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World Junior Curling Championships return to Scotland

The 2011 World Junior Curling Championships get underway this Saturday - 5th March - at the Dewars Centre in Perth, Scotland.

This is the first time since 1995 that these Championships have returned to the nation that is thought of as the spiritual home of the sport, and ten each of the top junior women’s and junior men’s teams from the World Curling Federation’s (WCF) Americas, European and Pacific regional zones will be playing for medals and titles in the eight days of competition.

To compete at a World Junior Championship, players must be aged under 21 by the end of June of the year preceding the event, and the competing nations are:

Junior Women’s Teams: Scotland (SCO), Canada (CAN), Czech Republic (CZE), France (FRA), Japan (JPN), Norway (NOR), Russia (RUS), Switzerland (SUI), Sweden (SWE), USA.

Junior Men’s Teams: Scotland (SCO), Canada (CAN), China (CHN), Czech Republic (CZE), Denmark (DEN), Finland (FIN), Norway (NOR), Sweden (SWE), Switzerland (DEN), USA.

The Swedish women emerged with gold medals from the 2010 World Junior Championships, held in Flims, Switzerland, and this year’s team features three members of that victorious squad. Among them, Jonna McManus, who replaces last year’s skip Anna Hasselborg.

Scotland will start among the favourites for this year’s junior women’s title. Their skip Eve Muirhead has already won three world junior gold medals (2007, 2008, 09) and a fourth triumph for her would create a new record. Muirhead missed out on junior competition last year, to skip a senior team to fifth place in the Vancouver Winter Olympic Winter Games (competing as Great Britain) and, as Scotland, to silver medals in both the Capital One Women’s World Championship and the Le Gruyere European Championships.

Among Muirhead’s team are Anna Sloan and Vicki Adams, who won gold at the 2011 Winter World University Games in Turkey, beating a Russian team skipped by Anna Sidorova – who also skips the Russians at this event – in an extra end.

The Czech Republic, Switzerland and the USA all have team-members who have played at this level in previous years. In a unique occurrence, two former Olympic champions will be watching as proud fathers – Briar Hürlimann of Switzerland is daughter of 1998 Olympic champion skip Patrick and Norway’s Pia Trulsen is the daughter of 2002 champion skip Pål.

Japan qualified for this event by winning the WCF Pacific Zone title, while Trish Paulsen leads her Saskatchewan-based Canadian national champions into action. With eight wins over the years, Canada is the nation with the best record in the World Junior Women’s Championship since it was established in 1988.

In the men’s event, the 2010 champions, skipped by Peter de Cruz, return to represent Switzerland. Other men’s teams that competed last year with either the same or similar line-ups are China, Finland and Norway.

The Czech Republic earned their place in Perth by winning the WCF European qualifying event. Their skip Lukas Klima led his nation to bronze medals at the Winter World University Games, while the teams from Canada, Denmark, Scotland, Sweden and the USA are newcomers at this level.

The Swedish line-up includes skip Kristian Lindström and his twin brother Alexander. Keeping it a family affair, Kenneth Lindström is the team’s coach.

The host nation is represented by newcomer John Penny from Aberdeen. Mads Nørgaard skips Denmark and Iiro Sipola is the Finnish skip, while, to win his national title and the right to wear the Maple Leaf at this event, Braeden Moskowy of Regina, Saskatchewan became only the fifth skip to go through the highly-competitive Canadian junior championships undefeated.

Round-robin play is from Saturday 5th March till Thursday 10th March. Men’s playoffs take place at 19:00 local (GMT) on Friday 11th. Women’s playoffs will be staged at 11:00 local on Saturday 12th with both men’s and women’s semi finals at 18:00. The Junior Men’s Gold and Bronze medal games take place at 09:00 local on Sunday 13th and Junior Women’s Gold and Bronze games will be at 13:00, followed by the awards ceremony.

This world championship event will also determine the final nations for the curling event at inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games to be staged in and around Innsbruck in January 2012. Further details of these Games, and curling’s involvement, can be found at www.worldcurling.org/youth-olympic-games

Curling fans around the world will be able to watch live web-streamed coverage of selected games from the event on the WCF website – www.worldcurling.org/wjcc-2011-web-coverage

Other details about the event including full team line ups and results can be found on the event website: www.wjcc2011.com