Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada a garden for Edin

Pride of Sweden gets best competition here

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REGINA -- He has The Last Great One as his coach and is being groomed by the incomparable Swedish curling program to be that country's Next Great One.

Although Sweden does not have anything approaching the depth of competitive curling teams that exist in Canada -- or even in Scotland, for that matter -- the Swedes have shown a remarkable ability over the years to produce one truly great champion who can compete and win against the world's best.

For years, that was four-time world champion Elisabet Gustafson. Then it was three-time world champion Peja Lindholm. Most recently, it has been two-time Olympic gold medallist Anette Norberg. Now, waiting in the Swedish curling queue to take his spot on the international stage is 25-year-old Niklas Edin.

Already a world junior champion (2004) and European champion (2009), Edin arrived here at the 2011 World Men's Curling Championship with something that was new to him -- expectations.

With a fourth-place performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Edin served notice he could compete with the the world's best. The challenge in Regina is to prove he can also beat them.

Edin says that is a challenge, playing for country where he doesn't have much for top competition to help him refine his skills.

"We need to be over here in Canada a lot to play the best teams," he said. "We don't get the same experience or enough tough games."

That creates a strange predicament for the Swedes at an event like the worlds. "This is pretty much our best practice at the same time as it is also our most important championship to play," Edin said.

He said the Swedish formula for success has been to get the most out of the limited number of curlers the country has.

"Because we're such a small country, we only get one or two good teams. So we hand-pick our players to build those teams who do have a chance out there," Edin said. "So by doing that, we can get one good team. But beyond that, it's pretty much nothing."

The other part of the Swedish program is to send their teams to curl extensively in Canada in the winter. For Edin, that meant four trips to Canada this winter -- twice to compete at Grand Slam events (he lost quarter-finals both times), once for the Continental Cup and once for the worlds.

Lindholm, who would actually move to Canada and set up a winter base in Portage la Prairie in his prime, is coaching Edin here this week and believes his young charge has all the makings of another great Swedish champion.

"Niklas knows that to be on the top, you have to stay in Canada, play in Canada and beat the best Canadian teams," Lindholm said Wednesday. "That's the reason they're so good. They're really determined to be the best.

"I was a little disappointed they didn't perform better than they did today. They were really looking forward to playing Canada and I know they expected to play better than they did."

Edin faced his most difficult challenge this week against Canada Wednesday afternoon and did not fare well, falling behind quickly and never really posing much of a threat as he lost 10-6 to drop his record to 5-3, putting Sweden in a tie with Switzerland for the fourth and final playoff spot heading into Wednesday night's draw.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2011 C2

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