Sunday, March 29, 2009

China wins . . . big whoop

Maybe I’m the lone guy in this, but I’m not one who thinks the world of curling changed when Bingyu Wang won yesterday’s (today’s) women’s world championship.
Yes, it’s marvelous that China grabbed its first global crown. And it’s stunning just how quickly this team became world-class. And yes, it’s great that the final was beamed into China on state-run television.
But wake me up when China has more than a few dozen curlers.
For some reason, I’m skeptical that this win will open the floodgates for the sport in Mao’s old home as some are suggesting. First, there’s still no curling culture in China so even if people were watching, so how many viewers had a clue as to what was going on?
Second, there are no facilities to speak of in China for folks to go and try things out. These gals live, train and curl in Canada. Why? Because we have the facilities. Nothing is going to change until they start building curling rinks in China and this win might help that a bit, but I don’t see six-sheeters springing up like daisies any time soon.
Here’s what I compare this to: remember when Myriam Bedard won a gold in the biathlon? There wasn’t a sudden rush of folks to that sport. Now it’s not a fair comparison because you don’t go out Friday night for some mixed biathlon. But to the Chinese, curling is nothing more than an obscure sport which they’ll never play nor have any desire to play.
My point is for curling to grow in any way, shape or form in China, there has to be more grass roots development. Maybe this will be the start of a long road towards that goal, but I have my doubts.

5 comments:

Timothy said...

Bob,

Your latest article had a tinge of sour grapes in it. To put it bluntly, you're off the mark in one specific area. You are comparing apples to oranges.

This isn't about growing the sport in China it's about two things.

(1) State sponsored training to earn medals for the purposes of marketing, P/R and propaganda.

(2) The WCF seeing "dollar signs" (or at least they're the ones seeing this) from Chinese TV and advertising.



China, IMHO, doesn’t give a hoot about the sport per se. It’s just a means to getting international face time and what a better place to get face time than on the podium in Vancouver (and beyond). “Growing the sport” may or may not be on their docket because they see curling in a different perspective. You have to admit it; they put together a plan, gathered the necessary resources/talent then added lots of hard work. And this is not the first time a non-Canadian team has toured Canada to up their skill base (remember Finland a few years ago…M15’s team went on the circuit to bone up their skills). The only difference is that China did it such a hard core fashion. To them I say “well done”.

It’s kind of like the East German shot put team. I don’t think their goal was to have kids lined up throwing iron balls (maybe hand grenades at NATO troops) for fun. It was to win medals in an attempt to show superiority on a global format. It’s the same situation in China.

I’d heard that China has about 500 curlers and two facilities (in Harbin). I’d also heard that Beijing might get a rink as well, but what if it never takes off in China? So what? SO WHAT??? Curing isn’t exactly a big thing in MANY parts of the world, even in the countries that play it. Only in Canada (and you have to admit Bob, the coverage can be spotty at times…outside the SOC events) does the sport have any kind of status and even then there are the snickers and jabs.

In short, your protests are simply “howling at the moon”.

One more thing; based upon this success, no doubt other countries will be taking notes (both current and future WCF teams). To the “old establishment,” your boat is about to get rocked.

caryad said...

Excellent post Tim..

What I wonder is this..
What Next for China??

Are these Team members going to be brought back to China to spread their skills by teaching and coaching.. or will there be some strange things happening after the Olympics??..like they go back to "actual" work and train only 2 years before the next big OLY show?

Time will tell..
but in the meantime,
women's curling in Canda just got another big wake-up call
and if they didn't "hear the call".. that will be evident as well.

Even more than this invasion of Women's Pro curling, I hope the magnifying glass gets put on the Canadian Women's Teams who are struggling to somehow not only be competitive but become world-class calibre.

Who looks at all the 2009 Worlds DVD's of Canada's games that went south.. and determines WHAT is the problem with this self-destructive Team ?

Is it too much temperament,
a need to do more research on alternative strategies,
talks on what it really means to be a consistently successful Team.. with each person not only clear on their physical job to achieve the goal.. but an emotional and mental commitment to supressing ego, frustration, anger, jealousy, need to take control form the leader..etc etc

Back to China's trained urlers.....
just how long are they going to "park" in Canada and suck up all our acquired curling skill??

Timothy said...

Sorry if my first post came off as "gruff". Coming from the States, and getting ribbed and jabbed every time my US teams get whacked at the worlds, has kind of made me sensitive….especially when a successful non-Canadian team gets a little smack from the fan sites.

I have some friends from China who used to do sports big time (I work for a transportation company that does business there), and I can tell you this: their sports machine just "cranks them out" faster than a Tim Hortan's donut factory. I’m pretty sure there’s a B, C and D squad behind these ladies. Once the “A” squad is done, the “B” squad will take over. They’ll just reload a new team.

What you may want to ask is, “How much do these ladies get paid?” These are pro curlers in the truest sense and if there’s a paycheck from the Chinese Sports Authority why leave? As long as world and Olympic medals keep coming, they’ll just keep reinforcing the sport. That’s their format: It’s been tested, it works and I don’t see it changing. The Chinese are very patient people and now that they’ve broken into the big leagues they have no reason to leave.

The Chinese team will probably take short break then hit the training cycle again for 2010. If they don't "burn out", I think they'll be DEFINITE gold medal contenders. I'd be interested on how the bookies calculate the odds in Vancouver. In 2008, China was calculated at 1:30, this time it’s more like 2:7. Team China will be facing the same teams, BUT the added pressure on these young ladies will be immense (national/world press, the lights, the sounds, etc…..worlds are one thing, OLYMPICS are another).

caryad said...

I had thought that perhaps the one missing ingredient with the Chinese Team ( after last year's worlds) was their emotional sensitivity.

Well after this year, running the table with 12 straight wins ( look out K-Mart)they now have all their bases covered.
They are a Curling Machine now and will mow over the World until they burn out.
Who would ever give up a steady job like this, more than just a bowl of rice a day to eat.

The Koreans and Japanese are next.

I just wonder what will happen to the Canadian Curling scene now.

Will we just accept being completely out-played and managed or will someone finally realize there is club curling AND top-level curling that takes more than a couple of practices a week to perfect.
Canada loves this game and have had so much development in it over the years strictly base on the love of the game.
Nobody taught the Richardsons, the Northcotts', the Russ Howards... even the Sandra Schmirler's.
The knowledge was passed on by observation and constant talking curling in the clubs and brier patches.

Kevin Martin's practical sense of money being needed to take the game to a higher level. came with great opposition from so many who didn't want the game to change..spoken from people who somehow found the money for their Teams.

Anyway..I am glad the Chinese "experiment" has proved successful..the game WILL grow in China as they love games and competing ..
It's too bad that something seems to have been LOST in this overt commercial approach.

Do the Chinese buy drinks after they lose??
~

Timothy said...

I think they do....I just hope you can tolorate the lead levels :)