Mary Sue Radford and Kim Kelly on the first day of action at the 2016 Everest Canadian Senior Curling Championships (Curling Canada/Mike Lewis)
The race to 2018 begins in earnest when the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship gets underway on Saturday at Kobbs Arena in Karlstad, Sweden.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the 2016 World Senior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships will kick off at the Karlstad Curling Arena.
Canada will have teams competing in all three disciplines, looking to pad what already has been an impressive international medal haul this season.
On the mixed doubles side, the Saskatoon pairing of Marliese Kasner and Dustin Kalthoff, who qualified out of the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship earlier this month in their hometown, will be part of a record 42-country field that includes, for the first time, entries from Qatar and Israel.
Not only will the Canadians be chasing just our country’s second trip to the medal podium since the World Mixed Doubles was introduced in 2008, but they’ll also be trying to secure qualifying points for Canada’s bid to be in the field for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The combined results of the 2016 and 2017 World Mixed Doubles (April 22-29 in Lethbridge, Alta.) will decide the seven teams that will join the host South Koreans in PyeongChang, where mixed doubles will make its debut as a medal discipline.
Canada enters the 2016 World Mixed Doubles Championship ranked sixth in the world in the discipline. Our best result was a bronze medal won by Alli Flaxey and Sean Grassie in 2009 at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Last year in Sochi, the Canadian team of Charley Thomas and Kalynn Park finished fourth.
Canada is in a pool with Australia, China, France, Ireland, Italy and Serbia. There are six seven-team pools, with 16 teams making the playoffs — the top two teams in each pool, plus the next two best third-place finishers based on draw-shot challenge totals. The other four third-place finishers will go into a pre-qualifying playoff to determine the final two spots in the 16-team single-knockout playoff.
Selected games from the World Mixed Doubles Championship will be streamed live online. Go to the event website, www.worldcurling.org/wmdcc2016, to see the games and broadcast schedule.
Defending champs Zsolt Kiss and Dorottya Palancsa of Hungry will be pursuing their third world title; they also prevailed in 2013 at Fredericton.
Meanwhile, the men’s and women’s Canadian senior teams, skipped by Randy Neufeld of La Salle, Man., and Calgary’s Terri Loblaw respectively, and accompanied by national seniors coach Bill Tschirhart, will be looking to stretch Canada’s men’s and women’s podium streak to 11 straight years at the World Seniors.
Neufeld, backed up by third Dean Moxham, second Peter Nicholls and lead Dale Michie, won the 2015 Everest Canadian Seniors in Edmonton to qualify for the 2016 World Seniors. He nearly made it back-to-back titles before losing to Ontario’s Bryan Cochrane in the final of the 2016 Everest Canadian Seniors earlier this month in Digby, N.S.
Loblaw’s Calgary foursome, meanwhile, includes vice-skip Judy Pendergast, second Sandy Bell, lead Cheryl Hall and team coach Judy Erickson.
Last year in Sochi, Canada’s Lois Fowler of Brandon won gold while Alan O’Leary of Halifax claimed silver.
On the men’s side, Canadian teams have been in all 14 gold-medal games, winning nine of them: Tom Reed in 2003 at Winnipeg; Bas Buckle in 2004 at Gävle, Sweden, and again a year later at Howwood, Scotland; Les Rogers in 2006 at Copenhagen, Denmark; Pat Ryan in 2008 at Vierumäki; Eugene Hritzuk in 2009 at Dunedin, New Zealand; Mark Johnson in 2011 at St. Paul, Minn.; Rob Armitage in 2013 at Fredericton and Wayne Tallon in 2014 in Dumfries, Scotland.
Canadian senior women’s teams, meanwhile, have collected 10 gold medals — Anne Dunn in 2002 at Bismarck and 2004 at Gävle; Nancy Kerr in 2003 at Winnipeg; Diane Foster in 2008 at Vierumäki; Pat Sanders in 2009 at Dunedin; Colleen Pinkney in 2010 at Chelyabinsk, Russia; Christine Jurgenson in 2011 at St. Paul; Heidi Hanlon in 2012 at Tårnby, Denmark; and Cathy King in 2013 at Fredericton; and Fowler last year in Sochi.
A total of 27 men’s and 17 women’s teams will compete in the World Seniors. The men’s teams are split into three pools of nine, while the women’s teams are split into two pools — one of nine and one of eight.
The round-robin draws for the World Seniors run through to Thursday, April 21, while the Mixed Doubles round robin will run through to April 22 before the playoffs get underway.
On April 23, the senior men’s and women’s gold-medal and bronze-medal games are scheduled for 7 a.m. Eastern, with the mixed doubles gold-medal and bronze-medal games at 10 a.m. Eastern.