Canada's Team Purcell (WCF / Cheyenne Boone) will chase the country's fourth consecutive world junior men's title, as the 2022 World Junior Curling Championship takes place this week in Sweden.
By: Dylan Chenier
After more than two years away, the World Junior Curling Championship is back, with the 2022 edition set to begin Sunday in Jonkoping, Sweden. The event will see ten men's rinks and ten women's teams take to the ice from May 15-22, in search of a world junior title and all the prestige that comes with it.
The championship was last held in February of 2020, weeks before the sporting world was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers were forced to cancel the 2021 World Juniors, initially set for Beijing, China, as a result of continued COVID shutdowns.
This year's tournament was supposed to take place in March, but the event was postponed to May due to the state of the pandemic in Sweden at the time.
On the men's side, Canada leads the field as the defending champions. This year, the country will be represented by Nova Scotia's Owen Purcell. The Purcell rink, with third Joel Krats, second Adam McEachren, and lead Scott Weagle, earned the right to wear the maple leaf by winning the 2021 World Junior Qualification Event in December.
Canada has won 21 world junior men's titles in 49 years, including the past three-consecutive editions of the championship. No other country has won more gold medals on the men's side, with Scotland sitting in second place with ten victories.
The Scottish contingent in Jonkoping is one of a select few teams with previous tournament experience on their roster. James Craik, Angus Bryce and Niall Ryder, were all part of the bronze medal-winning team in 2020. This year, the trio is back, as they join Scott Hyslop in hopes of upgrading from bronze to gold.
Other noteworthy rinks include Norway's Team Hoestmaelingen, featuring two players from the 2020 Youth Olympic mixed gold medal-winning squad. Germany's Benjamin Kapp is a 2019 world mixed silver medalist; he leads a young squad in search of their country's first-ever world junior title.
Meanwhile, the women's side sees Northern Ontario's Isabelle Ladouceur seek Canada's third title in four years. The team will face some stiff competition in Sweeden, as the majority of the rink makes its international debut. Ladouceur will be able to draw on second Lauren Rajala's experience from the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, as the team gets set to face the world's best junior curlers.
Should both Canadian rinks find their way to the top step of the podium by week's end, it would mark the third time since 2018 that the country has taken home double gold medals.
Many of the women's rinks competing this week have prior experience on the world stage, including Norway's Team Mesloe, which features two athletes from the 2020 Youth Olympic gold medal-winning squad. Team Latvia has considerable experience on the world stage, with all athletes having competed in at least four World Curling Federation events.
Denmark's Karolina Jensen and third Gabriella Qvist have both participated in international events at the junior and elite levels.
The world juniors are one of curling's biggest showcases of upcoming talent, with many previous athletes going on to enjoy success at the elite level. Previous men's gold medalists include John Morris (1998, 1999), Brad Gushue (2001), Niklas Edin (2004), Peter de Cruze (2010), and Brendan Bottcher (2012). Bruce Mouat, one of the biggest names in men's curling and the 2022 Olympic silver medalist, took home the 2016 junior crown in Copenhagen, Denmark.
On the women's side, Silvana Tirinzoni (1999), Eve Muirhead (2008, 2009, 2011), Anna Hasselborg (2010), and Kelsey Rocque (2014, 2015), are just several previous champions throughout the event's 34-year history. Canada's Mackenzie Zacharias, the most recent world junior women's champion, is quickly becoming one of the top young skips in the country.
A strong performance this week in Jonkoping could help set an athlete on a positive career trajectory, toward major titles at the men's and women's elite levels.
The 2022 World Junior Curling Championship runs May 15 to 22, with 18 round-robin draws across the two gender groups, ahead of the weekend's playoffs. The top four teams in each group will advance to the semifinals, with the men's gold medal game set for Sunday at 3:00 AM ET, while the women's goes at 10:00 AM ET.
World Curling TV will be broadcasting a number of games exclusively on the recast Curling Channel.