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Husband-wife Hamblin team to coach in Switzerland

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THEY'VE coached Team Canada to a world junior championship.

And now they've been asked to do something even more ambitious for Team Switzerland -- guide them to Olympic gold in Vancouver next February.

The husband and wife team of Lorne and Chris Hamblin have been hired by the Swiss Curling Federation as the country's new national coaches, making the Morris couple just the latest in a long line of Canadians to have been hired to teach other nations how to curl Canadian-style.

"We've been hired as co-coaches," Lorne Hamblin said this week. "We're going to be working with all the Swiss teams, all the time. We'll be working a lot outside of Canada and we'll be travelling a lot with the teams to bonspiels this fall and then through the winter and into Vancouver.

"It's going to be a lot of time outside of Canada, but also a lot of time here too."

The Hamblins have been tireless curling volunteers and both have long curling resumés. They're perhaps best known, however, for helping pilot a 2002 junior men's team that included their sons David and Kevin all the way to a world junior championship.

The Hamblins got the Swiss job after seeing the vacancy posted on a Manitoba curling website run by Resby Coutts, They interviewed last November and then were formally awarded the positions earlier this month.

In addition to hands-on experience in curling coaching, the Hamblins also currently have the distinction of being the only curling coaches in Manitoba with Level 4 coaching certification, something they obtained only recently after a gruelling process. (Connie Laliberte, high performance co-ordinator for the Manitoba Curling Association, is also in the process of obtaining her level 4 certification.)

"It was two years of night school at the U of W," Hamblin explained. "And then we had to defend a thesis."

The Hamblins head to Europe in the footsteps of such fellow Manitoban curlers as 1984 Brier champion John Helston, who was the national coach for the Denmark curling program in Turin in 2006.

There has been rumblings within Canada's curling community in recent years about all the Canadians being poached by other nations to teach them a sport Canada dominates internationally.

Those rumblings became louder in the past two years with the meteoric rise of China's Bingyu Wang, who won gold and silver at the women's worlds in the past two years respectively since retaining Quebec's Dan Rafael as the team coach.

Hamblin said he and his wife only wanted a chance to coach at a high level and the Swiss opportunity came along before any other. "If there had been similar opportunities in Canada," says Hamblin, "we would have pursued that. But there weren't."

The Hamblins will be based in Bern. They have a contract for the 2009-10 curling season that will see them coach the Swiss men and women at both the Olympics and world championships. Their status will be reviewed at the end of the winter.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2009 C5

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