Long way from Norway

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

They have easily travelled the furthest distance and based on our first-hand account, should be among the loosest bunch in the field.

They don't have to worry about trying to lock up one of the five remaining berths in the provincial men's Safeway Championship either.

But that doesn't mean the Joacim Suther rink has low expectations for the 122nd annual MCA bonspiel after making the roughly 6,200 kilometre trek from Norway to Winnipeg.

"We want to win," Suther said during an interview prior to last night's opening contest with David Bohn.

But how did a rink from Norway end up here?

"This journey is a reward for good play in the Norwegian Cup," said Suther's father Arne, who serves as coach for the rink that includes lead Eirik Kristensen, second Frode Bjerke and third Jan-Erik Hansen.

Truth be told, the MCA bonspiel wasn't their first choice.

The original reward was supposed to be a trip to a bonspiel in the Karuizawa International Curling Championship in Japan but Norway wasn't invited to the competition this year, so Suther's junior-aged rink had to pursue a Plan B.

Enter the MCA bonspiel, the legendary event that features 406 teams and more than 1,600 participants playing a minimum of six games over five days.

With only three or four elite-level junior men's teams in Norway, Suther's squad is excited about the prospects of facing some stiff competition.

"We expect tight games," said Suther, whose rink plays out of the Halden Curling Club in Oslo.

"There will be some experienced teams as well, good opposition," added Bjerke, who was the fifth for Team Norway at the 2009 World Junior Championship in Vancouver.

Suther's rink has been playing together for eight years and seeing fellow countryman Pal Trulsen's rink win a gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City was an inspiring moment.

"It was a good thing for Norway," Kristensen. "We had to stay up late (for gold medal game), it was probably 3 or 4 a.m. in Norway. It was very exciting."

"That boosted the morale of our team," added Suther.

The Suther foursome is known for their ability to throw big weight in the take-out game, but have also worked hard at improving on draws this year as well.

After Trulesen's gold-medal performance, the roaring game started to grow but the elder Suther said the growth has flattened out a bit over the last couple of years.

What was the first impression upon arriving in Winnipeg?

"It feels like home," said Arne Suther. "The cold we are used to. Curling is a winter sport."

Team Suther is set to graduate from the junior to senior level at the end of this season and while they don't want to look too far into the future, that didn't stop Trulsen from making a prediction of his own.

"They have good technique and should learn a lot playing against Canadian teams," Trulsen wrote in an e-mail to the Sun earlier this week. "If they stick together and are patient, they have a good chance of playing for Norway in the future."

For now, Team Suther would be happy to be playing meaningful games on Monday.

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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