Curling: China favoured for titles

The Chinese curling team (from left) are Liu Jinli, Zhou Yan, Yue Qingshuang, Liu Yin, Wang Binyu...
The Chinese curling team (from left) are Liu Jinli, Zhou Yan, Yue Qingshuang, Liu Yin, Wang Binyu, Wang Fengchung, Liu Rui, Xu Xiaoming, Zang Jialiang, Chen Lou-An, at the Dunedin Ice Stadium yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
China, a novice curling country, will start as favourite to retain the men's and women's Pacific titles it won in Beijing last year.

The week-long championships begin at the Naseby International Curling complex on Sunday.

Curling did not arrive in China until 1995 when experts from Japan and Canada provided training and equipment.

It is a youth-based sport in China, with all members of the national team under 27.

The Chinese national team was formed only in 2000, and there are just 200 curlers in a country of 1.3 billion people. The average age of the women's national team is 23.8 years and the men's is 24.4 years.

China is one of three teams training at the Dunedin Ice Stadium this week.

Li Dongyan, the team leader of the Chinese team of 10 players and five officials, said yesterday the lack of venues was a problem in China.

The only professional venue for curling is in Beijing, but two more rinks are expected to be built in Harbin and one more in Shanghai over the next 12 months.

"The promotion of curling depends a lot on the venues," Li said.

"If there are not enough venues, it is hard to get more people involved."

All members of the national team are among the first group of people to learn curling in China.

They all come from Harbin in the Kheilong Province in northeast China.

The Chinese learned quickly, with the national teams training in Canada for several months a year. China has developed into formidable international unit over the past few years.

At the 2005 women's world championships, the Chinese team finished seventh in its debut. At the 12-team event in 2007 it moved up to fifth.

The women's team finished second at this year's world championships and has already qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The Chinese men's team finished fourth at last year's world championships, but must gain more points next year to clinch a place for the Olympics.

China first competed at the Pacific championships in Queenstown in 2003.

The six competing teams are China, Australia, China Taipei, Japan, Korea and New Zealand.


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