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Toronto curlers double as elite world players for Hong Kong

Jason Chang, Hong Kong's men's skip, watches his rock at the 2016 Pacific-Area Curling Championships (PACC) in Uiseong, South Korea. (Photo: World Curling Federation/Richard Gray).

Jason Chang, Hong Kong’s men’s skip, watches his rock at the 2016 Pacific-Area Curling Championships (PACC) in Uiseong, South Korea. (Photo: World Curling Federation/Richard Gray).

Jason Chang and Grace Bugg have both dual citizenships and curling identities. These Toronto residents double as curlers who represent Hong Kong on the international curling scene.

Next month, Chang and Bugg, both Toronto Curling Association Board Members, will fly to compete at the 2017 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (PACC) in Australia.

“The funny thing is, the Hong Kong colours are also red and white so I feel like I’m still wearing the Canada colours at the same time,” said Chang, who skips Hong Kong’s mixed and men’s teams.

Chang is a member at the East York Curling Club. Bugg, who’s the alternate for Hong Kong’s women’s team, curls out of Leaside Curling Club.

In order to represent a country’s curling team, an athlete must be a citizen or resident of the country for at least two consecutive years, according to World Curling Federation rules and regulations. Both Chang and Bugg were both born in Hong Kong.

While Hong Kong isn’t a country, the territory has it’s own sporting delegation for international curling events.

“Hong Kong is not to be confused with China even though Hong Kong belongs to China,” said Bugg.

Bugg said team China is one of Hong Kong’s toughest competitors. Both Toronto Hong Kong players said Japan and Korea are the other top teams they’ll be competing against at this year’s PACC.

The Hong Kong Curling Association (HKCA) only started in 2014. The self-funded team has yet to qualify for the Olympics and, for as long as Chang and Bugg have been on the teams, they haven’t played Team Canada.

When Chang reached out to the HKCA a few years ago, they were looking for competitive players. With a history as a long-time competitive curler in Canada, Chang joined the team. The 2017 PACC will be his third time representing Hong Kong at an international event.

“Because curling is very new in Hong Kong, all the curlers there are very novice,” said Chang.

Chang said players in Hong Kong curl on converted skating ice. Some of his teammates do live in Hong Kong though, as do some of the women’s team players, which he said can make team practices difficult. Before competitions, some of their teammates fly down to practice on Canadian ice.

The world-class curlers are two of many Torontonians who represent their home country on the international curling scene.

“Canada is represented in a lot at the world teams, whether at coaching, teaching or playing,” said Bugg.

Elana Sone and Andrea Stark are Toronto curlers who represented Israel at the World Mixed Curling Championship earlier in October.

“It’s such a prolific sport in Canada, every little town seems to have it’s own curling rink—even if it’s only one or two sheets,” said Bugg. “Everybody curls, which is why it’s so difficult for the average curler to represent [Canada].”

Bugg said there are more curlers at Leaside than in some entire countries.

Some of the other Hong Kong players also live in Toronto. Ada Shang, an East York Curling Club member, plays second on the women’s team. Teddie Leung, the men’s team’s second, is a Leaside curler. That’s how Bugg found out about the team: she read the club newsletter, which mentioned Leaside’s connection to team Hong Kong. Bugg found the coach’s contact and in the summer she arranged to get a Hong Kong I.D. to be eligible to play.

“It’s an incredible honour because you’re representing your roots,” said Chang. “Also, it’s just such a thrill to be at the international competitions.”

Hong Kong men's skip Jason Chang, left, talks to his teammate Derek Leung at the 2016 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (PACC) in Uiseong, South Korea. (Photo: World Curling Federation/Richard Gray)

Hong Kong men’s skip Jason Chang, left, talks to his teammate Derek Leung at the 2016 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (PACC) in Uiseong, South Korea. (Photo: World Curling Federation/Richard Gray)

At last year’s PACC, Chang and his teammates won Hong Kong’s first men’s wins at an international level. His favourite part of the events is the opening and closing ceremonies.

“That’s when you’re representing Hong Kong to the other curlers and to the crowd that’s watching as well,” said Chang.

Bugg has yet to experience the ceremonies or even compete at an international event. She’ll be travelling via a 24-hour flight on October 24 to PACC, happening November 2 to 9, for her first competition as the women’s team alternate.

There, the women’s team will compete against Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Qatar. The men will play against teams Kazakhstan and Chinese Taipei, in addition to men’s teams from all the women’s competitors.

The top two PACC winners in both women and men’s competitions will qualify for the 2017 world championships.

Five days before she leaves, Bugg said she’s not nervous.

“It’s just such a great opportunity.”

Follow along with the 2017 Pacific-Asia Curling Championships (PACC) here: www.worldcurling.org/pacc2017

Story by: Maggie Macintosh

Oct 27th

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