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Curlers on a mission

Can Schwaller's men build on last year's successes? Keystone Archive

The Swiss men's curling side will have one of the hardest tasks at next month's Winter Olympics as they seek to defend a gold medal won by a previous Swiss team.

With teamwork essential to curling, the selection process for international competitions is based on choosing an established side rather than mixing and matching individuals. In Salt Lake City, Andreas Schwaller’s Biel Touring team will be looking to defend the gold medal won in Nagano by the Lausanne side of Patrick Hürlimann.

No extra pressure

Schwaller insists though that his men aren’t feeling any extra pressure.

“I never really think about the fact that we’re defending the gold,” Schwaller told swissinfo. “What Hürlimann did four years ago was a great job, but we don’t have any more pressure on us just because he did a great job.”

Having won silver medals at both the world and European championships in 2000, Schwaller’s team have certainly proven their own credentials for a possible place on the Olympic podium.

Ready for medal

“We’re ready to go for a medal, for sure,” says Schwaller. “We’re just going to try to do well in the round robin stage where we’ll be looking to win six of the nine games. That should be enough for the semi-finals and then we just have to win another game. It’s a long and a tough way but we are ready.”

Despite losing to Sweden in the finals of both the world and European championships, Schwaller doesn’t feel that the Swedes are a bogey team for his men.

“The Swedes will definitely be among our strongest opponents, along with the Canadians,” Schwaller admits, “but the only reason we lost to Sweden is because they are a good team. There’s no other excuse and we’re certainly looking forward to playing them again.”

No team changes planned

The Biel team surprised many at last year’s world championships when they chose to alter their team halfway through the competition, with Schwaller bringing in his older brother Christof as replacement skip.

With Christof now firmly established as the team’s number three, Andreas Schwaller isn’t planning any further changes, although he’s also not ruling out the possibility.

“I’m hoping that won’t be necessary,” he told swissinfo. “We have our line-up and we hope that will give us the consistency to keep winning games. But we’ve proven in the past that we can change things if we need to.”

Double medal hopes

Unlike four years ago, Switzerland will have two chances in Salt Lake City to win curling gold medals, since Luzia Ebnöther’s Bern team have also qualified for the women’s competition.

Having won medals at their last three world or European championships, Ebnöther’s side are also among the likely candidates for an Olympic podium place.

by Mark Ledsom

Swiss Olympic curling squads

Men: Andreas Schwaller, Markus Eggler, Damian Grichting, Christof Schwaller, Marco Ramstein

Women: Luzia Ebnöther, Tanya Frei-Zürcher, Laurence Bidaud, Mirjam Ott, Nadia Röthlisberger-Raspe

Men’s schedule:

February 11: Switzerland v Norway
February 12: Switzerland v Denmark
February 13: Switzerland v Finland; Switzerland v Sweden
February 14: Switzerland v USA
February 15: Switzerland v Canada
February 16: Switzerland v Britain
February 17: Switzerland v France
February 18: Switzerland v Germany
February 19: Tie-breakers
February 20: Semi-finals
February 22: Bronze medal match & final

Women’s schedule:

February 11: Switzerland v Denmark
February 12: Switzerland v Russia
February 13: Switzerland v Norway
February 14: Switzerland v Japan; Switzerland v USA
February 15: Switzerland v Britain
February 16: Switzerland v Sweden
February 18: Switzerland v Canada; Switzerland v Germany
February 20: Semi-finals
February 21: Bronze medal match & final

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR