Curling World Cup begins with Homan, Koe back in Canadian colours

Canada's 2018 Olympic curling representatives are in Suzhou, China this week for the inaugural Curling World Cup event.

Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe are once again wearing the maple leaf at an international competition and they'll be joined by Canada's world mixed doubles curling championship representatives, Laura Walker (formerly Crocker) and Kirk Muyres.

The Curling World Cup is a new initiative from the World Curling Federation and will include four stops, running from this week through May.

Homan's team out of Ottawa hasn't undergone any lineup changes from last year. Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle are all back from the rink that went 4-5 and missed the playoffs at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

There are some significant changes to the Koe rink, which finished fourth at the Olympics after going 6-3 in the round robin and then losing in both the semifinals and the bronze-medal game. Third Marc Kennedy and second Brent Laing left the team in the off-season. B.J. Neufeld, formerly of Mike McEwen's team, steps into the third position while Colton Flasch from Saskatchewan fills the second spot. 

Walker and Muyres competed for Canada this past April at the world mixed doubles championship in Sweden, where they captured the bronze medal.

Heavy hitters

It won't be easy for the Canadians in China. The event, which opens Wednesday, has attracted some big names.

Koe's revamped team will be tested in a tough group that also includes 2018 world bronze medallist Bruce Mouat of Scotland, Msaski Iwai of Japan and the skip that beat Koe's team in the Olympic bronze game — Peter de Cruz of Switzerland. The other group features Olympic silver medallist Niklas Edin, Rich Ruohonen of the United States and Norway's Steffen Walstad.

Kevin Koe has two new teammates after finishing out of the medals at the 2018 Olympics. (Aaron Favila, File/Associated Press)

Homan's team is in a group with Russia's Anna Sidorova, Minji Kim of South Korea and Nina Roth's team from the United States. The winner of that group will play against the winner of the group featuring Olympic gold medallist Anna Hasselborg of Sweden, Japan's Satsuki Fujisawa, Jennifer Dodds (who is filling in for Scottish skip Even Muirhead) and Sijia Liu of China.

The duo of Walker and Muyres will be in a group featuring Therese Vestman and Robin Ahlberg of Sweden, Kristin Moen Skaslien and Sander Olav Rolvag of Norway and Maria Komarova and Daniil Goriachev from Russia. The other group includes 2018 Olympic silver medallists Jenny Perret and Martin Rios from Switzerland, Sarah Anderson and Korey Dropkin of the United States, China's Jiaxin Yu and Xiangkun Wang and South Korea's Hyeri Jang and Chiwon Choi.

How it works

Each Curling World Cup stop will have three separate tournaments — men's, women's and mixed doubles. Each tournament will have eight teams, split into two groups of four. After a double round-robin within each group, the two group winners square off in the final.

Games consists of eight ends. Should a game be tied after the eighth end, a single-rock, closest-to-the-button shootout will determine the winner. Teams get three points for a win in regulation, two for a shootout win, one for a shootout loss and zero for a regulation loss.

The winning men's and women's teams this week in China will each take home $ 20,000 US, plus an additional $ 1,500 for every round-robin victory. The winner of the mixed doubles competition gets $ 10,000  plus an additional $ 750 for each round-robin win.

All three champions will also earn a berth in the Curling World Cup Grand Final in Beijing in May. That event will feature the winners of each of the three previous legs, host China, the reigning world champions, a team invited by the World Curling Federation and the two highest-ranked remaining teams in the World Cup rankings.

After this week's event in Suzhou, the next World Cup stop is Dec. 5-9 in Omaha, Neb., followed by Jan. 30-Feb. 3 in Jonkoping, Sweden.

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