If you were born between the 1st of January 1994 and December 31st 1995 you will probably already know that you are eligible to compete in the Winter Youth Olympic Games, which will be held in Innsbruck, Austria, January 13-22, 2012.
I have always been excited by this event. I wrote about it in the Scottish Curler when it was first mooted, and more recently here. Never mind that there is the honour of competing in the first Winter Youth Olympic Games, the curling competitions are unlike anything that has gone before. For a start there will be a National Mixed Team Championship - two males and two females playing alternately in the Great Britain team. There will be no alternates on the squad, so there is certainly pressure to stay fit and healthy during the competition. There will be medal playoffs in this event.
The Mixed Championship will be followed by an International Mixed Doubles Competition. The pairs will be made up from a male from one country, and a female from another. The mix will be carried out based on countries' rankings in the Mixed event.
Perhaps it this 'blind date' aspect of the competition that has led some to dismiss the YOG curling as a bit of a joke. I disagree. For the young curlers lucky enough to be able to participate, it will be a real opportunity to appreciate just how international our sport really is, and perhaps make lifelong friends from other cultures. To say nothing of the fantastic opportunity to wear a GB uniform and represent your country.
The seriousness which others are taking the event can be seen from the wording in the selection documents that have been distributed, eg, "The British Olympic Association (BOA) is ultimately responsible for Team GB selection based on nominations by British Curling (BC). Therefore although BC carries out a selection process which leads to nominations being made to the BOA, it is the BOA who will endorse nominations and finally confirm selections to Team GB for the WYOG. Given the level of success that Great Britain has achieved on the World stage the BOA require that BC nominate a team that is clearly capable of a creditable performance in a top level International multi-sport event and which will at least result in a Top 5 placing but with expectations of achieving the 'Medal Zone'. Selection for the Winter Youth Olympic Games (WYOG) should be considered a great honour and competition for places on the Squad will be intense from all home nation countries. Applications for selection will only be accepted from highly competitive and highly motivated athletes."
Four young curlers, Duncan Menzies, Robert Fawns, Rachel Hannen and Rowena Kerr, with coach Brad Askew, were among twenty-three athletes and six coaches from nine winter sports who took part in a BOA Multisport Camp at Loughborough University last month, see here. The camp was run by Mike Hay, BOA Head of Winter Sport Engagement.
The four curlers mentioned above have not been pre-selected for the Games themselves. The open application and selection process is now underway, and those interested and eligible have until August 31 to apply, see here.
Successful athletes will be invited to a selection camp, September 17-18. A selection panel will meet in late September to select the four curlers who will be nominated to the BOA.
The Canadian Curling Association has already announced the curlers who will represent Canada at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, see here.
The official website for the Games is here.
The image of the WYOG mascot 'Yoggi' is © Innsbruck 2012 GmbH"