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Thursday, 25 March 2010 11:37

The first of many for Team Latvia

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By Allison Werbowetsky
Swift Current
It's the first time ever a Latvian curling team of any kind — women's, men's or junior's — has qualified to compete at a world curling championship. Having only curled for eight years, skip Iveta Stasa-Sarsune is beyond excited to have the opportunity to compete at this level so soon in her career.

"It's very nice to be here. We are very glad to be here and play against such strong teams," she said.

Although Latvia is sitting at the bottom of the rankings in last place at the 2010 Ford World Women's Curling Championship with only one win and seven losses as of Wednesday afternoon, Stasa-Sarsune says her team is far from giving up hope.

The Latvian underdogs shocked a packed house at the Credit Union i-plex as well as a surprised American skip, Erika Brown, with a 7-6 domination over the United States, earning Latvia their first win after only three games played.

"It was very great. We didn't expect this," Stasa-Sarsune said, still allowing it all to sink in three days later.

Stasa-Sarsune, 33, third Una Grava-Germane, 38, second Ieva Krusta, 33, and lead Zanda Bikse, 39, make up one of the oldest teams competing here in Swift Current. Her age, however, is of no detriment to Stasa-Sarsune. In fact, a wiser, more composed team may prove to be a positive attribute.

"I think we can be a little calmer than youngsters, maybe. I don't think that age is so important for us. There are no young women's team in Latvia so we are the same age," she said.

The 200 curlers who make up the six women's and six men's teams in Latvia are all late bloomers to the sport as well. Curling was only introduced in Latvia eight years ago.

Up until fall of last year, the 12 curling teams were forced to play on hockey ice, leaving Stasa-Sarsune and her team struggling to find ice time to practise.

Finally, a new two-sheet curling club opened up in the City of Jelgava — located 41 km southwest of Riga, the nation's capital — last October and still stands alone as the only authentic curling club in the country.

Stasa-Sarsune and her team have competed in the B Pool of the European Curling Division since 2002. They placed 11th at the European B championship and went on to beat Finland 2-0 in a best-of-three challenge event to make it to Swift Current this year.

The Latvian newbies hope this is only the first of many women's world championships to come for them.
"This is the first time we've had this kind of competition. We think that we should train more and yes, there's lots more to be," Stasa-Sarsune said.

Perhaps with a little perseverance and a lot of hard work, this foursome may be the start of a new trend in the basketball-dominated country of Latvia.

Stasa-Sarsune first developed an interest in the not-yet popular game of curling after watching the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan on television. She secretly wanted to play, never anticipating that anything like that would ever actually make it's way to Latvia.

"This was from Nagano Olympic Games and I saw this on TV and I decided (if) this sport will come in Latvia, I'll like to try this. I didn't expect that it will come to us, but in 2002 it was in our country," she said, and she's been hooked ever since.

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