After making headlines for joining the Russian Curling Federation (RCF) in April, Team Gunnlaugson’s contract has been terminated just weeks after they won the Russian nationals.
The reasons given for terminating the deal “were not 100% certain,” said Gunnlaugson, but that it could have been a reversal of political plans for the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games to be hosted in Sochi, Russia. When Jason Gunnlaugson, along with Justin Richter and Tyler Forrest signed on they were to be funded as pro curlers in an attempt to put Russians on the podium in 2014.
In order for them to compete in the upcoming European Championships, their Russian citizenship had to be in place. However as the deadline approached their citizenship was not granted and this gave the RCF the opportunity to change their mind on the young men from Manitoba.
The severing of the relationship between Team Gunnlaugson and RCF came just a few weeks after Gunnlaugson’s rink won the Russian Curling Cup, the national championship. Completing the team that competed at nationals was Russian born curlers, Alexey Stukalskiy and Alexander Kozyrev.
Heading into the championship, there was enormous pressure placed on the team. Gunnlaugson said, “Winning was so important.” In fact, he noted that winning the final was not only a relief and joy, but was “so moving to win a nationals and wonderful for their Russian teammates to win.”
This was the last event as Russian pro curlers for Forrest, Richter and Gunnlaugson. Speculation is that Stukalskiy and Kozyrev will join skip Andrey Drozdov at the European Championships in Champery, Switzerland beginning December 3rd. This is the first step for European countries to earn points towards qualifying for World Championships and the Olympic Winter Games. Russia, as the host country, already has a berth.
As for Gunnlaugson and company, it is too early to know where they go from here. They will take time to re-evaluate life and their curling future. For the sake of curling fans, let’s hope these guys are back in the fold soon and wreaking havoc in the talented curling province of Manitoba.