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  • Tuesday Talk -- Curling Chief on World Champs, Mixed Doubles, Anti-Doping


    Kate Caithness is the World Curling Federation’s first female president as well as one of only three female federation chiefs for sports on the Olympic program. (WCF)

    The Tuesday Talk Is Presented by
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    (ATR) World Curling Federation president Kate Caithness tells Around the Rings she has high hopes for the mixed doubles format set to debut at next year’s inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games.

    In the meantime, the Scottish mother of two must oversee four world championships in a span of just five weeks. 

    The men’s edition is slated for April 2-10 in Regina, a hotbed of curling as well as the capital of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. World championships for mixed doubles as well as seniors will follow April 15-24 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

    ATR caught up with Caithness on the eve of the women's world champs, won Sunday by Sweden, to discuss preparations for Innsbruck 2012 and Sochi 2014 as well as bidding for 2018 and whether a mixed doubles event will then appear on the Winter Olympic program.

    Around the Rings: How are preparations coming for the men’s world championship?
    Sweden won the women's world championships staged last week in Esbjerg, Denmark. (Getty Images)

    Kate Caithness: They’re coming on really well. That’s going to take place in Regina, the Ford World Men’s Curling Championships.

    I know the local organizing committee is hoping to sell some 102,000 tickets, and I think they’re well on their way to achieving that, so that’s really exciting for us.

    ATR: What about preparations for Innsbruck 2012?

    KC: Again, they’re well on track.

    We have 16 mixed teams, which is somewhat different from the norm. Once we finish the round robin for the mixed teams and then we have the finals, we are then going to split them into doubles teams.
    Mixed doubles will debut at next year's Winter Youth Olympic Games. (Getty Images)

    What we’re going to do is perhaps have say a young man from Canada playing with say a young woman from Switzerland, so we’re going to split them into doubles, which is quite unique, and then have 32 teams playing in the mixed doubles.

    It’s a bit like pairs, but we’re hoping that this perhaps could be a new discipline for the future, and so we’re really testing this out on the Olympic stage for the first time, so it’s quite exciting.

    I was in Singapore at the Summer [Youth Olympic] Games, and I saw street basketball for the first time, which was fantastic, so this is slightly different from what we’ve done before with mixed doubles. We have had mixed championships in this event, but we’re really putting it on the Olympic stage for a trial to see how this is going to happen, so we’re quite excited about this.

    ATR: How about preparations for Sochi 2014? How are they coming along?

    KC: They’re coming along fine. We’ve actually put in place the two technical delegates, and they’ve already had a meeting with the organizing committee in Moscow. The plans for the venue have been agreed in principle. We understand the work has begun on the facility, so I think things are moving along there as well.

    ATR: SportAccord is coming up in early next month, and this year’s theme is “Why Sport Matters” – in your opinion, why does sport matter?

    KC: Sport breaks down barriers, and it doesn’t end at competitiveness. It certainly brings together people from all walks of life and creates lasting friendships, and it’s accessible to all.

    This is something we place great emphasis on. For us, sport’s really about breaking down barriers. Curling encompasses people from all walks of life regardless of where they are. It’s for everybody. It should encompass everyone.

    ATR: Curling isn’t a sport that necessarily comes to mind when you think of doping. What effect did the case of Glenn Ikonen have on your sport?
    Swedish vice skip Glenn Ikonen (front) was suspended six months by the International Paralympic Committee after testing positive for a banned blood pressure medication during Vancouver 2010. (Getty Images)

    KC: Well, it was an isolated incident, to be perfectly honest.

    The person in question, Glenn, is a wheelchair athlete, and he requires medication for his health and actually would have been eligible for a TUE, which is a therapeutic use exemption certificate, had he applied for this, which means in essence that if you have something you need for your health, if you have a certificate that says this, we then sanction and say yes this person is eligible to use this, so when doping takes place, the certificate is produced to the doping people and they can assess this and so then he would not be alleged to have [been in violation].

    Then again, the rules have been broken.

    Actually, to be perfectly honest, this is actually a real push for us to ensure that all our athletes are well-educated on anti-doping matters, and we’ve already gone through this with our own members.

    ATR: In terms of the 2018 race, what is your federation looking for in the bids from Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang?

    KC: Well, the arena is obviously the first priority, and then after the legacy for the sport. I think each bid is unique and brings something special to our sport.

    For instance, in Annecy, [we have] the mix of sports and the legacy facilities in Chamonix. In Munich, we’ve got the use of an iconic venue in the 1972 swimming pool, and that’s where actually the curling would take place. And PyeongChang is somewhere we’ve already staged an event, a very successful event, and now to have the chance to go back and build on that is an exciting opportunity for our sport.
    Curlers will compete atop the swimming pool from the 1972 Summer Games should Munich win hosting rights to the 2018 Winter Olympics. (ATR)

    ATR: Anything else on your federation's radar at the moment?

    KC: Well, there’s mixed doubles, as I’ve already said to you.

    We’ve held world championships for mixed doubles and are very interested in perhaps getting a second discipline for curling into the Olympics, so we’re working hard to promote this.
    Recently, at the World Financial Group Continents Cup held in St. Albert, Canada, the curling Olympic champion Kevin Martin was very excited about this discipline.

    ATR: So you are hoping to get mixed doubles on the Olympic program for 2018?

    KC: Yes, I think that’s something we’re trying to see. This is why mixed doubles being in Innsbruck next year will be quite exciting, especially to see how the public reacts to this. We’ve also obviously had a couple of world championships, and we’re about to have one in St. Paul next month.

    For more of Caithness’ thoughts on the 2018 bids, stay tuned. Around the Rings will feature a series of Q&As with the seven winter Olympic federation chiefs in the months leading up to the July 6 host decision in Durban.

    Written by Matthew Grayson.

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