It’s been a marathon, but the seventh and final event of the Calgary curling bubble has arrived.
Dozens of the world’s best curling rinks have been in and out of the bubble at Markin MacPhail Centre since the start of the festivities over two months ago.
Now, after so many terrific moments and storylines, it all wraps up with the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship.
It seems so long ago when Kerri Einarson and her Gimli, Man., team of third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur defended their Scotties Tournament of Hearts title, earning the honour to represent Canada at the Women’s Worlds for the first time following the cancellation of last year’s event due to the pandemic.
At the time of their victory, there was a real chance Team Einarson were going to miss out on donning the Red and White again after Schaffhausen, Switzerland, the original location of the Women’s Worlds, withdrew permission to host the 2021 event due to COVID-19 complications.
Luckily, the World Curling Federation and Curling Canada figured out the logistics and were able to add the event –running from Friday, April 30, through Sunday, May 9 – to the Calgary bubble schedule.
There was another scare just this week when two competitors received positive COVID-19 results upon their arrival to Calgary. Organizers cancelled the opening practice session following the positive results, but Friday remains the scheduled start date for the world championship. And that’s some real good news because the finale of this year’s unprecedented Season of Champions should be a treat with a 14-team field full of legit podium contenders.
Long gone are the days when Canada rolls into either the women’s or men’s curling worlds as the undisputed No. 1 contenders. Even a playoff appearance isn’t necessarily 100 per cent guaranteed anymore. Chelsea Carey’s rink missed out in 2019, the first time a Canadian women’s team failed to reach the playoffs at the worlds since 1999.
There are no "easy wins" on the schedule with even the lower-ranked countries fully capable of upsetting the Canadians from time to time under the bright lights.
Brier champion Brendan Bottcher and his team from Alberta, one of the best rinks on the planet, didn’t clinch a playoff spot at the World Men’s Curling Championship until the second last day of round-robin play. They’d go on to fall to Bruce Mouat and the eventual silver medallists from Scotland in the quarterfinals.
All in all, with more parity in the game, the action and storylines are all the more compelling.
Just like Team Bottcher, Einarson and company’s first objective will be to finish in the top-six following pool play as it will give Canada a direct entry into women’s curling at next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
Team Einarson, led by their 33-year-old skip, have been rocks star inside the bubble this winter and spring. After capturing a second straight Canadian championship, Einarson teamed up with Brad Gushue to win the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in what was her very first event in the discipline.
Then, after a brief break, the foursome returned to the bubble and made a solid run at the Champions Cup on the Grand Slam circuit, losing to Team Rachel Homan in the semifinals, before getting the better of Team Homan in the Players’ Championship final on Sunday, defending their title from 2019.
Einarson’s record inside the bubble is a remarkable 32-6, a winning percentage of 0.842.
Of all the teams competing at this year’s Women’s Worlds, Team Einarson will have spent the most time inside the bubble by far. We’ll have to see if that factor plays a role one way or another for the Canadians.
Canada is ranked third in the world coming in, behind Sweden and South Korea.
You can watch all of Team Canada’s games at the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship as well as every game of the playoffs throughout the week on TSN and streaming on TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct.
To check out the complete broadcast schedule, click HERE.
Let’s take a closer look at Canada’s path to gold at the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship.
Game 1 – Sweden (Team Anna Hasselborg)
Friday, April 30, at 4pm et on TSN1
Skip: Anna Hasselborg
Third: Sara McManus
Second: Agnes Knochenhauer
Lead: Sofia Mabergs
Alternate: Johanna Heldin
WCF Ranking: 1
Canada kicks things off against the top-ranked country on the planet. Anna Hasselborg and her Swedish rink have gone home with the silver medal at the past two World Women’s Curling Championship – losing to Jennifer Jones in 2018 and Silvana Tirinzoni in 2019 – and will be a top contender once again in Calgary. Team Hasselborg has been together since 2015, highlighted by the team’s gold-medal performance at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Hasselborg and her rink have been inside the Calgary bubble for a few weeks now. They struggled at the Champions Cup with an 0-4 record before bouncing back and making a run at the Players’ Championship, reaching the semifinals where they fell to Einarson’s team, 5-4, last weekend. The two sides have been evenly matched all-time in their head-to-head games with Hasselborg taking seven of 13 contests. This will the fourth world championship appearance for the team from Sundbybergs. Sweden has won eight gold medals at the women’s curling worlds, good enough for second all-time, nine behind Canada. Canadian curling legend Wayne Middaugh has coached Team Hasselborg since 2018.
Game 2 – Czech Republic (Team Anna Kubeskova)
Friday, April 30, at 9pm et on TSN1
Skip: Anna Kubeskova
Third: Alzbeta Baudysova
Second: Michaela Baudysova
Lead: Ezen Kolcevskaja
Alternate: Petra Vinsova
WCF Ranking: 11
Canada will finish off their opener against Sweden and be right back on the ice a few hours later in a night cap against the Czechs. Anna Kubeskova, 31, will skip the central European nation at the worlds for a fifth time and will look to improve on her career best 6-6 showing in 2018. Kubeskova snuck into the six-team playoff that year but fell to Russia’s Victoria Moiseeva in the qualification game. It was the highest finish for the nation in their history at the Women’s Worlds. Alzbeta and Michaela Baudysova are sisters on the team.
Game 3 – Switzerland (Team Silvana Tirinzoni)
Saturday, May 1, at 4pm et on TSN1
Skip: Silvana Tirinzoni
Fourth: Alina Paetz
Second: Esther Neuenschwander
Lead: Melanie Barbezat
Alternate: Carole Howald
WCF Ranking: 4
Silvana Tirinzoni and Switzerland are the defending champs at this year’s World Women’s Curling Championship as they won the title in 2019 in Silkeborg, Denmark, the last time the event was played. Switzerland has won gold seven times at the Women’s Worlds, including an impressive run of five titles in the past eight years. This will be Tirinzoni’s fifth time skipping Switzerland at the event. The 41-year-old just missed the playoffs at the Olympics three years ago, finishing 4-5. Alina Paetz, a two-time world champ prior to joining Tirinzoni in 2018, throws last stones as the team’s fourth. Einarson has beaten Tirinzoni in 10 of their 18 head-to-head matchups, but the Swiss skip has taken four of the last five, including a 10-3 rout at the Players’ Championship last week. Tirinzoni fell to Rachel Homan in the Champions Cup final the week prior. Expect to see the Swiss in the playoffs with a real shot at reaching the podium as well.
Game 4 – RCF (Team Alina Kovaleva)
Saturday, May 1, at 9pm et on TSN1/3
Skip: Alina Kovaleva
Third: Julia Portunova
Second: Galina Arsenkina
Lead: Ekaterina Kuzmina
Alternate: Maria Komarova
WCF Ranking: 6
It will be another back-to-back doubleheader day for Team Einarson on the first Saturday of the women’s curling worlds. After taking on the defending champions in the afternoon, Canada will battle RCF’s Team Alina Kovaleva in the evening. With Russia serving a two-year World Anti-Doping Agency ban, Kovaleva’s rink will go by the name RCF in Calgary. Sergey Glukhov led RCF to a fourth-place finish at the Men’s Worlds earlier this month, beating Canada along the way in pool play. The 28-year-old Kovaleva skipped Russia at the 2019 curling worlds, finishing 9-3 in the round robin before losing to Japan in the qualification game, 11-3, a game in which Kovaleva shot just 59 per cent. Julia Portunova has since replaced Anastasia Bryzgalova at vice. Team Kovaleva is another squad that’s been in the bubble for a while now, reaching the quarters at the Champions Cup before making some early noise at the Players’ Championship with wins over Rachel Homan and Jennifer Jones. They’d go on to finish 2-3 and miss the playoffs. Einarson got the better of the Russian in the Champions Cup with a 5-2 win and has taken three of four all-time from Kovaleva. The Saint Petersburg rink is fully capable of doing some more damage at the Women’s Worlds and could find themselves on the podium with a strong week and a few upsets.
Game 5 – United States (Team Tabitha Peterson)
Sunday, May 2, at 4pm et on TSN1/4
Skip: Tabitha Peterson
Third: Nina Roth
Second: Becca Hamilton
Lead: Tara Peterson
Alternate: Aileen Geving
WCF Ranking: 8
Tabitha Peterson will compete in her fifth World Women’s Curling Championship this year, but it will be the first time as a skip. The 32-year-old Peterson played third for Nina Roth at the 2018 Olympics, finishing with a 4-5 record. Peterson and Roth have since switched positions. The United States last reached the podium in 2006 when Debbie McCormick captured silver. Three years prior, McCormick won the country’s lone gold medal at the Women’s Worlds, beating Colleen Jones of Canada in the final. Jamie Sinclair just missed the playoffs at the last worlds two years ago, finishing with a 6-6 record. The rink out of the St. Paul Curling Club competed at the two Slam events this month, going 1-3 at the Champions Cup and 0-5 at the Players’ Championship. Einarson and Peterson squad off twice in those events, with the Canadian winning both times. Can Team Peterson get the United States back into the top six in Calgary?
Game 6 – Germany (Team Daniela Jentsch)
Monday, May 3, at 11am et on TSN1
Skip: Daniela Jentsch
Third: Mia Hoehne
Second: Klara-Hermine Fomm
Lead: Analena Jentsch
Alternate: Emira Abbes
WCF Ranking: 12
Two members of Team Germany tested positive for the virus upon their arrival in Calgary. The WCF announced on Wednesday that the players on the German team that did not test positive will get approval to return to action after the conclusion of further testing while the positive cases will need to remain in isolation until cleared by Alberta's Chief Medical Officer with guidance from Alberta Health. Daniela Jentsch is back to skip the Germans at the women’s curling worlds for the sixth straight time. The 39-year-old made her debut in 2000 as a third for Petra Tschetsch. Andrea Schöpp won gold for Germany back in 2010, but the country hasn’t reached the playoffs since. Jentsch’s best showing was in 2019 when she finished with a 5-7 record. Twenty-year-old Mia Hoehne replaces Emira Abbes as the vice on this year’s team. Abbes will remain on as an alternate. Let’s see if the experienced Jentsch can keep Germany in the playoff hunt in Calgary.
Game 7 – South Korea (Team Kim Eun-jung)
Monday, May 3, at 4pm et on TSN1
Skip: Kim Eun-jung
Third: Kim Kyeong-ae
Second: Kim Cho-hi
Lead: Kim Seon-yeong
Alternate: Kim Yeong-mi
WCF Ranking: 2
Kim Eun-jung and the Garlic Girls are back on the world curling scene. The foursome made international headlines on home soil during their silver medal run at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, earning the nickname "Garlic Girls" thanks to their hometown of Uiseong, which is known for its bountiful garlic production. A month after the Olympics, Team Kim were in North Bay, Ont., for the Women’s Worlds, posting an 8-4 record en route to a playoff appearance. However, a coaching scandal kept them away from the ice for a good portion of the following season after they spoke out on the verbal and emotional abuse they were subject to from their coaches and officials. Prize money was also kept for from them. The country’s National Sports Ministry investigated, eventually leading to the lifetime bans of various officials within the Korean Curling Federation, including their former vice-president. Now, with the coaching scandal in the rear-view mirror, Eun-jung and company have returned to the World Women’s Curling Championship for a third time. The team has been tweaked since the Olympics as Kim Cho-hi is the new second with Kim Seon-yeong now playing lead. This squad was one of the most compelling and fun to watch during their time in the spotlight in 2018 and proved they were a rink to be reckoned with on the international stage. They’ll be one of many podium contenders inside the curling bubble.
Game 8 – Italy (Team Stefania Constantini)
Tuesday, May 4, at 11am et on TSN1/4
Skip: Stefania Constantini
Third: Marta Lo Deserto
Second: Angela Romei
Lead: Giulia Zardini Lacedelli
Alternate: Elena Dami
WCF Ranking: 13
Italy will be the second-lowest ranked team at this year’s women’s curling worlds. At 22, Stefania Constantini is the second youngest skip in the field. Overall, Team Italy is the youngest rink the field as lead Giulia Zardini Lacedelli is 18 while third Marta Lo Deserto is 19. Constantini played second for Diana Gaspari at the 2018 Worlds as the Italians finished last with a 2-10 record. Canada will definitely have the experience on their side in this mid-week clash.
Game 9 – Scotland (Team Eve Muirhead)
Tuesday, May 4, at 9pm et on TSN1/3
Skip: Eve Muirhead
Third: Vicky Wright
Second: Jennifer Dodds
Lead: Lauren Gray
Alternate: Sophie Sinclair
WCF Rank: 7
Scotland’s Eve Muirhead tuned 30 earlier this month and is already set to compete in her ninth career world championship. That number is even more impressive when you consider she hasn’t played in the event since 2017. Muirhead won gold in 2013 and also has silver and bronze medals from 2010 and 2017, respectively. The team from Stirling might not be at their best coming in having missed the playoffs at both of the Grand Slams leading up to the Women’s Worlds with a combined 3-7 record. In addition, Einarson has definitely had Muirhead’s number over the years, taking 10 of their 11 matchups. Still, if the Scots can get back on track, they’ll be in the mix for the playoffs.
Game 10 – Estonia (Team Marie Turmann)
Wednesday, May 5, at 11am et on TSN1
Skip: Marie Turmann
Third: Liisa Turmann
Second: Heili Grossmann
Lead: Erika Tuvike
Alternate: Kerli Laidsalu
WCF Rank: 19
Team Einarson’s lone game on Wednesday will be against Estonia, which is making its debut at the World Women’s Curling Championship. The northern European nation, ranked 19th in the world, is skipped by 26-year-old Marie Turmann. Turmann’s sister Liisa is the third on the team. The Canadians will be heavily favoured in this one, but of course in this day and age of curling, nothing can be taken for granted.
Game 11 – Denmark (Team Madeleine Dupont)
Thursday, May 6, at 11am on TSN1
Skip: Madeleine Dupont
Third: Mathilde Halse
Second: Denise Dupont
Lead: Lina Knudsen
Alternate: My Larsen
WCF Rank: 10
The sister combo of skip Madeleine Dupont and second Denise Dupont will each make an impressive 12th appearance at the women’s curling worlds this year, the most by any player at this year’s event. The Duponts’ best finish came in 2007 when they fell to Canada’s Kelly Scott in the gold-medal game. They also have a bronze medal from 2009. Marianne Jorgensen won Denmark’s lone world title in 1982. Ranked 10th in the world, Denmark might be in tough to reach the top six and directly qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Game 12 – Japan (Team Sayaka Yoshimura)
Thursday, May 6, at 4pm et on TSN1
Skip: Sayaka Yoshimura
Third: Kaho Onodera
Second: Anna Ohmiya
Lead: Yumie Funayama
Alternate: Ayami Ito
WCF Rank: 5
Sayaka Yoshimura defeated Satsuki Fujisawa in the Japan Curling Championships earlier this year and will skip her country at the world championships for the first time. The 29-year-old played third for Ayumi Ogasawara at the 2015 Worlds, just missing out on the playoffs with a 6-5 record. Japan’s best finish came in 2016 when Fujisawa captured silver. Seina Nakajima skipped Japan in 2019 and finished fourth.
Game 13 – China (Yu Han)
Friday, May 7, at 11am et on TSN1/3
Skip: Yu Han
Third: Ziqi Dong
Second: Lijun Zhang
Lead: Xindi Jiang
Alternate: Hui Yan
WCF Rank: 9
Canada will close out pool play against world championship rookies. China is led by 21-year-old Yu Han, the youngest skip in the field. At the 2019 worlds, skipped by Mei Jie, China qualified for the playoffs, and finished sixth. The country last reached the podium in 2011 with their only gold-medal performance coming in 2009 from Bingyu Wang.