Road To The Olympic Games

Curling

Swedish skip questions future after Olympic committee pulls funding

Sweden’s Niklas Edin has been one of the top curlers in the world for years. But now his team’s future is somewhat in question after he recently learned its funding has been cut by the national Olympic committee.

'There will be no budget to cover travel,' says curler Niklas Edin

Sweden’s Niklas Edin and his rink are in limbo after their funding was cut by the national Olympic committee. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Las Vegas — Sweden's Niklas Edin has been one of the top curlers in the world for years. He's a rock star in the sport, so much so he was the flag-bearer for his country at the Olympics. 

But now his team's future is somewhat in question after he recently learned its funding has been cut by the national Olympic committee.

"What I've heard is there's no money left in the Olympic committee. That's for all sports. It's going to be tricky for all sports in a couple of years to say the least," Edin said. 

Edin was informed in a very unceremonious way. 

"It's very disappointing. We found out just after the European championships. We won the event and right before the banquet we got that announcement, that for at least the next year there's no funding," Edin said.  

"We still haven't gotten final decisions on everything but we know there will be no budget to cover travel."

This all comes after Edin's team had been funded for the past 12 years — upwards of $150,000 US per year.

"We had a budget — money that covered expenses. It paid for travel, hotel, food and things like that," Edin said. 

"Then we had to hand over the receipts to get money back. It wasn't a hand out. We had to pay for it and show them receipts."

Edin captured silver at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, while Sweden's woman's team won gold. 

He's a two-time world champion, two-time Olympic medallist and placed first in the Grand Slam Tour last year. Sweden is currently ranked second in the world curling standings behind Canada. All signs point to this country being a curling powerhouse thanks in large part to the work Edin and his team has done. 

"Now we're going to have to work really hard to break even and have some sort of salary," Edin said.

Learning to curl with the best in Canada

Edin has credited Canada for a lot of his curling success. He has shared stories of growing up in Sweden watching old VHS tapes of Kevin Martin playing in Briers and learning how to play and call the game. He mirrors his game after Martin. 

Edin has spent a lot of time in Canada playing against the best teams all in an effort to always be better. Two years ago his entire team rented a place in Ottawa and spent the year living in Canada. Being able to do this was directly tied to the funding they were receiving.

Now that has all changed and Edin said they won't be able to travel nearly as much as they did in the past. He said last year they spent 200 days on the road — that will be cut down by at least 50 days as they search for sponsors to stay at an elite level.

"If they don't find sponsors, we don't get money. It's not as easy as what some people have thought. We're not fully funded athletes who can go around and get well paid. We have no salary."

What next?

National team coach Peja Lindholm, who won three world championships, is equally disappointed in the funding decision, but he isn't giving up just yet. 

"The closer we get to the Olympics, the funding might start again. In the worst-case scenario maybe we'll get two years of no funding," Lindholm said. 

Lindholm said the Olympic committee in Sweden cut funding to summer programs a year ago and now they're cutting back on the winter sports.

"I'll be communicating with the Olympic committee and maybe in May or June something will change. Hopefully we will have more funding," he said.

More than anything, Lindholm is trying to encourage Edin's team to keep moving forward and start finding other ways to fund their curling pursuit.

"The losers are the people who believe they are the victims. No matter what the circumstances are you have to find a good way out of there," Lindholm said.

"You have to have that attitude. I've talked to Nik about that."

Edin will finish competing at the world curling championships in Las Vegas before traveling to Toronto and Calgary to finish the Grand Slam Tour season. The team is using their bonus money they won last year to pay for these last two trips.

"We're going to try and keep it up. We're still winning quite a bit on tour so we're going to break even at least. If we can find more sponsors we'll make this work but it's not going to be easy. Now we have to win a lot on tour."

About the Author

Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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