The World Curling Tour continues to expand its reach around the globe with early-season events opening in Sapporo, Japan. The first Masters Series tournament will take place in Sapporo with the Hokkaido Bank Curling Classic featuring ten men's and ten women's teams playing for a combined purse of 10million yen (~$50,000 CDN).
On the women's side, Olympic Bronze Medalist Satsuki Fujisawa (Kitami, Japan), Canada's Tracy Fleury and newly crowned Korean champion Un-chi Gim will highlight the field, while Japanese champion Yuta Matsumura joins Scott McDonald, Kirk Muyres and Jason Gunnlaugson of Canada in the men's event.
The WCT schedule continues the following week in Japan with the newly added ADVICS Cup held in Kitami, a four-hour drive from Sapporo. The growth of curling in Asia is primed to continue with more events creating an early Japan swing to start the season.
"Curling has a bright future in Asia, with China, Japan and Korea being where we continue to see significant interest in adding new events," said WCT President Armin Harder.
In addition to growth in Japan, the Uiseong International Cup has been added in Korea in September, with 110million KRW (~$125,000CDN) on the line in what is expected to be another exciting world-class field.
"With the success of EunJung Kim's team from Uiseong during the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, we're just starting to build upon the interest in a country hungry for more curling," Harder added.
In late August, the European schedule begins with the Baden Masters in Switzerland, where Niklas Edin (Sweden), Peter De Cruz (Switzerland), Bruce Mouat (Scotland) and Thomas Ulsrud (Norway) open their seasons.
The addition of Mixed Doubles continues to create interest and provide a new avenue for competitors to pursue the sport. The China Open Doubles opened the season at the end of June in Hebei, with Canada's Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant taking home over $28,000CDN for their win. The doubles schedule continues as part of the Winter Games New Zealand competition at the end of August.
CurlingZone returns for its 16th year supporting the Tour, while also aiding the growth of the sport.
"We're excited to continue our work with the World Curling Tour, supporting the many great events and developing new opportunities in the fastest-growing international sport," said Operations Manager Gerry Geurts. "It has been exciting to support the Tour over these last-15 years, seeing the growth of the sport's men's and women's prize purses from $2,766,000 in the 2004-05 season to over $5,200,000 this past season."
The WCT supports Men's and Women's four-player curling, along with Mixed Doubles, Juniors and Wheelchair disciplines as the most significant organized tour in the sport.