Swedish skip Nik Edin winning world titles — the Canadian way
‘We probably knew way more about Canadian curlers than we did about Swedish curlers,’ says defending champion
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Some of Niklas Edin's greatest curling moments have come in Canada — fitting considering he learned how to master the game by watching Canadians.
Edin likes to talk about how he used to sit in his home in Sweden while growing up and watching old VHS tapes of past Briers – he specifically watched and modelled his game after legendary Canadian skip Kevin Martin.
"We probably knew way more about Canadian curlers than we did about Swedish curlers," admits Edin.
The Swedish skip is back in Canada for yet another world curling championship. It's his ninth appearance at the big bonspiel, winning it three times. And they've all come on North American soil.
"We love playing in Canada and we play so many events here so it feels like a second home for us now," he said.
Edin is the defending champion at this year's event. He defeated Brad Gushue to claim the world curling title in Las Vegas last year. His other two world championship titles were won in Canada.
Should he do it again on Canadian soil, Edin will be in elite curling company — he'd be only the sixth curler ever to have four world titles. The other five are all Canadians.
"We definitely embrace that pressure," Edin said. "I think the fact it's in Canada, I think it's a good thing for our team."
This has been a different curling season for Edin and his Swedish squad. In past years they would spend plenty of time on the road, specifically in Canada.
Three years ago they even rented a place in Ottawa and lived in the nation's capital for much of the year. But this year they've been on the road for about 70 less days.
"We've had seven weeks off leading into this event. No competitions or travel as a team in seven weeks. That's a long time. It feels like we were starting the season all over again," Edin said.
And that lack of travel had the team jet lagged to start the event.
"I've been waking up at 4 a.m. I thought it might affect how we played," Edin said.
But so far the defending champions look good as they've only lost one game. The highlight of the tournament for Edin so far has been a 9-4 victory over Canada's skip Kevin Koe on Wednesday night.
One year ago CBC Sports first reported that Sweden's curling funding had been pulled by the country's Olympic committee.
Edin got the grim news after the European championships a year ago.
"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 told CBC Sports last April.
It came 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."
It's made this curling season a challenge — the team is basically going to break even. Now Edin is preparing for a meeting with Sweden's Olympic committee to see what the future holds.
"It's just not a good situation. We won't make a ton of money but at least you could make something so you're not starting all over after a long career. It'll never be lucrative for a curler in Sweden," Edin said.
And the funding issue isn't the only thing Edin is dealing with.
To make matters worse, the Swede is still recovering from three surgeries on his lower back during the summer. In fact, Edin has had nine surgeries in the last nine years.
"The key for me right now is to get rid of all the injuries. Hopefully I can keep that lower back in good shape," he said.
The team also brought its own physiotherapist from Sweden.
"I'm not going overboard here, at least right now. I'm taking an hour of treatment every day from the therapist we brought with us," Edin said.
It's been paying off so far for Edin as he heads into the toughest stretch of the tournament.
"I'm feeling really good right now but I'm not going to jinx it. I felt really good going into Europeans too and then hurt my back three days in."