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Canadian connection gives Chinese curling major boost

Updated: 2014-01-10 08:10
By Yang Xinwei ( China Daily)

Canadian connection gives Chinese curling major boost

Coach of national teams brings both experience and expertise

Qualifying for the Olympics can come right down to the wire - and sometimes it only gets sweeter if done at the last minute.

Just ask Wang Bingyu, skip of the Chinese women's curling team, which made the cut for the Sochi Winter Olympics at the final qualifying tournament in Fuessen, Germany last month.

"The team was in a slump coming into the tournament, but we never gave up and actually put up a pretty good show to qualify," said Wang, from Harbin in Heilongjiang province.

Wang and her teammates, who brought home the bronze medal from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, did not give the other six teams any chance, winning all seven matches - including vanquishing Japan in the final.

Wang said she and her teammates, the 2009 world champions, had only one goal: to get one of the two remaining tickets to Sochi.

Canadian connection gives Chinese curling major boost

"We are very, very happy to qualify ... but we also feel very lucky," she said. "From the qualification we gained more maturity. I will definitely enjoy my second trip to the Olympics."

It is also a dream come true for the man behind the team's success, Canadian coach Marcel Rocque, who last year accepted the task of overseeing the Chinese Curling Association's rinks for the 2013-14 season.

Rocque, a high school culinary arts teacher, won four Canadian titles and three world championships as a player, but Sochi will be his first Olympics.

"I'm passionate about coaching and I will give it my all. I'm going to try to do my best for them," Rocque told the Edmonton Journal before leaving for China last year.

With the men's team already qualified, Rocque's dream of China facing Canada in both draws in Sochi - and possibly meeting in a gold medal showdown - is a step closer.

"Would I try to beat Canada? Of course, because that's how I'm wired," he said. "It would be a dream come true for me, either way," he said.

Wang said Rocque will shoulder some pressure in Sochi.

"He has very high expectations for us, especially after coming through qualification," Wang told China Daily at the Yichun International tournament last month.

"He really wants us to do well, and not just against top teams like Canada. He believes we have the ability. Whoever our opponent is, he never lowers his expectations."

With Rocque temporarily back in Canada, the Chinese women lost to Switzerland and Canada and finished third at the Yichun tournament. The final between Canada and the Chinese youth team was won by the Canadians.

Wang gives Rocque's coaching philosophy full marks.

"Four Canadian and three world championships ... wow! His coaching is a summary of his rich experience, which I think distinguishes him from the others.

"He is more positive and encouraging than Chinese coaches and he never hesitates to point us the right way. He is a very good teacher."

China's team manager, Li Dongyan, also has high praise for Rocque.

"He is a great help to both the men and the women, not only in the aspect of skills and techniques, but also through his in-depth understanding of the game," Li said.

"He has rich experience as a player at the highest level and knows very well the skills of the game most people do not understand. These are his strong points - which we badly need."

China's improvement, especially in terms of self-confidence, is there for all to see, Li said.

"Rocque knows how to encourage our teams and the players, and knows when and how to say something. He is bringing to us the full range of help, not just tactics for playing."

The women's team is now competing in Europe and will spend the Chinese Lunar New Year (Jan 31) in Switzerland before flying to Sochi on Feb 3.

"Win the matches they should win and try their best against tougher foes such as Canada - that is what our girls must do at Sochi," Li said.

As for the men, their recent performances indicate an improvement on their eighth-place finish at the Vancouver Olympics.

 Canadian connection gives Chinese curling major boost

Flanked by Zhou Yan (left) and Yue Qingshuang, China skip Wang Bingyu delivers the rock during last month's Yichun International curling tournament. Li ming / xinhua

(China Daily 01/10/2014 page24)