accept women. Only three objected.

SUN HONOURED

Ontario Curling Association past-president Allan Brunt presented a recognition plaque to the Ottawa Sun and its curling columnist Joe Pavia Tuesday in recognition of the paper's contributions to the sport. The Sun is a media partner for many local curling events, including December's John Shea Insurance Canada Cup Qualifier.

JOEPAVIA@ROGERS.COM


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