The Chinese men's Olympic curling team's decision to enter the inaugural Weatherford World Curling Tour Classic at the Power Dodge Curling Centre proved to be very worthwhile.
The team, skipped by Rui Liu, defeated three-time Saskatchewan men's provincial champion Bruce Korte 4-2 in the cashspiel's final. The Liu rink pocketed $10,000 for the victory, while the Korte team won $6,000.
Coach Hongchen Li chalked up the victory to patience in what was a low-scoring game.
Liu stole one point in the first end, and then Korte blanked the second and third ends. Liu stole another point in the fourth, before Korte finally managed a single point in the fifth end to slash Liu's lead to 2-1.
Liu scored twice in the sixth to seize a 4-1 lead. Korte would get one in the seventh to trail by two with one end to play, and then Liu ran Korte out of rocks in the eighth end.
"In this game, points were difficult," Li said. "In this final game, the players had to be careful.
Li applauded the strength of the other teams in the tournament.
"In Canada, all of the teams are strong, and so we are just playing our game," said Li
The ice was straight during the weekend, he said.
Other members of the team were third Xiaoming Xu, second Dexin Ba, lead Jialang Zang and fifth Zou Dejia,
The Chinese team is currently travelling across Canada to prepare for the upcoming Olympics. They ventured to Ottawa after the Estevan cashspiel.
Li expects that they will play in about eight competitions in Canada this season, and they have already faced many of the top teams in Canada.
The Liu and the Korte rinks were the top teams for most of the weekend. Liu opened the tournament with a 5-3 loss against Estevan's Brent Gedak. But Liu responded with three straight victories in the B event – 9-3 in seven ends over Kerrobert's Brad Heidt, 6-4 over Regina's Scott Bitz and 8-3 over North Battleford's Scott Manners – to punch his ticket for the playoffs.
He defeated Saskatoon's Randy Woytowich 3-1 in the quarter-final, and Manners 5-4 in the semi-final.
Korte, meanwhile, won the A event with three straight victories. He beat Manitoba's Steve Irwin (score not available), and then defeated Regina's Jason Krupski 7-4 and Manners 5-3.
In the playoff round, he edged Bitz 5-4 in an extra end and Irwin 5-4, also in an extra end.
As for Gedak, after the win over Liu, he lost 7-6 in an extra end to Heidt in the A event quarter-final, 6-5 to Woytowich, and 6-2 to Irwin to end his tournament.
Gedak said it was the second time they have played the Liu rink. The Chinese have a strong team, and they're very focused, but Gedak said his rink had their best game of the cashspiel, and they were able to win.
A total of 16 teams were in the cashspiel.