If it is early January in Prague it usually means that it is time for the European Junior Challenge. Two years ago when we were last here it was thick snow and freezing conditions. This year not a flake of snow to be seen and temperatures of 5-6 degrees.
Practice day today and then the first games for the two teams are tomorrow.
Boys - very much a new team this year but Ben Fowler returns for his third year at skip with Oliver Kendall at third; Conor Simpson was alternate last year but for Cormac Barry and Renz Bunag this is their introduction to International curling. Andy Woolston is their coach.
There are 13 boys' teams entered and they are divided into a section of 6 and a section of 7, the top two to qualify for the semi-finals. The England boys are in the section of 6 and their programme is as follows (all times are UK time).
Friday 1830 v Austria
Saturday 1130 v Slovenia
Saturday 1830 v Estonia
Sunday 0800 v Latvia
Monday 0800 v Netherlands
The top two teams in this section could be Estonia (where Harri Lill must be making his final appearance as a junior having first played in 2006!!) and Netherlands, but on the day the English boys are capable of getting in the mix and the last game on Monday against the Dutch could be a critical one.
Girls - With Anna Fowler now over-age, Hetty Garnier steps up to skip in her 5th Junior Challenge. Angharad Ward, who missed out last year because she went to the Youth Olympic Games is third while Naomi Robinson also plays in her 5th Challenge at second. Lucy Sparks is the lead (she was alternate in Copenhagen last year) and Niamh Fenton comes in as alternate. Yours truly is their coach.
There are 12 girls' teams entered and they are split into 2 sections of 6. England's timetable is as follows (UK times):
Friday 1500 v Hungary
Saturday 0800 v Denmark
Saturday 1500 v Poland
Sunday 1130 v Latvia
Monday 1130 v Turkey
Denmark finished second overall last year and their skip and third return for a 4th year and they are probably the strongest team in the section. Again the top 2 qualify for the semi-finals.
You can follow the competition at http://ejcc2013.curling.cz/ but I will be aiming to post daily updates here.