Look both ways in Sochi

Blazers' Lipon has words of advice for Brown curling rink

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
February 22, 2013 01:00 AM

This photo taken on Feb. 4 provides an aerial view of the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, as work continues on various venues. The structure in the back centre is the Fisht Olympic Stadium, while directly in front of it is the Bolshoy Ice Dome. To left of the Ice Dome is the Ice Cube Curling Center where the Corryn Brown rink will play in the world junior championships beginning on Thursday.

If JC Lipon can offer one bit of advice to Corryn Brown's Canadian-champion rink ahead of the world junior curling championships in Sochi, Russia, it's this:
Look both ways before crossing the street.

Brown, third Erin Pincott, second Sam Fisher, lead Sydney Fraser and coach Ken Brown are to leave for Sochi on Saturday. The world junior championships are to start Thursday and run through March 10.

It wasn't that long ago that Lipon, a winger with the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, was in Russia for a world junior championship of his own. In Lipon's case, it was a hockey championship - where Canada finished fourth - and it was played in Ufa.

Lipon, 19, isn't much older than are the members of the Brown rink - all are 17 - but he has seen Russia first-hand.

"It's a free-for-all on the roads," said Lipon, a Regina native. "We were in the 10th biggest city, and the driving's weird . . . it makes it interesting."

Fortunately for Brown and Co., the tournament will provide a driver for each team to make the 15-minute trip between the athletes' compound and the Ice Cube Curling Centre, where both the 2013 world junior and the 2014 Olympic curling events will be held.

And the rink also will have a team leader to chaperone it throughout the tournament. The Canadian Curling Association assigned Andrea Ronnebeck of Kenora, Ont., to follow the team, and her role - in her own words - is to "meet all the team's needs so all the coach has to do is coach and all the team has to do is play."

It will help that Ronnebeck already has been a team leader in Russia - she helped Canada's entries at the 2010 world senior championships in Chelyabinsk.

She has seen just how crazy the roads can be. In one case, there was a boulevard near the hotel in Chelyabinsk - at night, it was seven or eight lanes wide; during the day, when classes were in session at a nearby university, cars would be parked wherever they could, leaving only one or two lanes open to driving.

"When we went from the hotel to the curling venue (in Chelyabinsk), it would take us 45 minutes at most to walk," she said. "Some days, the traffic was so heavy, it would take 45 minutes to drive."

That's not to say the Kamloops girls - or Matt Dunstone's Winnipeg rink, which will represent Canada on the boys' side - will be roaming all over town.

"There will be extremely high security at the competition because it's a test event for the Olympics," Ronnebeck said. "We won't be allowed to walk (to the rink) or leave the compound without escort or approval.

"This is being run by the World Curling Federation and Russia's curling federation, but the police are the bosses."

Lipon and his teammates were under the leadership of Hockey Canada, and also had some restrictions throughout their two-week stay in Ufa in late December and early January.

"We were mostly focusing on the task at hand," he said. "We just went to the rink and back.

"It's a different place. . . . It was a culture shock, it's a whole different world over there."

Like Hockey Canada, the CCA has been to big events like this, so has plans in place to deal with pretty much everything.

The first concern - and most likely the biggest - is jetlag.

Brown and her teammates are to leave Kamloops on Saturday and arrive at their destination at 4 a.m., Sochi time, on Monday. The trip will include stops in Calgary and Toronto, where they'll meet up with the Dunstone rink, as well as in Istanbul, where there's an eight-hour layover.

"There's a hotel in the airport in Istanbul," Ronnebeck said. "We plan to take some time to rest there."

The flight from Istanbul to Sochi is about two hours long.

"We'll get into the hotel (in Sochi) at around 4 a.m.," Ronnebeck added. "We'll sleep a couple of hours and then at lunch get out in the sunshine. Tuesday's a day to recuperate - we want to be up around 8 or 9 a.m. . . . And then go to bed tired on Tuesday night."

The girls will be given light boxes to help deal with jetlag, and Ronnebeck is hoping they will sleep as much as they can on the Toronto-Istanbul flight.

Hockey Canada provided similar light boxes to its world junior team, but Lipon will tell you it's no simple task to get over jetlag.

"When you think you're tired, and it's midday, don't sleep," Lipon said. "If you sleep then, you won't sleep at night. You have to sacrifice a little to adjust.

"But it's easier going there and adjusting than to come home and adjust."

And if Lipon can offer a little more advice, it's to eat well.

Ronnebeck agreed, and has encouraged the girls to pack extra food in their suitcases if they have particular dislikes.

"Eat breakfast when you can," Lipon said. "We had our own chefs over there, but the food can be a little odd sometimes. Eat as much as you can when you do get a good meal."

Through all this planning and security and sleeping, it's easy to lose sight of why the quartet is going to Russia - to curl.

The Brown rink will play a nine-game round-robin before the Page playoffs start March 8. Canada opens Thursday against Denmark's Stephanie Risdal Nielsen - Canada also will play rinks from Scotland (March 1), Russia (March 2), Japan (March 3), Czech Republic (March 4), Switzerland and the U.S. (March 5), and Sweden and Norway (March 7).

And there will be some time to see the sites around Sochi, a resort city of more than 300,000 people, but nothing has been planned.

"We'll arrange that when we get there," Ronnebeck said. "We might go into the mountains or see some of the other (Olympic) venues. Maybe we'll go see the Black Sea and the seawall . . . we'll do our best to arrange things when we're there."


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