They come from a country where curling isn’t nearly as popular as it is in Canada but they hope they are on the road to the Olympics.
The Dutch national men’s curling team spent the week training at the Salmon Arm Curling Centre in preparation for a World Curling Tour event held in Penticton from November 3 to 5.
The team’s coach, Shari Leibbrandt-Demmon grew up in Salmon Arm and still has family in the area.
Leibbrandt-Demmon said there are only approximately 150 curlers in all of the Netherlands. The country has only one curling club with three ice sheets.
“Hopefully it will start getting some more popularity with the success of the team,” Leibbrandt-Demmon said.
The team has achieved considerable success, qualifying for the world championships held in Edmonton this spring. Leibbrandt-Demmon said they are the first Dutch men’s team to appear at the worlds in 20 years. She said they were the youngest team at the world championships – aged between 19 and 27 – and if they qualify she expects them to be the youngest team at the Olympics.
“We arrived here a couple days ago and everyone is very hospitable and very nice people – Canadians – so we feel very welcome and very happy to be here,” said the Dutch team’s lead Carlo Glasbergen.
Leibbrandt Demmons said local residents had come out to watch some of the team’s practices.
“Locals that have familiarity with curling have seen these guys on TV from the worlds and followed their progress along. We had some dutch people in the community stop by just to say go Dutch go.”
The team’s second, Laurens Hoekman praised the Salmon Arm Curling Club both for their friendly staff and for its size; at six sheets it is larger than the Netherlands’ only designated curling club.
Competition will be tough at the upcoming world-tour event in Penticton with elite teams from both BC and outside the province in the bracket.
“We’ve trained hard, we think there’s lots of potential. It’s a tough field, we play (Kevin) Koe in our first game,” said Wouter Gosgens, the team’s third.
The team played an exhibition game on October 29 against the Curling Centre’s ice-maker Seth Vogan and a few other members.
Jaap van Dorp, the Dutch team’s skip said it is always a pleasure to meet other curlers and the exhibition game was also an opportunity to get into game mode ahead of the matches in Penticton.
Leibbrandt-Demmons said the team will get five guaranteed round-robin games in Penticton. The top eight teams after the round robin make the playoffs.
The Dutch men’s and their coach were happy with the training they did in Salmon Arm and the members and staff of the local curling club were happy to see world-class curling talent in action.