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Ottawa named host of pivotal men’s world curling championship in 2021

Ottawa has been named the site of the 2021 men’s world curling championship, the first time the city has played host to the event and one that has major significance for Olympic participation in Beijing 2022. 

On Tuesday, the World Curling Federation named TD Place Arena as the site of next year’s event, scheduled to run April 3-11. This year’s tournament was to have taken place in Glasgow, Scotland in March but was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I am delighted to confirm that the world men’s curling championship 2021 will be held in Ottawa, Ont. during this upcoming season,” Kate Caithness, WCF president, said in a release.

WCF officials say they’re optimistic the event will take place despite the pandemic and that they will be able to “hold the championship with fans in the stands as normal.

“However, the health and safety of our athletes, fans and staff is always our top priority, so we will continue to closely monitor the various government and health authority guidelines, both in Canada and internationally, to ensure it is safe to do so,” the WCF wrote in an email to CBC Sports.

Top 6 teams earn Olympic spots

Canadian men have won the world title a record 36 times — Sweden is second with nine titles.

While it’s the first time Ottawa is hosting a world championship, Ontario has hosted three previous men’s championships — London, 1981; Toronto, 1986; Hamilton, 1996. TD Place Arena, with capacity for 8,200 for curling, previously played host to the 2016 Brier.

Under normal circumstances, a world curling championship is key in gaining qualifying points to earn a spot at the Olympics. Olympic qualification points accumulated from the two world championships leading into the Olympics in Beijing 2022 were going to initially determine what countries would qualify for the Games.

But because this year’s event was cancelled, the WCF made the decision to make next year’s tournament a crucial event in qualifying for Beijing – the top six teams in Ottawa will earn direct entry with a last-chance qualifier to be scheduled for later in 2021.

TD Place arena is home to the Ottawa 67s of the Ontario Hockey League. (CBC)

“With Olympic qualification points on the line, this championship will be vitally important and I am certain that Ottawa will host a first class event,” Caithness said.

That number will increase to seven if China fails to finish in the top six, as they will then be assigned the allocated host country place.

“That puts a lot of pressure on the team that goes next year,” said Canada’s Brad Gushue, who won gold in Turin in 2006. “I don’t know if our process is going to change but from an association standpoint, and as curling fan in Canada, you want to make sure you have your best teams representing you.”

Gushue’s Newfoundland and Labrador rink won their third Brier title in the past four years in March and had earned the right to represent Canada at this year’s worlds. Gushue, who turned 40 on Tuesday, lamented that missed chance when they were cancelled.

“At this point in my career … I don’t know how many more opportunities I’m going to get. You feel like you’re cheated a little bit,” Gushue told CBC Sports in April.

Brad Gushue celebrates his win at the Brier in March, the last curling event before the global shutdown of sports. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Gushue has said previously he enjoys playing international events in Canada because he says the ice conditions are better than in other parts of the world. After winning his first world title in 2017 in Edmonton, Gushue was defeated by Sweden in the final of the 2018 worlds where the ice conditions deteriorated in the desert heat.

With curling events being cancelled into October, there is some mounting concern from both curlers and Curling Canada regarding how the season might look.

Curling Canada officials have told CBC Sports they are looking into a number of scenarios regarding how the season might look, including the Brier and crowning a Canadian representative for worlds.  

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