After another successful Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in Lethbridge, the men are overseas in Switzerland for their championship. Twelve nations will slide into Basel and the St Jakobshalle for the 2012 World Men’s Curling Championship March 31 – April 8.
In Lethbridge, Mirjam Ott and her Swiss team won Switzerland’s first world women’s title since 1983. The host squad will be hoping to use the momentum gained by Ott as they look for their first men’s title since 1992 when Markus Eggler won the title.
Skipping the home team will be Jan Hauser, who was a member of the 2010 Olympic Bronze medalist team. It will be his third trip to the worlds but first as a skip and he will have the added pressure of being the crowd favorite.
The clear cut favorite to hoist the trophy at the end will be Canada’s Glenn Howard. He won his 4th Canadian title, 2nd as a skip, winning in his previous 3 trips. He will be joined with the same front end that he won with in 2007 but a different third in Wayne Middaugh, a two-time world champion, who he played with while winning the world crown in 1993.
The 2007 Canadian squad put on one of the most remarkable performances losing just one game all week while winning the crown. They are also the only team with a past world champion on its roster.
There are numerous past World Junior champions in the field including last year’s runner-up, Tom Brewster representing Scotland. Last year, in his first world appearance, Brewster lost the final to Canada’s Jeff Stoughton. That same rink will back up Brewster this year in Switzerland.
Heading into this event, Sweden’s Niklas Edin, the 2004 world junior champion, had been one of the top teams in the world but back pain has forced them to change their lineup prior to the event. And no this is not an early April Fool’s joke! Edin will sit out until his back gets better and third Sebastian Kraupp will move up to skip and Fredrik Lindberg slides to third with alternate Oskar Eriksson will playing second. They will still contend but missing the experience of Edin at the back end will be detrimental.
Another team that was forced to change their lineup just prior to the world championship was Thomas Ulsrud and Norway when Ulsrud had to go home for personal matters in 2010. Third Torger Nergard stepped in and took that team to a silver medal in Italy. The always colorful team, both personalities and pants bring their flare to Basel looking for a world title. Ulsrud is back this year and ready to challenge for the title. This could be their year to break out of the silver medal crunch at the worlds after winning another European title in December.
A couple of teams to watch out for as dark horses could be the 2009 junior champion from Denmark in Rasmus Stjerne or the USA’s Heath McCormick. Both are in their first world championship and if they get on a run could surprise some teams and make the playoffs. Stjerne coached his father’s team last year and watched them stumble to a 0-11 record. This team is coming off a third place finish at the Europeans as well.
The United States’ McCormick was born in Sarnia, Ontario and will take his rookie team with little expectations. After knocking off favorite Pete Fenson in US Nationals, he takes on the world with lots to show.
Rounding out the field will be the always tough teams from France skipped by Thomas Dufour, Czech Republic’s Jiri Snitil and China’s Rui Liu. Germany sends a young team skipped by Felix Schulze and New Zealand is back for the first time since 2005 with its skip Peter de Boer.
Of note in the last 19 years of the World Men’s Championship only Canada, Scotland and Sweden have taken the title. In those years Canada has taken 13 titles, Scotland 3 and Sweden 3. Sweden’s last title was back in 2004 when Peja Lindholm, now Sweden’s national team coach, won his 3rd and final world title.
Finally, here is how I see things going down in Switzerland:
8. Czech Republic
12. New Zealand