Young champions mean bright future for curling

Paul Hoogkamp,
5/21/2013 12:49:02 AM
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Every sport goes through a transition period when superstars retire and some wonder when the next generation of talent will arrive. But invariably, there's always another crop of athletes ready to fill the void.

The sport of curling is no different. Colleen Jones was the face of women's curling for many years in Canada, winning four Scotties titles and two world championships after her 40th birthday. But her skipping days are over, having made an appearance in this year's Scotties playing second with her old Nova Scotia rink.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones and Kelly Scott of B.C. stepped in to win the next six Scotties titles and still remain among the elite rinks.

On the men's side, Olympic champion Kevin Martin as well as former world champions Glenn Howard and Jeff Stoughton are still among the best skips in the world but age is catching with them and retirement looms. Martin has said he's making one last push for Sochi before moving on, Howard has celebrated his 50th birthday and Stoughton is a year away from the half-century mark.

Kevin Koe is the only skip to break through the big three's dominance in recent years and will likely win again before he hangs up his broom.

Having said that, who will step up and lead the way in the next decade? Look no further than this year's results on the Canadian and world curling scene where the oldest champion was 27.

Ottawa's Rachel Homan captured her first Scotties title, becoming the youngest champion since Julie Sutton in 1991. She is 24.

Brad Jacobs from Sault Ste. Marie won his first Brier title, becoming the youngest men's champion since Kevin Martin, again in 1991. He is 27.

On the world scene, Eve Muirhead of Scotland became the youngest skip to win a women's world title this year. She is 22.

Sweden's Niklas Edin captured his first men's title and became the youngest skip to win it all since fellow countryman Peja Lindholm in 1997. He is 27.

And if you think this was a down year where the best rinks were not competing at the high-profile events, think again.

Homan came out on top of a field that included defending Canadian champion Heather Nedohin and former world champion Kelly Scott before defeating another former world champion in Jennifer Jones for the gold medal.

Jacobs faced arguably three of the best rinks in the world, rolling over Kevin Martin in the round-robin, outscoring Glenn Howard in the semifinal and then cruising to victory over Jeff Stoughton in the final.

At the worlds, Muirhead beat former world champion Bingyu Wang of China in the round-robin, edged Canada's Homan in the semifinal and then defeated Margaretha Sigfridsson of Sweden in the gold medal game.

As for Edin, he lost round-robin games to Norway's Thomas Ulsrud and David Murdoch of Scotland but rebounded to beat Jacobs to clinch top spot. He then avenged his loss to Murdoch in the semifinal and completed the sweep of Jacobs to win the title. 

And these are just the rinks that won titles this year. Saskatchewan's Stefanie Lawton and Chelsea Carey of Manitoba have earned direct entry to the Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials with a shot at representing Canada at next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi. On the men's side, Manitoba's Mike McEwen and John Epping of Ontario have also qualified for the Roar of the Rings in hopes of wearing Canada's colours in 2014.

It's been an impressive year for many young rinks and it appears the best is yet to come.
So for those who may have been concerned about the future of curling, fear not. The game is in good hands.

Rachel Homan  (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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