CHATHAM, Ont. — One of the top curlers in the world says his team's future is questionable because of financial issues.
Sweden's Niklas Edin is a household name in the curling world — he's the reigning world champion and won a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics.
He was his country's flag-bearer at the Games. But after having most of his Olympic funding pulled last season, the team is now in serious jeopardy of not being able to compete in future events.
"We'll need to make the semis in pretty much every event we play in to break even," Edin told CBC Sports. "Right now that's not happening, so we need to pick it up really fast if we want to keep playing full time. If it stays like this, I don't think we have another three years to the next Olympics."
The team is literally playing for their curling lives right now and in their first major event of the year, they've lost every game they've played. It's a dire situation.
"It sucks. This is by far the toughest season financially," Edin said.
"That's after an Olympic season and silver medal. It's tough. We're in between having to stop doing this or just take our chances and probably don't have enough in the bank accounts when we stop our careers."
Edin says there have been at least a couple of times he's considered quitting all together because of how difficult their financial situation has become. The team is getting some Olympic funding — three out of their 18 events will be covered by their national Olympic committee. They're on the hook for the rest.
"Right now we're down so low with funding from them. We really need to find sponsors and aren't succeeding so far," Edin said.
Olympic funding cut
CBC Sports first reported Edin's financial issues during the world curling championship last April in Las Vegas. Edin had just found out he'd be losing most of his Olympic funding. This all came after Edin's team had been funded for the past 12 years — upwards of $ 150,000 US per year.
"It's very disappointing. We found out just after the European championships. We won the event and right before the banquet we got that announcement, that for at least the next year there's no funding," Edin said last April.
As last season ended and throughout the off-season, Edin attempted to find new sponsors but so far has essentially come up empty-handed.
"Curling is a big sport in Canada and no where else," Edin said. "That's the reality we live in and sponsorship is hard to get anywhere else outside of Canada."
Edin says they've decided they're going to be all in right now, hoping they can maintain a high enough world ranking to play in all the major events — then try and cash in to keep playing. He says if everything goes as planned, they'll spend about 150 days in Canada this year.
"All the main events are so far from Sweden, so we have to travel a lot of days," Edin said. "We can never really make money off this sport. We would be better off if we had a job on the side."
Financial woes not the only issue
To make matters worse, Edin is still recovering from three surgeries on his lower back during the summer. In fact, Edin has had nine surgeries in the last nine years.
"The key for me right now is to get rid of all the injuries. Hopefully I can keep that lower back in good shape," he said.
Edin says he's been trying to rehab as much as possible, but isn't anywhere close to where he wants to be.
"I'm counting on taking a few more weeks before getting back on track. It's feeling a little more like normal again. We haven't played well yet this season," Edin said.
Edin is feeling the pressure to recover in a hurry knowing that their livelihoods at this point depend on how well they play.
"Instead of thinking about curling and getting better we've been focusing on our financial problems," he said.
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