Tuesday, March 28, 2006

WMC: Team Profile U15

Can you stand more curling? Of course! The last big bonspiel of the season is kicking off this Saturday in Lowell, Mass. It's time for the 2006 World Mens Championship! After this tournament, this blog will go from being mostly curling to being generic sports with a slight Nationals focus, as there's just going to be less curling to talk about.

But let's not think about that, let's think about the WMC! There's four teams that I'm going to be following healily this tournament. They happen to be the same four countries that made the playoffs in Torino, and they are viewed as probably the favorite four rinks going into Lowell. Somewhat sadly, the Kiwi team that bumped their way into the Olympic bonspiel just to go home empty handed has not qualified for a spot this tournament. In addition, the auto-qualified Italian team that made some waves is not going to be present. Instead, the field is as follows:

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Canada, USA

So, let's look first at the team that took silver in Torino. Finland is going to be represented by the same four curlers that took the Pinerolo ice, lead by the notably geeky man that the world just calls U15. His real name is the quite unweildy Markku Uusipaavalniemi, hence the rush to find him a nickname. U15 simply refers to the length of his last name. It's also the last time you're going to see his full name in this blog, because I had to copy and paste it that time, and there's no way I'm ever going to get it right.

The man is, by no stretch, a mathematical genius. He was once tested as the best mathematical mind in his country, can blow through a Rubik's Cube in seconds, and takes that knowledge out onto the ice. Curling is, at its base, a game of physics, angles, and math. Of course, there's knowing where the perfect shot needs to go, then actually putting it there.

This is the team that emerged atop the Olympic round robin with a 7-2 record that included losses only to Germany and the Swiss, before a horrible gold medal match that included surrendering a 6-point end (that should have been seven save for a missed shot by the Canadian skip) and ultimately conceding and taking home the silver after 8 ends.

Whether or not U-15 sees that as something that needs to be avenged, there's no way this Finland team is going to roll over, and they will be a force to be reckoned with on the Lowell ice.


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