The ice is ready! The inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games get underway tomorrow, January 13, with the mixed curling competition beginning on Saturday, and running through to Wednesday 18. The sixteen teams taking part are from Austria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
The GB team is Duncan Menzies, Angharad Ward, Thomas Muirhead and Rachel Hannen. Brad Askew is their coach.
It looks as if the competition will be played as two round robins, Red and Blue sections, with the top four from each progressing to quarterfinals. From the information on this page, Team GB plays Austria in its first game. Also in the Red Section are Sweden, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy and Russia.
After the mixed event, a mixed doubles competition will take place from January 20-22. This will involve one male and one female athlete, from different countries, playing together as a team. The teams will be determined by the athlete's position within their team and their nation's overall position following the mixed competition. It's the very first 'International Curling Blind Date'. I just love the idea! Seriously though, it's the first real showcase for mixed doubles curling outside of the sport's own community. It will be interesting to see what media coverage it gets.
In addition to the competitions, athletes will be taking part in a wider cultural exchange programme at the Winter Youth Olympic Games. While sports participation is at the heart of the Games, uniquely, they also aim to allow athletes to step away from their own fields of play and learn something about the culture of competitors from other parts of the world, as well as becoming involved in Olympic-themed education programmes. Athletes will also be able given the opportunity to learn from senior professionals within their discipline, through the Athlete Role Model Programme. Olympians Eve Muirhead (Great Britain) and Uli Kapp (Germany) will be sharing their experiences and offering advice in personal sessions throughout the event with all of the athletes.
As I find out the best links for results and other coverage of the curling, I'll post the information here. The official website is here.
Top: The curling rink that has been constructed within the Innsbruck Exhibition Centre. Photo courtesy of Brad Askew. Team GB had its first look at this yesterday.
Above: Angharad Ward, Thomas Muirhead, Duncan Menzies and Rachel Hannen looking very smart in their Team GB travelling kit. Photo courtesy of Brad Askew.