The Red Deer Curling Club kicked off their season last weekend as they played host to their biggest bonspiel of the year at the Pidherney Curling Centre.
The annual tournament, which was held from Friday to Monday last weekend, featured teams from all over Canada and the world.
“Overall it was a very successful tournament again,” said Martin Broks, one of the organizers of the event.
On the men’s side, 32 teams competed for a total purse of $39,000 while the women’s side featured 22 teams competing for $31,000.
Broks said that about 10 of those teams were from other countries.
The tournament was held in a triple knockout format with only eight teams qualifying on each side for playoffs.
It took three days to determine the eight qualifiers, but in the end 16 teams advanced to the main event on Monday.
“It was a full curling schedule all day Friday, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday,” Broks said.
On the men’s side, defending champion Josh Heidt, Korea’s Soo-Hyuk Kim and Edmonton’s Mick Lizmore were among the most notable of the teams left standing.
For the women, reigning World Champion Alina Paetz of Switzerland was the favourite to defend her crown, but in order to do that she would have to make it past former Red Deer Classic champ Chelsea Carey.
“There are always one or two teams that you don’t know how they’re going to fare, but they are typically recognizable names that have been around for a few years,” Broks explained, adding that they sometimes do see younger rinks in the mix.
And it was one of those young and upcoming rinks that claimed the top prize on the women’s side this year.
In what turned out to be one of the closer games of the weekend, Kelsey Rocque’s rink from Edmonton toppled the defending champion Alina Paetz’s rink from Switzerland in a 9-8 nail-biter that went all the way down to the final end.
In order to make it to the final, Rocque’s team had to make it past China’s Sijia Liu, and Calgary/Red Deer’s Nadine Chyz.
Rocque’s rink went 6-0 throughout the weekend as they picked up a point in four of the eight ends.
Her win breaks a five-year drought during which only one team from Canada won the women’s side of the Classic.
On the men’s side, Edmontonian Mick Lizmore’s rink came up big in the final winning 5-3 over Regina’s Jason Ackerman to finish a run that saw them go 7-0 and defeat defending champ Josh Heidt in the semi final.
Broks said that overall the scores tended to vary a little more on the women’s side than the men’s.
“On the ladies’ side the scoring was a little wilder,” he said.
Broks noted the contributions of all of the volunteers who worked to make the weekend a success, particularly those who stayed the whole weekend.
“I’m fortunate enough to be treasurer, so I’m just sort of in and out. But other people, such as the draw master, have to put up with very long weekends.”
Overall, though, he noted that the tournament committee heard a lot of positive feedback from those who attended the Classic.
“We had a lot of good compliments on the bonspiel itself and on the general activities of the weekend,” he said, adding that the tournament committee, who has been together for a couple of years now, worked hard to make the weekend memorable for everyone.
“The committee that we have together now has been together for several years and as a result we each take on several responsibilities so none of us have to do too much.”
About 54 teams and 250 curlers competed at the event, and the total overall payout was $70,000.
“It was a very significant pot,” Broks said.
The Red Deer Curling Classic is one of the events on the World Curling Tour and those who qualified for the finals earn points towards their overall world standings.
Past winners of the tournament include former Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Jones and Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Bernard.