Finnish curling teams are hoping to beat the odds and secure places at the upcoming World Championships in Canada – by beating some tough competition this week in Lohja.
Sixteen teams are competing for just four remaining places in the World Champs, with the Finnish men facing Mexico, Czech Republic, England, Poland, Russia, China and Japan.
The women are facing Estonia, Italy, Norway, Turkey, Australia, Mexico and South Korea, with all the action unfolding over five days at Lohja’s Kisakallio rink.
“I would say the biggest favourites on the men’s side come from Asia, they come from China and Japan. And the women’s favourites are South Korea” explains Olli Rissanen, Chairman of the Finnish Curling Federation.
“During the last five years we’ve only reached the World Championships once for the men, and once for the women, so it would be a very big thing and a bit of a surprise to get a place this year” he tells News Now Finland.
“We’re not favourites, but we are fighting and we have a realistic chance to reach the World Championships” Rissanen adds.
Curling in Finland
Despite modest success at European and World Championships, curling in Finland is still a fairly small sport with around a thousand players at 30 different clubs.
“Curling is a very small sport but because it’s an Olympic sport it has more publicity than the average small sport” says Riisanen.
One of the reasons for the slow growth is lack of dedicated ice rink space – with Finnish ice time dominated by ice hockey it can be difficult for clubs to find a time and place to practice.
All of the World Championship qualifier matches in Lohja can be followed live on the Curling Finland YouTube channel.