May 25th, 2020

Hat Charity Classic still a draw at 25

By Medicine Hat News on October 18, 2019.

Teams from Russia (left) and South Korea practice at the Medicine Hat Curling Club Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 in advance of the Hat Charity Classic.

It’s not the behemoth it once was but the Hat Charity Classic begins its 25th anniversary bonspiel today at the Medicine Hat Curling Club with plenty of talent from around the globe.

From Japan to Korea, China, Switzerland and Russia, plus defending champions in both men’s and women’s draws returning in hopes of a repeat, there will be plenty of action in the house.

“Now we’re into that next Olympic bubble, this is the first year of the points really meaning a lot towards that,” said club general manager Vicki Sjolie. “For the next three years they’re going to be trying to get every point they can to make the trials.”

Whether that’s Canadian, European or Asia-Pacific trials depends on the team. For the Koreans and Russians on the ice Thursday afternoon, the season started a couple months ago and they’re hoping to learn from the typically excellent competition in Canada to achieve better results back home.

“There are so many good curling teams in Canada, so we think we can keep running and we want to many play good teams,” said South Korea’s coach Miles Lim. “We participated in Pyeongchang Olympics but we are not good results (they finished tied for sixth), so we want more good results next Olympics.”

It’s also an imperative for the Russians, who didn’t qualify for the 2018 games. Both sides got spots in their hometown Olympics in the past decade (Russia was seventh in Sochi in 2014), but now need to make it to Beijing by way of regional qualifiers. There are two Russian men’s teams here this weekend.

“This is fine, all things we are doing in Canada we just try to prepare our team, our goals because Canada has too much good tournaments, too much good players,” said Russian coach Alexander Kozyrev. “That’s why we need to play here. It’s like every game you should play, if you play more you perform (better).”

With 26 men’s teams and 11 on the women’s side, Sjolie notes it’s not the same as when there were 32 of each filling all 12 sheets at the club. But Ted Appelman’s team is back after winning in 2018 and Kourtney Fesser is back as a defending champ, now the third on Ashley Howard’s rink. Purses of $35,000 on the men’s side and $24,000 on the women’s won’t hurt, either.

The event still raises money for the Children’s Wish Foundation, as it has since it started way back in 1995.

“When the World Curling Tour started, it was Gerard Hittel who said we should do a cashspiel again, be part of this,” said Sjolie, who competed in the inaugural event and many times since, but notes there are no local competitors this year. “It ended up growing and growing.”

Play begins at 1:30 p.m. today for both men and women, though the women’s final will take place earlier than usual due to the lack of teams. That final will be Sunday at 5 p.m., while the men’s final is set for Monday at 3:30 p.m.

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