'Welcome to Winnipeg'

Swiss Olympic curling gear stolen

By PAUL TURENNE, QMI Agency

WINNIPEG -- It appears some Winnipegger has unknowingly acquired a bit of Olympic memorabilia, albeit by foul, criminal means.

The Swiss women's Olympic curling team -- ranked fifth in the world -- has been in Gimli for a week holding their pre-Olympic training camp.

On Tuesday night, the team took their rental mini-van into Winnipeg to catch the Swiss-Belarussian Olympic tune-up hockey game at MTS Centre.

They parked in a surface lot a block away at Hargrave Street and Ellice Avenue, and when they returned after the game, they discovered an unwelcome sight.

"The passenger front window was broken. (Skip Miriam Ott)'s Swiss bag was stolen," said team coach Ken Tralnberg, an Edmonton native who's been coaching the team for two years. "She lost her curling shoes, her pants, one of her on-ice jackets, her gloves, that kind of stuff."

"Welcome to Winnipeg," he said jokingly. "It's the first time we spent any time there."

The bags of other team members were concealed in the back and were not stolen, Tralnberg said.

The team leaves for Vancouver Thursday, and Tralnberg said replacement equipment should be waiting for Ott when they arrive.

"We phoned Switzerland. We've got people bringing over her shoes from last year," he said. "Shoes are a critical part of curling. You have to break them in."

It's not the first time the Swiss team has been victimized in Canada.

Tralnberg said their hotel room was broken into a couple of years ago at the world championships in Vernon, B.C.

The curlers don't hold a grudge against their coach's countrymen, though, Tralnberg said.

"There's 33 million of us and only two who broke into the van," he said. "The girls just feel like anybody feels when they're broken into. There's a sense of violation."

"We're just trying to carry on. Adversity builds character."

The team plays a final tune-up game against a local team at the Gimli recreation centre Wednesday night before heading off to the Olympics Thursday.

POLL