Curling spotlight on Korea

Team Korea at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2023 © WCF / Eakin Howard

The successful staging of the World Mixed Doubles Championship 2023, along with the World Seniors Championships in April, was the latest major achievement for the Korea Curling Federation, with more landmark events in the offing.

The Korea Curling Federation became a World Curling Federation Member Association in 1994, and since then, the curling events of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were hosted at the Gangneung Curling Centre, including the first-ever Olympic mixed doubles event.

The first major world competition at the Gangneung Curling Centre was The Mount Titlis World Women’s Curling Championship 2009. Following this, the Gangneung Olympic Park was developed around the Curling Centre, with eventually four venues used at the 2018 Games.

Team Korea at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 © WCF / Richard Gray

These were the Gangneung Hockey Centre, used for ice hockey (and the venue for the World Seniors this year); the Gangneung Oval—home of speed skating in 2018—and the Gangneung Ice Arena, which staged short track speed-skating and figure skating in 2018; as well as the Curling Centre. All these venues are within walking distance of each other.

Upcoming events in Korea

And these facilities will be pressed into service again, when the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games are staged. Before that, the Korea Curling Federation will host the 2023 World Curling Federation Annual Congress in Seoul, the nation’s capital.

Youth Olympic Games promotion in Gangneung © WCF/ Logan Hannigan-Downs

This season’s World Mixed Doubles and Seniors Championships came in the early for Han Sangho as President for Korea Curling.

New Korea Curling President

As he explained during the events in April, “It’s been a little more than two and a half months since I became President. I was a bit worried because I was coming in as President right before a big event, and that was a tall order, so I had to work out ways of doing things.”

Korea Curling Federation President, Han Sangho © WCF / Stephen Fisher

Overall, he was pleased that Korea Curling delivered, but he also thought, “Looking back, I think there are several areas where we could improve with a little more preparation. We need to work on things in general, but based on what we’ve learned today, we can make those improvements in the future.”

He believed that hosting these world championships was a very important step, saying, “Especially with this mixed doubles event, having world-class curlers from all around the world will be an inspiration for our younger curlers.”

World Curling Academy courses

The staging of these events was also linked to some development work, with World Curling Academy courses taking place around the championships.

“We’ve linked this mixed doubles event to the umpires’ course and the ice-makers course, so we believe we’ve brought up the level of curling in Korea,” he said.

Ice crew at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2023 © WCF / Logan Hannigan-Downs

Future plans

Looking beyond the most recent events, he added, “I want to achieve something through a ten-year long-term goal, so even if I’m not President, we will have growth in curling into the future. Post-2018, I believe the environment has improved for our professional athletes, but we still need to work on our middle-school and high-school programmes. So that’s one of my goals – to improve that area so we can have a new generation of curlers coming through.”

There is another major target too, “Another goal is that we will at least have a solid blueprint for curling centres in Seoul and Busan.”

At the moment, Korean curling is well-supported by the Korean Olympic Committee.

“We do receive a good amount of funding from the Korean Olympic Committee to support our elite programme, targeted towards the national team,” says Han.

“We have good teams up-and-coming, so we’ll see what happens in 2026. We hope we’ll have two very good teams.”

Han Sangho is a medical professional, and he has agreed to use that background and knowledge to carry out a special project with the World Curling Federation.

He explains, “We’ve discussed with the WCF that we’re going to do a medical study to see how curling affects and improves the heart rates of senior players. If this small study is successful, we’ll branch out to a bigger project, so we believe that this study can help everyone.”

One new step at the 2023 events that Han Sangho was involved in was the innovation of a Curling SOS app, through which anyone involved in the championships could get direct access to medical help and assistance, including direct consultations via the app, if needed. The app also had other useful information, including updates on transport, competition timetables and other event-related details.

Despite being one of the World Curling Federation’s smaller Member Associations, on the evidence of the last few and the next few months, the Korea Curling Federation is clearly making its mark.

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Gangneung, South Korea

12 June 2023
Korea Curling Federation