After being named one of the top-10 digital media for winter sports at the recent Winter Sports Tops Awards in Beijing, the World Curling Federation’s year-old Weibo channel continues to attract followers in China.

The channel’s aim, in partnership with iX.co and All Star Partner, is to raise awareness of curling by increasing its online presence ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Since being launched in August 2019, the channel has become the WCF’s largest digital platform, reaching nearly 100,000 followers in China.

The Winter Sports Tops Awards are the most prestigious in the nation’s winter sports industry, recognizing events, digital media, stadia and resorts that reflect its advancement. Other international sports organizations recognized at the September awards included the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, the 2019-20 FIS freeski and snowboard halfpipe World Cup, and the Thaiwoo FIS freestyle ski moguls World Cup.

“We are delighted to be recognized for all the hard work that goes into developing and growing China’s digital platform for the federation,” WCF president Kate Caithness said in accepting the award.

“The remarkable growth of our Sina Weibo channel in its first year proves there is a desire for curling content in China ahead of the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, and we look forward to being able to bring even more content to our Chinese fans.”

All Star Partner vice-president Zheng Yanyu echoed that sentiment, adding: “In the past year, we are very proud to work together with iX.co to support the World Curling Federation with its digital and brand development in China.

“Curling is now becoming more and more accessible for Chinese fans, who can easily enjoy content via the WCF official account on Sina Weibo. Together with news on competitions, fan interactions, Chinese player interviews and other localized content, followers in China can stay well informed.”

The Weibo channel is a welcome complement to CurlingZone.com, an innovative Canadian website that is likewise gaining viewership.

“I don’t know what curling is going to look like coming out of this pandemic, but I think it’s starting to normalize,” Curling-Zone president Gerry Geurts said in a recent interview with CBC Sports in Toronto.

“People want to play. They want to see their friends again and socialize. I love being involved in growing and building the game. We have to get people out curling and get people comfortable being back on the ice.”

In the midst of the pandemic, rigid protocols have been put in place for Canadian rinks.

“There are curling clubs in big cities as well as the smallest communities… that’s what makes our game so special,” world champion Jennifer Jones said at last week’s opening competition on the Canadian tour-a mixed-doubles bonspiel in Kitchener, Ontario. “The hard work that so many people have done to ensure the sport continues to grow and thrive in these difficult times is amazing.”

Matt Wilkinson, president of the Kitchener club, agreed.

“It’s a new era. The amount of stuff and protocols to go through, understanding how we open the club, has been a lot to navigate,” said Wilkinson.

“What’s being accomplished is remarkable. To see curling ice available again is a big step. We have a long way to go, but I’m very proud of what we’ve done.”

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