Canada moves to mixed semis

SEAN GRASSIE, FOR SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

CORTINA, Italy -- We beat the countries from down under yesterday, lifting us to the top of the standings after the round robin at the world mixed doubles curling championship.

After a 9-5 win over Australia on the morning draw, teammate Alli Nimik and I edged New Zealand 6-4 to finish with a perfect 8-0 mark.

Our attention turns to tonight's semifinal against either Finland (6-1), Hungary (6-2) or the Czech Republic (6-2). Switzerland (8-0) and China (7-1) meet in the other semi.

Against Australia, it was perhaps the last competitive curling game for their male player Gerald Chick, the second on Bob Ursel's 1985 world junior champion team out of Winnipeg. Chick says the time and expense of traveling 12 hours to find practice ice in New Zealand is getting to be too much. Australia has only one curling sheet that is set up on Wednesday nights at an ice rink in Brisbane.

Chick says he is relinquishing his mixed doubles position to teammate Jennifer Thomas' son, Max, who is here this week as the team's coach. At just 14, Max would have to be one of the youngest to have coached at a world championship of any sport.

Meanwhile, the superb play of the New Zealand team that went 4-4 got a lot of people talking here this week. But maybe their performance shouldn't be a surprise given how dedicated Scott Becker and Brydie Donald were in preparing for this event.

Becker and Donald say they travel almost every weekend of the year to the same good curling ice in New Zealand that Chick practices on. For Becker, it takes him nearly five hours to get there.

Suitable practice ice is hard to come by in New Zealand because outdoor curling is much more popular than the indoor variety.

Becker says there is an annual two-day bonspiel played on a pond in Oturehua that has been around for over 100 years and follows many of the original traditions of the game. Teams play 21 ends, sweep with corn brooms and bring their own stones with them.

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Sean Grassie is with Team Canada at the world mixed doubles curling championship.


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