by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
Every year up to 200 students apply to play for this university curling team.
What school in Canada is this you ask?
Believe it or not, you have to head to China to get the answer as it is the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE).
Arranged through University of Alberta Augustana Vikings curling coach Roger Galenza, a team of four female and three male student/athletes from SUIBE were in Alberta recently for exhibition play.
"Originally the reason I started this, was so we can have an exchange program with them," said Galenza, in a telephone interview Saturday, while sitting inside his vehicle in a crowded West Edmonton Mall parking lot, having just dropped off the Chinese contingent so they could shop and have fun.
"One year we go there and the next year they come here. To broaden not only our curling experience for our players but to see what different cultures exist."
A total of eight games were played against a variety of teams including the Vikings, community teams from Camrose, Alberta and with a trip to Lloydminster, curlers from the Lakeland College Rustlers.
"It was a great experience for our kids and also for their kids," said Lakeland College Rustlers curling coach Dusty Makichuk. "They are technically strong and well-coached.
"Being that it was an international competition, it was great for our side and their side. For the first two games we mixed up the teams and it helped break the ice. We had pizza in-between games and then we went head-to-head with them and it well played out there.
"Six hours after they met they were now close friends and there was a lot of hugging at the end"
As aforementioned, up to 200 students try out for the curling teams at SUIBE.
"I talked to their coach and he says at first they do heavy physical training before they even get to curl and that eliminates some," said Galenza. "They practice a lot and being in physical shape and athletic is an important part.
"They are mechanically sound. A lot of them have started at the age of 17 or 19 and now that they are 20, they have gone through a very high-volume of reps in those two years."
According to the Chinese Winter Sport Federation, there are five professional curling stadiums in China, mostly in northern cities like Yichun, Heilongjiang Province and Beijing.
As attested, the sport is flourishing in Shanghai said SUIBE Director of the Physical Education Cui Shulin in an interview.
"Curling is a sport that is really appropriate for university students. It needs physical control as well as mental judgment. It is sometimes called chess on ice. The Chinese government has been trying to develop the traditional northern winter sports in the south, and the Shanghai government has tried four different sports. Our university is trying to make a breakthrough with curling. And as it is not so famous or popular we have a good chance at winning some championships soon."
The men's team came sixth in the 2013 National Chinese Curling Tournament out of 18 teams. The women's team defeated a Japanese team and came ninth at the 26th Winter World University Games.