East Asia becomes a curling powerhouse

“There are a lot of systematic things in Canada that have made it difficult for people to keep going,” Lind said. He said there was a lack of funding and no substantial plan to develop the next generation of curlers.

When Mr Lind arrived in Japan in 2013, the Fujisawa team had not won any medals and lacked international experience. He said the biggest cultural difference was how the team played versus how he learned the game at home.

In Alberta, he said, curlers learned by playing games. But in Japan, they perfected their technical skills by, for example, sliding 100 times through cones. “Even just to get them to play as a fun game against each other, they’re still a bit apprehensive,” Lind said. “They’re like, ‘No, we just want to practice.'”

The team is named after the skip, Satsuki Fujisawa, 30, and is made up of five women, including two sisters. Three of them are from the northern city of Tokoro, widely regarded as the birthplace of the sport in Japan.

Curling came to Japan in 1980 after Tokoro resident Yuji Oguri attended a workshop with curlers from Alberta.

Later, Mr. Oguri and his friends started making stones from two-litre beer kegs and making their own curling shoes, by gluing sheets of plywood and leather to their boots. They created their rinks, trampling the snow to flatten the surface and periodically sprinkling water to keep it frozen.

“It was hard work, but fun in a way, looking back on it now,” said Shinobu Fujiyoshi, 76, a retired farmer who is the oldest curler on his current team. “There was no fun or place to go in the winter, but it was a place where we could get together.”