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China charts 'next big step' on frozen stage

By Murray Greig | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-18 09:11
China is aiming to join the likes of Canada, Sweden, Norway and Scotland as a world curling powerhouse in the lead-up to hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics. The national men's and women's teams will be part of the inaugural eight-nation Curling World Cup, which kicks off in China in September. [Photo/Xinhua]

Curling World Cup a big boost, Murray Greig writes

The president of the World Curling Federation has high hopes for China.

"We applaud the Chinese government for initiating and supporting the great goal of having 300 million of its citizens involved in ice and snow sports by the time Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics," Kate Caithness told a Monday media conference at Beijing's Capital Gymnasium.

Then, with a big smile, the personable Scot added: "Ideally, 299 million of them will be curlers."

Caithness and WCF vice-president Ben Ramsfjell, who was a member of Norway's gold medal quartet at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, were in town to formally announce the federation's new four-year strategic partnership with Xiamen Kingdomway Sports & Culture Media Co to launch the Curling World Cup.

The inaugural eight-month competition, featuring the world's top eight national teams in men's, women's and mixed doubles, will kick off in September in China. Round two will take place in Europe in December, followed by round three in North America in January.

The tournament will then return to China for the championship round in May 2019.

"There will be a bidding process to determine the host cities, but no matter where we end up playing, the Curling World Cup will be a first-rate international spectacle that will showcase our sport to millions of new fans around the globe via television," said Caithness.

"As the first international winter sports competition located in China at the start of the four-year Olympic cycle, the Curling World Cup shoulders an important mission in terms of the points race for qualifying for the Beijing Games."

With Kingdomway Sports investing $13.4 million over the next four years to provide rich purses and grow the event, the competition should go a long way toward heightening Team China's profile on the international stage.

China will play in all four host cities, aiming to build on the success of the national women's team, which captured the world championship in 2009 and brought home the bronze medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Kingdomway CEO Jiang Bin heralded the Curling World Cup as "the next big step in China's rise to prominence in winter sports".

"This competition highlights China's growing status in international sports and culture in response to President Xi Jinping's call to develop our winter sports to the greatest capacity," said Jiang.

"The Curling World Cup will not only close the gap between China and the world curling powers, but provide an opportunity for long-term excellence. China will use this competition as combat training to strive for medals at the Beijing Winter Games in 2022."

Kingdomway Sports was founded in 2016 with winter sports its key business.

The company is the strategic partner of the Winter Sports Administrative Center, which is part of the General Administration of Sport of China, and owns the exclusive business rights and all media copyrights for the Chinese Winter Sports Series, Chinese Public Winter Sports Series and World Snow Day.

 

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