One day after CBC Sports revealed the 2020 world curling championships would not be made up at a later date, there is now clarity on how that affects the Olympic qualification process.
The World Curling Federation announced Thursday it is proposing to the International Olympic Committee that the 2021 world curling championships will determine which countries will book their tickets to Beijing 2022.
Also on Thursday, Curling Canada Thursday that the remaining national curling championships on its 2019-20 calendar have been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The national mixed doubles and seniors curling championships were scheduled for March in Portage la Prairie, Man., while the national wheelchair championship in Boucherville, Que., and under-18 event in Sudbury, Ont., were scheduled to take place in April. All four events were postponed indefinitely last month.
The Canadian men’s and women’s championships were held earlier this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports events across the globe.
Outside of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, which saw Canada’s women’s and men’s teams miss the podium for the first time since the sport was introduced to the Games in 1998, Canada’s track record in curling at the Olympics has been unparalleled.
Now it appears the country so inextricably tied to the roaring game with great expectations at every international event will have to finish in the top-six in the women’s, men’s event and top-seven in the mixed doubles world championships in 2021 to just earn a berth into the Beijing Olympics in 2022.
Under normal circumstances, there would be far less pressure on Canada to qualify for a spot in the Olympics because of it all coming down to two worlds — Canada’s success on the international stage is unrivaled. But now everything hinges on one event.
Ten countries for the men’s and women’s competitions at the Olympics qualify. Now with the change, the top seven teams — including host China — at next year’s worlds would get Olympic spots. Should a country fail to qualify through a high placing at next year’s worlds, there will be one last-chance qualifier to earn a spot into Beijing.
Mixed doubles will feature 24 teams
The 2021 mixed doubles worlds will now feature a field of 24 teams, adding four from the 20 countries already qualified for the cancelled worlds this year. The top eigtht countries, including host China, will earn Olympic berths, again with a last-chance qualifier for the final spots.
Olympic qualification points accumulated from the two world championships leading up to the Olympics determine what countries would qualify for the Games. Therefore, after the completion of the 2021 world championships the top seven highest ranked countries would qualify for the Olympics in 2022.
The women’s world championship is set to take place in Switzerland in March 2021. The men’s and mixed doubles worlds have yet to confirm location, with Ottawa being mentioned as a possibility to host the men in April 21.
But because the world championships in 2020 have been lost, it’s now put all the weighting of Olympic qualification into one event.
“That puts a lot of pressure the team that goes next year,” said Brad Gushue, who won gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics. “I don’t know if our process is going to change but from an association standpoint, and curling fan within in Canada, you want to make sure you have your best teams representing you.”
While falling out of the top seven at world championships seems unlikely, Gushue said the gap between the top six or seven teams in the world has closed and upsets are likely.
“It’s a scary situation. Maybe Curling Canada will put other criteria in for qualifying. It would be worth considering with everything at stake,” Gushue said.
The WCF also said Thursday the current world rankings in women’s, men’s and mixed doubles will remain unchanged for another year.