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Professional rock thrower – Finland’s master of curling

October 31, 2005
The Winter Olympic Games countdown has begun. I am anxiously awaiting the Winter games, of course because I am crazy hockey fan and I ski like a nut in the winter, but also because I like some of the other sports that (unfortunately) do not get a lot of publicity in Finland. I hope this might change depending on how the Finns do this time around. I’ll turn your attention to the sport of curling.
 
In Finland curling is synonymous with the name Markku Uusipaavalniemi. I learned about Markku’s background some time after moving here. There’s a great story on the web I read a few years back about how fans at a big curling championship shouted out the letters to Markku’s last name in order to cheer him on. (You know – the "Gimme a <letter>…" cheer) When it came to the "What does that spell?" part of the cheer, people fell silent in confusion. It’s true, Markku’s last name is a real mouthful and probably causes headaches in administrative circles; but there is no doubt that he is Finland’s best curler.
 
Uusipaavalniemi has been curling on the European and world scenes for more than 20 years and one thing is for sure, when he competes he is almost consistently in the top five. He has won two World Championship bronze medals, won European championship gold (2000) and two European championship bronze medals, the last one coming in 2001. See more at www.curling.fi/english/teamfinland.shtml. (He’s been so close on so many occasions that I think he and the rest of the guys are about due!)
 
Just recently Uusipaavalniemi led Finland to the top of the podium at the inaugural European Championships in mixed curling from October 18-22 at Canillo Ice Arena in Andorra. Skip Uusipaavalniemi, Third Kirsi Nykänen, Second Teemu Salo and Lead Tiina Kautonen defeated Sweden 6-4 in gold medal game. Germany defeated Scotland 7-3 in the bronze-medal game. While the mixed format is popular in club competition in Canada, Uusipaavalniemi said that the mixed format is just starting to gain ground around the world at the elite level.
 
Uusipaavalniemi and the rest of the Finnish men’s team will be heading to Canada in November to participate in a high-level curling bonspiel as the road to Torino 2006 heats up. See more at www.curling.fi. Canada’s Olympic qualifiers will be in December when Canada’s best men and women curlers will duke it out for a chance to represent Canada at the Winter Olympics. See more at www.curling.ca.
 
You can try curling here in the capital area. For €150 you get two hours on a curling sheet, including a quick tutorial from an international level player and an opportunity to play a game. I convinced a group of my co-workers to try it out a couple of weeks ago and we had so much fun that we’re going to play again. Find out more at http://www.curling.fi/halli/esittely.shtml
 
Markku Uusipaavalniemi in action at the 2005 World Curling Championships in Victoria, BC.
 
Photo by Michael Burns Photography. Courtesy of the Canadian Curling Association. Used with permission.
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