Stavanger ready to host Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2013

For what will be only the third time, Norway will host the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships when play gets underway on Saturday 23 November in Stavanger's Sørmarka Arena.

This will be the 39th edition of these Championships since the inaugural event in Megève, France in 1975, and the twelfth year that the Swiss cheese maker, Le Gruyère, has acted as title sponsor. Previously, these Championships were hosted by Norway in Oslo (1977) and Lillehammer (1990).

In both the men’s and women’s A Group events, ten national teams will compete, while a further ten women’s teams and sixteen men’s teams will compete in the B Group.

In the men's championship, Sweden, skipped by Niklas Edin, will be defending the title they won on home ice last year in Karlstad. They followed this up with victory at the Ford World Men's Curling Championship in Victoria, Canada, in April, and, as they turn their focus to February's Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, will be eager to keep their position as the team to beat.

The other nine teams in the men's A Group are: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Latvia, Norway, Russia, Scotland and Switzerland.

The host nation is represented by the current Olympic silver medallists, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud and recently confirmed as the Sochi 2014 men’s team. This team won the European crown in 2010 and 2011, before losing to Sweden in last year's final.

In last year's event, the Czech Republic, led by Jiri Snitil, won bronze - the first-ever international Championship medals for that country - and they will be looking to at least consolidate their position this time round. To make their little bit of history, the Czechs beat Denmark in the bronze medal game. The same Danish line-up, skipped by Rasmus Stjerne, returns this year.

Finland won promotion from the B Group last year, but a different line-up - skipped by Tomi Rantamaki - will be competing this time. France too will be represented by a new team making a debut at this level, skipped by Joffrey Vincent.

Latvia, like Finland, won promotion from the B Group last year, but, unlike Finland, in their case the team that achieved promotion will contest this time round, skipped by Ritvars Gulbis.

Russia, soon to be Olympic hosts, will be using this event to test the progress that they have made in the last couple of seasons. Their improvement at recent Championships has been marked, and once again they are skipped by Andrey Drozdov.

Scotland are led by David Murdoch - two-time world champion and three-time European champion. Switzerland, led by Sven Michel, complete the men's A Group line-up.

As well as being a Championship in its own right, the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships also acts as the European qualifier for the World Championships. The top eight nations in Stavanger will go on to the world stage, with the 2014 World Men's Curling Championship being staged in China for the first time - Beijing acting as host city at the end of March.

In the women's A Group, the ten-team field is headed by defending champions Russia, skipped once again by Anna Sidorova, but with a slightly altered line-up from 2012.

The other nine nations taking part are: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.

For hosts Norway, skip Marianne Rørvik will be making her seventh European appearance, and her team is a combination of youth and experience. Meanwhile, Anna Kubeskova leads the Czech Republic team.

Denmark, skipped by Lene Nielsen, are familiar faces at this level, but no-one has competed in more European Curling Championships than German skip Andrea Schöpp, who will be making her 26th appearance at this event, stretching the appearance record she already holds.

By contrast, Veronica Zappone leads a young Italian team, making their debut at this level. Representing Latvia, will be a team skipped by Evita Regza. Latvia qualified from last year's B Group to take their place in the women's ‘A’ line-up this year.

Scotland's Eve Muirhead lost last year's European final to Russia, but went on to take the world title at the Titlis Glacier Mountain World Women's Curling Championship in Latvia in March. In that world final, the Scots beat the same Swedish team - skipped by Margaretha Sigfridsson - that will represent Sweden in Stavanger.

Mirjam Ott - world champion in 2012 - leads Switzerland once again and will be looking at add to her collection of European medals.

With the Ford World Women's Curling Championship being staged in Saint John in Canada next March, the top eight finishers in Stavanger will qualify from Europe.

The sixteen men’s teams in the B Group, which is split into two sections are: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, England, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and Wales.

Of these, Romania and Wales qualified from the C Group competition, held in Denmark earlier this season.

The ten competing B Group women’s teams are: Austria, Belarus, England, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey. Of these, Belarus and Slovenia qualified from the C Group.

Because of the format of these Championships, both of the top performing men's and women's B Group teams have the chance to qualify for this season's world championships, by way of a series of challenge games against the teams that finished their A Group campaigns in the last European qualifying position.

Both A and B Groups will open with round-robin play and, after tie-breakers on Thursday 28 November, semi-finals, promotion challenge games and medal finals take place on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th December.

Extensive televised coverage of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2013 from Stavanger can be seen by viewers in Europe on Eurosport and additionally in Norway on TV2 Sport. Live coverage will also be available via the internet on the Eurosport Player and on the World Curling Federation’s YouTube Channel World Curling TV. Complete coverage details can be seen here: http://ecc2013.curlingevents.com/tv-broadcast-web-tv-coverage-schedule

Event website: http://ecc2013.curlingevents.com for further information, schedules of play, full team line ups and Results.
Event Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EuropeanCurlingChampionships
Twitter Hashtags: #ecc2013 #curling

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