Ireland’s Curling team in Russia

Ireland will take part in both men’s and women’s team events as the Russian Federation will host one of the major international curling
championship events for the first time when play in the 2011 Le Gruyère
European Curling Championships gets underway on Saturday 3 December in Moscow’s mammoth Megasport Arena.

This will be the 37th edition of these Championships since the inaugural
event in Megève, France in 1975. In both the men’s and women’s events, ten
national teams will compete in the A Group while a further ten women’s teams
and sixteen men’s teams will compete in the B Group.

In the Men’s A Group championship, 2010 European Champions Norway, skipped
by Thomas Ulsrud, return to defend the title they won twelve months ago in
Champéry, Switzerland. In last year’s final, Ulsrud’s team, who are also
Olympic silver medallists, beat Denmark’s Rasmus Stjerne, and Stjerne’s
squad return this year, hoping to go one better.

Sweden will be represented by Niklas Edin who won the European title in 2009
and the bronze medal at the Men’s Worlds earlier this year. Scotland’s David
Murdoch is the only other men’s skip to have won this event, a feat he
achieved three times, in 2003, 2007 and 2008, but this year he leads a new
team that is still building experience at this level.

John Jahr returns to skip the German team after winning his last European
title in 1985. The Czech Republic will be led by Jiri Snítil and France will
be represented by Thomas Dufour’s team. Switzerland is building afresh, with
a team led by Sven Michel making its debut at this level.

Latvia and Italy qualified from the B Group last year and both skips –
Italy’s Joel Retornaz and Latvia’s Ritvars Gulbis – will be hoping to
consolidate their nations’ A Group status which determines qualification for
the next World Curling Championships.

In the Women’s A Group Championship, three members of last year’s victorious
team will represent Sweden, with Margaretha Sigfridsson taking over as skip
from Stina Viktorsson, who has retired from competitive curling.

To win last year, Sweden beat Scotland’s Eve Muirhead in the final, and
Muirhead returns again this year, this time with a younger team, three of
whom were involved in Muirhead’s successful run that saw her pick up a
record four world junior gold medals.

Former champion Andrea Schöpp represents Germany again. This is the 25th
appearance for Schöpp at this event, stretching the appearance record she
already holds. Several other teams are led by experienced skips. These are
Denmark’s Lene Nielsen, who raised the hopes of the home crowd with a fourth
place finish at last season’s Capital One Women’s World Championship;
Italy’s Diana Gaspari; Norway’s Linn Githmark; and Switzerland’s Binia
Feltscher. Both the Czech Republic, skipped by Linda Klímová, and Latvia,
skipped by Ineta Mača, are fielding new teams in this event.

Anna Sidorova skips the Russian squad – Liudmila Privivkova, Margarita
Fomina and Ekaterina Galkena – who were in the team that took the European
title in 2006, in Basel, Switzerland, the only Russian success so far in
these Championships. They will enjoy strong home support as they attempt to
repeat that feat.

The Russian men are competing in the B Group.Because of its huge capacity,
the B Group games will also be played at Megasport.

The sixteen men’s teams are: Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Croatia, England,
Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Russia,
Slovakia, Spain and Wales.

The ten women’s teams are: Austria, England, Estonia, Finland, Hungary,
Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Spain and Wales.

Both groups will open with round-robin play and, after tie-breakers on
Thursday 8 December if needed, page playoffs, semi-finals and promotion
challenge games (including a challenge from the top B Group teams as they
try to qualify for this season’s world championships). Medal games take
place on Friday 9 and Saturday 10 December.

Extensive televised coverage of the Le Gruyère European Curling
Championships can be seen by viewers in Europe on Eurosport. Additional live and on demand coverage will be available via the internet on the Eurosport Player.

SportsNewsIreland will keep you in touch with news of the Irish teams
throughout the season.


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