New squad, new event for Al­berta’s Koe

Cana­dian Olympian among par­tic­i­pants in World Cup of Curl­ing event in China

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

The World Cup is set to join an al­ready crowded curl­ing cal­en­dar.

But for Kevin Koe, the tim­ing is right, the money is good and his new lineup needs reps.

So, a few short months af­ter wear­ing the Maple Leaf at the Win­ter Olympics in South Korea, Koe dons it again for the first leg of the World Curl­ing Fed­er­a­tion’s new­est property.

The World Cup of Curl­ing con­sists of four tour­na­ments in­clud­ing team and mixed dou­bles com­pe­ti­tion in­volv­ing the top curl­ing coun­tries in the world. Each coun­try determines its rep­re­sen­ta­tives for each leg.

Rachel Ho­man’s women’s team and the mixed dou­bles duo of Kirk Muyres and Laura Walker round out the Cana­dian con­tin­gent com­pet­ing Wed­nes­day to Sun­day in Suzhou, China. The sec­ond stop is Dec. 5-9 in Omaha, Neb., fol­lowed by the third in Jonkop­ing, Swe­den, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. The grand fi­nal May 8-12 in Bei­jing will in­clude win­ning teams from the previous three stops.

The World Cup of­fers a to­tal of US$775,000, or just over CDN$1 mil­lion, for a prize pot. Win­ning one event is worth up to US$33,000 to a team and that num­ber dou­bles in Bei­jing.

With third Marc Kennedy on hia­tus and sec­ond Brent Laing de­part­ing for John Ep­ping’s four­some af­ter last sea­son, Koe is break­ing in B.J. Neufeld as his new third and Colton Flasch on the front end while re­tain­ing lead Ben He­bert.

The skip con­sid­ers fac­ing elite op­po­nents with sig­nif­i­cant dol­lars at stake a good trial-by-fire for his Cal­gary-based squad.

“Ob­vi­ously the teams are good, the prize money is good and for us, we’re look­ing at it as we have a new team,” Koe told The Cana­dian Press. “It’s a chance for a new team to go to a high-pro­file event for our first event and get to know each other.”

While the two-time world men’s cham­pion is sea­soned in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, Saska­toon’s Muyres is more green and ex­cited about com­pet­ing with Ed­mon­ton’s Walker in China.

“Now, I get to be a part of a big­ger Team Canada,” said the 28-yearold mort­gage bro­ker. “We’re go­ing to be there with Koe and Ho­man as well. We’re all go­ing to be root­ing for each other.

“The last time I was a part of some­thing like that was the Canada Games back in 2007.”

For Ho­man, it’s a re­turn trip to the coun­try where her team won a women’s world ti­tle in Bei­jing in 2017.

“There wasn’t a lot of hes­i­ta­tion when it came up and we got the in­vite,” sec­ond Joanne Court­ney said. “We had a great time when we vis­ited Bei­jing for the world championship in 2017 and we thought it would be a great way to start the year off on an ex­cit­ing note, be­ing part of a brand new event.”

In a sea­son al­ready bulging with weekly World Curl­ing Tour events, the Con­ti­nen­tal Cup, the Canada Cup, pro­vin­cial play­downs and na­tional and world cham­pi­onships, sched­ul­ing con­flicts in­flu­enced Curl­ing Canada’s de­ci­sions on who to send to each World Cup stop.

“Our big­gest con­cern is the sched­ul­ing con­flict el­e­ment be­cause it’s four more events added to a cal­en­dar that’s al­ready full,” high-per­for­mance di­rec­tor Gerry Peck­ham said.

“It was pick­ing teams that were in­ter­ested, and were avail­able and had a com­pet­i­tive re­sume that war­ranted selec­tion.”

With the com­pet­i­tive sea­son not yet in full swing, Canada’s 2018 Olympic teams skipped by Koe and Ot­tawa’s Ho­man were avail­able for Suzhou.

Reign­ing na­tional mixed dou­bles cham­pi­ons Muyres and Walker won a bronze medal at the 2018 world championship.

But the sec­ond leg of the World Cup in Omaha con­flicts with the $140,000 Canada Cup, which will draw 15 top teams to Este­van, Sask.

So Tracy Fleury and Ja­son Gunnlaug­son, who skip Win­nipeg four­somes, were cho­sen as Canada’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Omaha.

The third leg in Swe­den runs up against pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial play­downs in Canada.

Since de­fend­ing Cana­dian cham­pi­ons Jen­nifer Jones and Brad Gushue get byes to the 2019 Scot­ties Tour­na­ment of Hearts and Tim Hor­tons Brier re­spec­tively, they’ve agreed to be Canada’s teams in Jonkop­ing. The mixed dou­bles reps for the sec­ond and third legs have yet to be de­ter­mined.

The WCF has long been want­ing a se­ries of in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments, sim­i­lar to the World Rugby Seven Se­ries, to put on tele­vi­sion and gen­er­ate sus­tained in­ter­est through­out the sea­son, said WCF com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Cameron MacAl­lis­ter.

The World Cup will be held in the same cities for the next four years, he said. Chi­nese com­pany King­dom way Sports is the ti­tle spon­sor.

The WCF will live stream games on its YouTube chan­nel. In Canada, TSN has yet to an­nounce its cov­er­age plans of the World Cup.

“To be hon­est, I have no clue how it will be,” Koe said. “Espe­cially when you go over­seas, you never know what to ex­pect. The arena looks nice. Maybe there will be peo­ple there watch­ing, maybe there will be no one, but hope­fully the con­di­tions are good.

“Once we step on the ice, we’ll be try­ing to win.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/FILES

Cal­gary’s Olympian Kevin Koe is skip­ping a new-look team par­tic­i­pat­ing in the first leg of the in­au­gu­ral World Cup of Curl­ing in Suzhou, China.

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