Final Olympic Winter Games places up for grabs in the Czech Republic

  • Czech Republic's skip Jiri Snitil at the Europeans Photo: © WCF / Céline Stucki

Curling's international focus will turn to Pilsen in the Czech Republic when the Winter Arena Košutka hosts the Olympic Qualification Event 2017, between 5 and 10 December.

This event will see seven women's teams and eight men’s teams compete for the final four – two women’s and two men’s – places in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games team curling tournaments.

So far, eight Member Associations have already been allocated for both the women’s and men’s event at the Games – which begins on Wednesday 14 February and runs until Sunday 25 February 2018. The Member Associations already qualified booked their places at the Games either through performances at the world curling championships in 2016 and 2017 or, in the case of Korea, as hosts.

The nations that will be competing in Pilsen did not earn enough Olympic Qualification Points from the 2016 and 2017 world curling championships for automatic qualification, but took part in at least one of the world curling championships that followed the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The seven women’s teams competing are: China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy and Latvia.

The eight men's teams involved are: China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Russia.

In the women's line-up, China’s Bingyu Wang took Olympic bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games and before that won gold at the 2009 world women’s curling championship in Gangneung, Republic of Korea – which is the same venue that will be used for the 2018 Games.

Czech Republic women's team is skipped by Anna Kubeskova, and this team finished seventh at the recent Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2017

Denmark are skipped by Madeleine Dupont and in their most recent outing at the European Curling Championships they finished eighth overall. They also beat Finland – who won the European B-Division 2017 – in the world championship challenge. In the Danish team, sisters Madeleine and Denise Dupont are both previous Olympians.

Germany, skipped by Daniela Jentsch, finished sixth at the European event while Italy, under Diana Gaspari, who played in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, took bronze medals there. Latvia complete the women’s line-up. Latvia last played in the world curling championship in 2014, to be eligible for this event. Most recently, under skip Iveta Stasa-Sarsune, they finished second in the 2017 European B-Division.

The Chinese men are skipped by Rui Lui, who, along with team members Xiaming Xu and Jialiang Zang, competed at both the 2014 and 2010 Games. Czech Republic's men are skipped by Jiri Snitil, who finished third in the 2013 Olympic Qualification event in Fuessen, Germany, and just missed out on a place at the 2014 Games in Sochi. Most recently, Snitil led his team to a third-place finish in the B-Division of the Le Gruyère AOP European Championships 2017 in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Rasmus Stjerne skips a Danish team that took world silver in 2016 and played in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The Finnish team is skipped by Aku Kauste, who competed at the Fuessen event in 2013. This team won the B-Division at the recent European Curling Championships in November.

Alexander Baumann from Germany will be making his first appearance at this event. His team includes second player Daniel Herberg, who has previously competed at both the 2002 and 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and finished fifth at the Europeans. Under skip Alexey Timofeev, Russia finished sixth at the Europeans, while Jaap van Dorp’s Netherlands, newcomers at this level, were seventh.

Joel Retornaz and his Italian team finished eighth in St Gallen and then survived a challenge from Finland for the last available European place in this season’s world curling championship.

From Tuesday 5 until Saturday 9 December the women's and men's teams will play in seven sessions of round-robin play. After this, the top three teams – in the women’s and men’s events – will play in a mini Page Play-off format, with the round-robin leaders playing the second-placed teams. The winners of these games will take the first of the two Olympic places, and the losers will then play the third-placed round-robin teams in sudden-death games for the second and last available Olympic slots.

The eight women's and men's Member Associations already qualified for the Olympic Winter Games are (in order of qualification point ranking):

Women: Canada, Russia, Switzerland, Great Britain (*qualified by Scotland), United States, Sweden, hosts Korea and Japan.

Men: Canada, Sweden, United States, Japan, Switzerland, *Great Britain, Norway and Korea.

To follow the build-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #OQE2017 #Roadto2018 #curling