With the rise of Asian curling, it’s clear that something needs to change in how teams qualify for the World Curling Championships.
China, Japan and Korea are all medal contenders when they attend the Worlds, but in any given year only two are eligible to qualify. With Europe receiving eight berths, the Americas getting two berths leaving the Pacific-Asia region with only two berths with these three countries putting together elite calibre programs.
Last year it was China who missed both the Men’s and Women’s Worlds and now this year on the women’s side it will be the 2016 Silver Medalists Japan who will miss when Satsuki Fujisawa lost in the Semifinals to China at the Pacific-Asia Championships earlier this month. On the men’s side, Korea’s Soo Hyuk Kim loss in the semifinals will also mean Korea misses the Worlds.
It’s time for a change to make it possible for all three countries to qualify for Worlds. It’s truly a shame that Satsuki Fujisawa (or other Japanese teams) will not be at the Women’s Worlds this year to try and improve upon their runner-up finish. Outside the top 3 in Europe, the rest of the field ranks well behind the top teams from China, Japan and Korea on the Order of Merit World Rankings.
Eve Muirhead (Scotland) – 5th Ranked on Order of Merit
Anna Hasselborg (Sweden) – 7th
Binia Feltscher (Switzerland) – 16th
Victorya Moiseeva (Russia) – 124th
Those are the elite teams and had Anna Sidorova qualified for Russia she would have made it four strong medal contenders, though the young Victorya Moiseeva team looks like they just need more experience to be in the same position. Outside this group, there is little hope for medalling at the World Championships
Daniela Jentsch (Germany) – 55th
Anna Kubeskova (Czech Republic) – 72nd
Lene Nielsen (Denmark) – 79th
They are teams who if they put it all together could challenge for medals at Worlds but history suggests they’re a long shot most years. The young Czech team has had a great season and are looking good at Europeans this year. All these teams along with the top 3 are pretty much a lock to qualify for the World Championships while the 3rd ranked team in Asia will miss out. Truly a shame.
With seven guaranteed spots for the A Group in Europe and 1 more spot to be played for between the B Group winner and 8th place team in the A Division, this means that one of Italy (Federica Apolonio), Finland (Anne Malmi) and Norway (Kristin Skaslien) will be playing for a World Championship berth.
EunJung Kim (Korea) – 10th
Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan) – 20th
Ayumi Ogasawara (Japan) – 24th
Bingyu Wang (China) – 29th
Un-Chi Gim (Korea) – 39th
Chiaki Matsumura (Japan) – 52nd
All better than the 4TH seed in Europe this year. It’s a problem with the current system. Something needs to be done for competitive equality.
On the men’s side, change needs to be considered as well as the Asian teams rank highly on the Order of Merit with Soo Hyuk Kim (Korea) ranking 28th, Yusuke Morozumi (Japan) 33rd and Rui Liu (China) 44th. All belong at the World Championships over the 6-8th ranked teams in Europe with Finland’s Aku Kauste ranking 6th in the A Division at 47th overall.
While you don’t want to take anything away from Europe as the sheer number of countries that playdown for the Worlds dwarfs anywhere else, there is a solution that could make everyone happy.
Currently, the 8th place teams in the A Division plays a best of 3 against the B Division Champion to earn their country a berth to the World Championships. This playoff should be expanded to include the 7th place team in the A Division, along with the 3rd place team in Asia and have them play off for two berths into the World Championships. A four-team Double Knockout playoff would take the same number of draws as the current Best-of-Three series used at the European Championships currently.
This gives Europe 8 berths to play for while offering the Pacific-Asia region to chance to play for three berths. With the growth of the game exploding in Asia and the competitive proficiency of the teams, it is where the game needs to go.