Curlers embark on road for gold this weekend

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Curlers embark on road for gold this weekend

Korean curlers’ pursuit of gold at the 2018 Winter Games moves into full swing this weekend as the country hosts its first World Curling Tour (WCT) event.

The Uiseong International Curling Tour will run from Friday to Sunday in Uiseong, North Gyeongsang. In Asia, Uiseong is the second city after Japan’s Karuizawa to host the WCT event.

The International Olympic Committee in June added four new sports, including mixed doubles curling, for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

There will be three gold medals up for grabs for the men’s team, women’s team and mixed doubles.

“Before the Pyeongchang Olympics, the event will be a big help to enhance our players’ competitiveness,” said Kim Kyung-doo, who operates the WCT event in Korea. “We are working to bring the world-class curling event, just like the UEFA Champions League in football.”

“Playing in actual competitions is as important as practice,” said Kim Min-jung, a former curler who is now an analyst for MBC. “If we play against the world’s top players, we will have more confidence in understanding tactics.”

Curling is one of the sports where Korea is expecting a gold medal, along with traditional gold mines such as short track speed skating.

While other winter sports, such as skiing, ice hockey and luge, are not easy to make physical and technical improvements in a short time, curling, which is also referred to as “chess on ice,” is more of a strategic battle.

In traditional curling, each team has 38 minutes of thinking time, while in mixed doubles curling, there is 22 minutes of thinking time.

Korea’s women’s curling team, ranked No. 9 in the world, is considered to have a shot at gold, while the men’s curling team, ranked No. 18, and mixed doubles curling team, are aiming for a medal.

In the 2012 and 2014 World Curling Championships, the women’s team reached the semi-finals. Against the “Big 4” - Canada, Scotland, Switzerland and Sweden - Korea’s women’s team is expected to win over three games.

Korean curling officials see the Uiseong International Curling Tour as a forum to enhance the local team’s competitiveness.

The event is part of the WCT, with a system similar to the LPGA Tour in golf and the ATP Tour in tennis. Moving around the globe, teams have to earn certain points from each tour event in order to participate in major events that have big prize money.

For this event, there will be six teams each on both the men’s and women’s side.

The Korea Curling Federation is pushing hard for gold in the upcoming winter games. This year, the federation increased the length of national team training sessions from 30 days to 60 days.

It is also trying to recruit coaches from overseas, as well as bring in game analysts and ice makers to ensure world-class ice conditions.

Next year, Uiseong will host another international event, the Pacific-Asia Curling Championship, and in 2017, the World Junior Curling Championships will be held in Gangneung, Gangwon. There will be another curling-only stadium opening in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi, in 2017.

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