Young Chinese curlers train in Calgary: ‘I fell in love with the sport’
Canada is a powerhouse in the world of international curling and now some Chinese athletes are hoping to learn from the masters.
Twenty-one young men and women from China are spending four months in Calgary, developing their curling skills at the Acadia Recreation Complex.
“I fell in love with the sport!” Elle Ma said.
It’s a sport that’s completely new for many of the Chinese visitors.
“Some of them hadn’t ever actually played a game,” coach Shannon Kleibrink said. “They’re between the ages of 15 and 23 and they’re here just to learn curling.”
A veteran curler from Okotoks, Alta., Kleibrink won a bronze medal curling for Canada at the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy in 2006.
She’s impressed with the strong work ethic of the Chinese curlers.
“They are such a delight to work with — so dedicated and they’re eager to learn,” Kleibrink said. “I’ve never worked with a group quite like this before.”
The visiting curlers are also enjoying their time on the ice.
“I enjoy communication with my team, together to make shots,” Christy Wang said. “It makes curling very, very attractive for me.”
The visit is part of China’s efforts to grow the game leading up to hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
The athletes have participated in other sports like gymnastics, swimming and speed skating, now discovering what it takes to be a curler.
“You need both body strength and a clear mind,” Stefan Ma said. “When you play games you mix those things together.”
While coaching the Chinese group, Kleibrink is learning some lessons of her own from the visitors.
“I should have practiced harder back in the day when I was a competitive curler,” Kleibrink said with a laugh.”I’ve just never seen this type of dedication before. They’re on the ice six hours a day, six days a week. It’s really amazing.”
The Chinese curlers will continue training in Calgary until late April.
“I enjoy every slide and every release on the ice,” Elle Ma said. “It’s very beautiful.”
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