Yukon curlers Wade Scoffin and Helen Strong have packed their bags and curling gear and are off to Innsbruck, Austria today as they were invited to participate in the World Winter Masters Games.
The Games are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and are aimed at adult athletes all over the world.
More than 3,000 participants are expected in Innsbruck and they will compete for more than 2,000 medals in twelve different sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, ski orienteering, ski
mountaineering, figure skating, speed skating, short track, hockey and curling.
The curling competition consists of 21 mixed teams and 12 mixed doubles teams from around the world. Curling will take place in Kitzbuhel between January 12 and 17th. Team Strong/Scoffin is the lone representative from Canada in the mixed doubles competition.
Being the lone Canadian team in the mixed-doubles doesn’t come with added pressure, said Scoffin.
“I don’t think it’s more pressure,” said Scoffin. “The competitive juices will come out in general. You just don’t make it bigger than it is.”
It will be Scoffin’s first time competing internationally, although he has coached on the world stage before.
In their pool, Scoffin said he expects Germnay to be tough competition.
“Germany is very accomplished,” said Scoffin. “Andrea Schöpp is on the team and we have her in our group. We are looking forward to playing her.”
Schöpp is a two-time world champion (1988 and 2010) and seven time European champion.
Scoffin spoke to the differences of playing doubles compared to playing with four people. He likened it to playing eight-ball and switching to snooker.
“It’s the same but different,” said Scoffin. “It’s the same skills, but the tactics and strategies are different when you are relying on only one other individual.”
Scoffin said there are several ways teams play doubles, it just depends on the player’s strengths and weaknesses.
Scoffin said he and Strong interchange their roles, but said: “I do the majority of sweeping on takeouts.”
Differing from four-person curling, in doubles, one rock from each team is pre-positioned in the house. Each team then has five rocks. The player who throws the first stone, will through the fifth.
Doubles curling has been around for a while, but Scoffin said it is still new for Canada.
“It was really quickly adopted by non-Canadian countries,” said Scoffin.
“Hungary, Spain, Australia and New Zealand have all been successful at world championships.”
Scoffin spoke about what his expectations and goals are.
“Of course we’d love to win,” said Scoffin. “But at this stage, we will take the opportunity and enjoy the experiences.
“I know some who will be participating and I’m hoping it will strengthen relationships. Curling is such a great community and everyone is really supportive.”
When he’s got a break from curling, Scoffin said he is looking forward to getting out and seeing some of the other sports.
“I learned there is one other person from Whitehorse competing, Phil Hoffman, in speed skating,” said Scoffin. “So I’ll try and see the speed skating. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing ski jumping.”
Curling in Austria is not unusual for the Strong/Scoffin family. Eight years ago this month, Thomas, Wade and Helen’s son, was the skip of the Canadian team who won Canada’s first-ever medal at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games,
also hosted in Innsbruck.
Scoffin and Strong will begin their draw on Monday against Latvia.