Nestled under the Ammergau Alps lies a quaint Bavarian town just a kilometre away from the Austrian border. It has produced many of Germany’s stars for the past four decades.
Fuessen, host to the World Junior Curling Championships 2023 this week, has a population of around 15,000 and boasts one of Germany’s most successful ice hockey clubs. However, for close to half a century, the idyllic town has become the epicentre for curling in Germany.
Overshadowed by tall, snow-christened trees sits the home to EV Fuessen ice hockey team, Bundesleistungszentrum – but it is next door where a plethora of German curlers call their second home, Curling Club Fuessen.
And for the Kapp family, it is more than a home.
In 1977, Charlie Kapp, the patriarch of the family, began to take an interest in the sport. The Kapps, alongside the Jentsch family, became synonymous with curling in the area. Around nine years later, Charlie played second for Germany at the World Men’s Curling Championship 1986 in Toronto, Canada and finished in ninth place.
“Fuessen is a small town where ice sports are a big part of the city,” says Charlie, proudly standing amongst his family.
“Before 20 years ago, it was more about ice hockey but since the introduction to the Olympics, curling has blown up here in Fuessen. We now have the German Curling Association based here and built a rink solely for curling — it’s made a massive difference. Fuessen can now be a curling town.”
Alongside Charlie in 1989, joining the team as an alternate, was the eldest of his sons, 19-year-old Andy Kapp. In 1991, when Charlie was part of the European Curling Championship gold medal-winning team, his other son, Uli, played fifth man. They did not realise it at that point, but the torch was being passed on to the next generation.
Six years later, in 1997, Andy and Uli sensationally won the European title in front of a home crowd in Fuessen with more than 3,000 spectators in attendance. With Andy as skip, Uli played third in the team but admits curling was not the first winter sport he took up as a youngster.
“Initially, it was figure skating and skiing which caught our eye,” admits Uli.
“Fuessen was big on ice hockey but our mother didn’t allow us to start, so I naturally picked up curling with my father, who was one of the first founding members here.
“It was my brother Andy who began to have the first major successes on the junior side and then added on the German championships on my father’s team. When it changed for curling in the town was in 1997 at the European Championships. It was a really big event, and we had this transformation and national recognition. We started to have public money going into it but the work behind the scenes was massive.”
The culmination of two generations of success on ice brings us back round to Fuessen once more. The Kapps remain as involved as they’ve ever been. This week at the World Junior Curling Championships, Andy’s youngest children Anne and Benjamin are part of the German teams, while the eldest child, Lena, sits on the organising committee.
Andy and Uli themselves are on the coaching teams, while Charlie and his wife play the role of spectators in the stands.
Lena, who is a member of the German team taking part in the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship 2023 later this month, explains what curling means to Fuessen and her family.
“This is where we all learned curling,” says Lena, who describes herself as the protective older sister.
“Me and my siblings started practising here and played our first tournaments here. It’s our home club, so to have people coming from all across the world to our home town is very exciting.
“I wanted to give something back to the club that gave me so much. We’ve begun organising the event in May 2022 so to be here this week is amazing.”
Benjamin, who finished runner-up at last year’s world juniors in Jonkoping, Sweden, agrees, highlighting the “community spirit” that makes the town welcoming for everybody.
“In Fuessen, everybody knows each other,” says Benjamin, who skips the German team this week again.
“People are willing to help in one way or another and it makes me so happy seeing everybody working together to create a special event. To be honest, being able to have my family all here in Fuessen is a new experience and I really love it. It pushes me more than ever to make them proud.”
To say that the three generations of Kapp are engrossed by the sport of curling would be an understatement. Like many sporting families, in which curling is blessed to have a few, the dining table plays host to a number of discussions about curling — and as Uli points out, it brings them together in different ways to regular families.
“We definitely have different perspectives on many things,” says Uli. “We have had hard times but I think over the years we really managed to grow a really strong bond.”
Andy says he “100% agrees” with his younger brother and believes their different approaches to curling in the past is what ultimately made them a fantastic team.
“Uli was much more calm,” he says. “I was going up and down emotionally. I’m the opposite to Benjamin now who doesn’t get too emotional about the mistakes of his team. Whereas, if my lead made a bad shot, I was not so much fun to play with.”
While it might take a village to raise somebody, it takes a supportive grandma to document and celebrate every passing success in the family.
“Our grandma is our biggest fan,” reveals Lena. “She puts a lot of pictures of us whenever we’re in the newspaper and puts it in our WhatsApp group. She gets very excited and is a super fan.”
For Andy, the emotionality of having his parents, children, wife and brother all together in the arena is something he admits has not come to mind — until now.
“It’s really good for us to be together,” he says. “Curling makes this happen.”
And hopefully for the Kapp family, there will be many more newspaper cut-outs to come as the next generation of curlers take on the world.
Engage with the World Curling Federation during the World Junior Curling Championships 2023 on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Weibo and by searching the hashtags #WJCC2023 #curling