Russian hired Gunn

SEAN GRASSIE, For the Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 PM ET

A Manitoba curler has his sights sets being a hired Gunn in Russia.

Jason Gunnlaugson says an agreement is close to being finalized that will have the 25-year, along with teammates Justin Richter and Tyler Forrest, curling under the Russian flag and being coached by Gimil’s Patti Wuthrich.

According to Gunnlaugson, they’re “deep in negotiations” with the Russian Sports Authorities over the move, which has two Russian players completing the five-man team.

Wuthrich says they have been assured that the Manitobans will able to meet Russian citizenship requirement in time for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, adding she doesn’t know how quickly those citizenships can be attained.

The team will be fully funded by the Russian Sports Authorities, meaning they’ll be able to dedicate themselves to the game on a full-time basis.

“That’s the main reason that we want to do this is that we want to become one of the best teams in the world and to do that we know we need to train really hard,” said Gunnlaugson.

“This gives us a chance to just totally focus on training as hard as we can to be the best curlers.”

With their eyes on the 2014 Games, Gunnlaugson says he and his teammates are entering into a long-term commitment.

The Gunnlaugson crew, which included Braden Zawada at second, qualified for the Olympic Trials this season but went 0-7.

“It’s a four-year block, and going for the next four years we’re definitely trying to position ourselves as well as we can,” Gunnlaugson said. “We think this is the best opportunity for us to do that.”

The chain of events that led to the move started last November when the Russian Sports Authorities were trying to negotiate a contract with Hans Wuthrich to be a facility consultant for the 2014 Olympics. While in Russia, he was told they were looking to do more in Russia to train their curlers, and he was asked what Canadian coaches might be available.

Hans Wuthrich suggested his wife, who was the technical director for the Manitoba Curling Association from 1981-96. Patti Wuthrich was soon brought on by the Russian Sports Authorities, but the original plan was for her to train Russian curlers in Canada.

That changed after Russia’s poor showing at the Olympics — they finished sixth with 15 medals — when Wuthrich was put to the task of finding Canadian curlers to bolster Russia’s chances of getting to the podium in curling in 2014 in their home country.

“I wasn’t necessarily going after anyone in particular,” said Wuthrich. “I was just going after some players that definitely would be able to assist in training the athletes, and I wanted to make sure they were students of the game.”

“The whole goal behind this is to grow the sport in Russia.”

The team will be based out of Moscow, but the bulk of their training will be done in Canada. Wuthrich will be with the team wherever they are.

Gunnlaugson says they will also be called on to promote the sport of curling in Russia.

“The opportunity to get to train full time and help us achieve our goals, coupled with a chance to expand curling in a place that makes a lot of sense to enjoy curling — 150 million people and (the) geography is similar to ours — it makes a lot of sense,” he said.

Gunnlaugson and Wuthrich were in Russia for a few days about a month ago to work out details of the agreement.

“A different place, a beautiful place kind of in its own way,” Gunnlaugson said of his impressions of the country. “I kind of liked it. You can just wear pyjama pants and do your thing.”

Gunnlaugson says he will be skipping the new team, but he doesn’t know yet where the two Russians will fit in the order. Richter, 29, was Gunnlaugson’s third this year, while Forrest, 25, was at lead.


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