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Youth movement in men’s curling on display at world championship

Skip Ted Appelman shoots during the championship game of the 2019 Alberta Boston Pizza Cup Men’s Curling Championship between the Appelman and Koe rinks at Ellerslie Curling Club in Edmonton, on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. Ian Kucerak/Postmedia
Skip Ted Appelman shoots during the championship game of the 2019 Alberta Boston Pizza Cup Men’s Curling Championship between the Appelman and Koe rinks at Ellerslie Curling Club in Edmonton, on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. Ian Kucerak/Postmedia

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — It says something about the youth movement in men’s curling that Scottish skip Bruce Mouat is just 24 and there are 14 players younger than him at the world championship.

Mouat is one of the best young players on the planet, having already won a bronze medal at the world championship last year, and is vying for more hardware this week at the Enmax Centre.

He’s got plenty of contemporaries in his age group this week as a new wave of curlers looks to make a mark on the world stage.

Among the 52 players on 13 teams in the field, 20 are under the age of 25. Only 12 players are in their 30s and only one, Canada skip Kevin Koe (44), is over the age of 40.

“It’s encouraging to see that the younger generations are starting to battle through and beat the more experienced players,” Mouat said.

“I’d like to see more of that. There’s a lot of great juniors coming through the ranks in Scotland and elsewhere. I was watching the world juniors and there’s a lot of unbelievable curlers.”

Some of those curlers are here this week. Norway’s Magnus Ramsfjell has a full team of 20-year-olds that lost the bronze medal game at the world junior men’s championship in February.

Netherlands fourth Wouter Gosgens is just 20 as well, as is Scottish fifth Ross Whyte, who beat Ramsfjell in that world junior game.

“There’s a lot of curlers who were in juniors still this year who are here as fifths or even playing,” Mouat said. “That’s great for the game.”

Two-time world champion Koe agrees, although he’s not sure there’s enough of a youth movement going on.

“It’s good to see,” Koe said. “You’re definitely seeing a few here and there — maybe one from each country — but you’re not really seeing a lot of them. There’s not a lot of really young teams in Canada coming up because it’s so hard.

“It takes a few years out there of getting beat up to get to where you need to be. It’s good to see that it’s improving around the world but you’d like to see even more good, young teams.”

In Canada, it’s very difficult for teams to make the transition from junior curling to the men’s level. Teams rarely can stay together due to work or university commitments and, as a result, the best of players tend to join established teams.

That makes it awfully hard to any new, young teams to establish themselves against the likes of Koe, Brad Jacobs and Brad Gushue in Canada.

“You look at (Edmonton’s) Brendan Bottcher (26), he’s stayed with it, put in the work and they are one of the top teams in the world now.

“You’d like to see a little more depth though.”

Koe does believe the presence of so many young players at the worlds this year is good for the long-term future of the game.

“It’s good to see some new faces at these events,” he said.

“They’re going to be so much better for it.”

APPELMAN RELISHING ROLE

Ted Appelman couldn’t beat Kevin Koe, so he joined him.

Koe invited Appelman to serve as fifth player at the Brier shortly after beating him in the Alberta men’s final.

That led to Appelman serving as alternate again this week at the world men’s curling championship.

Appelman, 38, has been enjoying the ride and soaking up the experience.

“It’s been awesome, really, to tag along with these guys,” Appelman said.

“I said to them ‘If I come I want to be able to contribute’ and I’ve been able to do that a little bit, off the ice mostly, and it’s been a lot of fun. The experience has been unreal.”

Appleman got into a couple of games at the Brier, where the Koe team went 13-0, and has played in two games in the worlds as well.

“To play in front of a hometown crowd like this is awesome,” the Edmontonian said.

“We sat down and talked and the roles were well-defined for this team. Being a curler myself, I know exactly what I would want from a fifth man, so I’m just trying to do what they’ve asked and also what I think they would want.”

So what’s been the best part of wearing the Maple Leaf so far?

“I get to keep the jacket,” Appelman said.

A BIGGAR FLASCH

Canada second Colton Flasch has been around curling all of his life.

How could you not be when you grow up in the same hometown as Sandra Schmirler?

Flasch is from Biggar, Sask., a town south of the Battlefords that may be most famous for being home to the three-time world women’s champion curler, who passed away from cancer at the age of 36.

“Growing up in that town, you learn who Sandra Schmirler was,” Flasch said. “Her jersey’s hung up in the Biggar curling rink and it’s pretty cool.

“There’s a couple of things that put that town on the map but definitely she was one of them. She was one of the best women’s curlers who ever lived so it definitely helps for the town.”

Flasch, 28, who is playing in first world men’s curling championship, moved away from Biggar when he was 19 but if he can win gold here this week, it will give Schmirler some company in the town’s history books.

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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