Curlers ready to rock and roll in Sochi

Sun Feb 9, 2014 2:49am EST
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By Steve Keating

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The Canadian gold medal favorites have their game-faces on and the wacky Norwegians will be wearing their outrageous pants as curling joins the Sochi Olympic action on Monday.

Curling joined the official program in 1998 and has grown from fringe sport to Olympic mainstay and one of the Games more intriguing and popular events.

Part of curling's unique charm is that the athletes competing for medals are, for the most part, true amateurs, men and women with full-time jobs who play for the love of their sport.

Thomas Ulsrud's Norwegian foursome, silver medal winners at the 2010 Winter Games, are back and promising even more of the quirky fashions that turned them into instant celebrities in Vancouver but it is Canadian rinks skipped by Brad Jacobs and Jennie Jones that start as favorites to sweep Olympic gold.

Since curling was added to the Olympic lineup Canadian rinks have won medals at each edition in both the men's and women's competitions.

On the men's side, Canada took silver in Nagano and Salt Lake City and gold in Turin and Vancouver.

The torch has now been passed to Jacobs, who will try to skip Canada to a third straight gold in Sochi, while Jones will bid to put the Canadian women on top of the podium for the first time since the 1998 Nagano Olympics and end a run of silver and bronze medal finishes.

The Canadian men have won a record 15 consecutive Olympic matches, a string of success that stretches back to the 2006 Turin Winter Games and a loss to Italy in the round robin.   Continued...

Workers set up the Ice Cube Curling Center as preparations continue for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch