Winter Games: Canada out to check China

Canada is the only team capable of stopping China from winning two curling gold medals at the New Zealand Winter Games.

The men's team from Calgary is not the Canadian national team, but it has been invited by the organisers to compete at the Games.

The team is Brent van der Linden (53), Trevor Baker (37), Brian Carnahan (49) and Cliff Butchko (51).

The men all work as engineers.

"China has a professional team and they will be tough," skip Butchko said.

"But we hope to do our best.

"We start curling at a young age in Canada and that is an advantage for us. But these guys do it for a living."

The Chinese team is dedicated and had three training days at the Dunedin Ice Stadium this week before leaving for Naseby late on Thursday.

The Chinese national coach is Canadian Daniel Rafael and the team spends a lot of time training and playing in Canada.

He has lifted the standard of the Chinese teams; the women won the world title in Korea this year and the men finished ninth.

Both teams have qualified for next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The advantage the Canadian team has is that the members have played together for the past 10 years.

Three of them have played together at the Hunting- ton Hills Club for 21 years.

Baker, the baby of the team, plays for the North Hills club in Calgary.

The Canadian team received the invitation after making a connection with the New Zealand team when it was preparing for world championships and the Winter Olympics in 2006.

"The New Zealand skip, Dan Mustapic, is a friend and made the initial connection," Butchko said.

The Canadian team members are all making their first trip to New Zealand and are keen to show what makes Canada the world's strongest curling nation.

There are nearly two million curlers in Canada and the sport ranks behind ice hockey and American football as a major sport.

Competition starts tomorrow at the Maniototo curling rink in Naseby.

> Curling
Sunday, August 23 to Saturday, August 29.

Semifinals: Friday, August 28, 11.45am (women) and 3pm (men).

Finals: Saturday August 29, 9.45am (women) and 1.45pm (men).

Venue: Maniototo International Curling Rink, Naseby.



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