Curling on Canadian ice has a way of bringing out the best in teams — and those filling the stands to watch them.
“You just know that the average performance is not going to do it,” said Silvana Tirinzoni, who skipped her Swiss squad to the 2019 world championship and is in Saskatoon this week for the final stop of the 2018-19 Grand Slam of Curling season.
“You want to play on this level and be one of those best teams.”
Between tournaments on the World Curling Tour and the Grand Slam of Curling of events, the sport consistently brings together its best competitors. This week at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon, the Humpty’s Champions Cup is no different: the last Grand Slam event of the season features the men’s and women’s gold medal-winning teams from the past two Olympics , as well as Olympic silver and bronze medallists, world champions, Pacific-Asia Curling Championship winners, Canadian champions and more.
Canada has set itself apart on the international stage. As Tirinzoni puts it, these tournaments pit the best of the best against each other — and the crowd knows it.
“When we come here, they almost treat us like stars or celebrities. Back home, nobody would know us,” she said with a laugh. “Playing in front of this crowd, they know everything about curling. It’s so much more fun.”
The World Curling Tour send teams to locales around the globe but the big shows — ranging from world championships to Grand Slam of Curling events — most often take place in Canadian communities. Of the 30 teams that qualified for the Champions Cup in Saskatoon, 16 are Canadian.
Rachel Homan, a three-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion and 2017 world champion from Ottawa, said the level of competition in the Grand Slam is top-tier no matter where you play — and the fans are supportive across the country.
“No matter where you go in Canada, you get lots of cheers,” Homan said. “You’re trying to represent Canada and compete and do well on the world stage, so we’re all competing against each other and pushing each other.”
Bruce Mouat, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 world championship in Las Vegas, said the size of the crowds back home in Scotland — the birthplace of the sport — don’t come close to what he sees at Canadian venues.
“It’s great to be part of this kind of event, having so many international and Canadian stars,” he said.
“We’re always excited to come play in front of a Canadian crowd.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019