Thomas Dufour has represented his country in a total of 20 European and world curling championships and earned silver and bronze medals in the 1992 and ‘93 global junior men’s events.
He competed in the 2002 Olympics and finished fifth in the 2008 world men’s championship in North Dakota, but very few people in France have taken notice of his accomplishments.
“Curling is not quite big (in France),” the veteran skip and ski instructor from Chamonix said on Friday, after falling 6-2 to Mike Jantzen of Calgary at the Michener Curling Club in the men’s division of the Red Deer Classic.
“We are only 200 players for the whole country.
“It has never improved that way. We never found a way to improve curling in France.”
That could change, however, if Dufour and his supporting cast of third Tony Angiboust, second Richard Ducroz and lead Jan Ducroz are able to achieve a measure of success in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“We are very, very excited, we are looking forward to this for eight years,” said Dufour, who along with Jan Ducroz played second and third, respectively, for winless French skip Dominque Dupont-Roc in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. “We have already qualified and now we can’t wait to go and play in Vancouver.
“We want to play in all the big tournaments and world (championships), but the main goal is the Olympics. The worlds are important, but in France or in Switzerland or in Germany, if you win the worlds nobody will notice and the curling won’t be noticed. If you can make something at the Olympics then you have a better chance to make your sport growing in your country.”
The French foursome is competing in a third Asham World Curling Tour event this weekend after arriving in Canada in late October and has so far earned just $1,500. Dufour has brought his crew to Canada on an annual basis since 2004 and feels that the Canadian and European cashspiel tours are similar in calibre.
He’s also noticed through the years that Canadian teams are more aggressive in style than a number of their European counterparts, although that gap is closing.
“The styles are coming more and more close year after year,” he said. “We can see some difference. Some teams like to play more conservative in Europe sometimes, but there is few teams like this now because they don’t have success.”
The French team will head home soon to continue preparations for the Vancouver Olympics.
“We are getting ready now by training, practising and playing good teams here in Canada,” said Dufour, whose squad was 4-7 in last spring’s world men’s championship in Moncton, N.B.
“We play very bad today (against Jantzen) and we have a very bad start of season. But we keep our minds strong and we are hoping we are going to fix that sooner than later.”
The Red Deer Curling Classic, offering a men’s purse of $32,000 and women’s total prize money of $34,000, resumed this morning at the Red Deer Curling Centre and the Michener Club.
The WCT event concludes on Monday with both finals at 3 p.m. at the Curling Centre.
10 a.m. draw — Cheryl Bernard 8 Andrea McCutcheon 3; Renee Sonnenberg 9 Brenda Doroshuk 1; Bobbie Sauder 6 Shannon Kleibrink 4; Renelle Bryden 8 Paula Knight 7; Kristen Recksiedler 7 Lisa Johnson 4; Jennifer Jones 9 Krista Crowther 6; Adina Tasaka 6 Megan Kirk 3; Kelley Law 6 Casey Scheidegger 3.
1 p.m. — Eve Muirhead 7 June Campbell 1; Valerie Sweeting 10 Allison MacInnes 3; Tiffany Odegard 7 Leslie Rogers 2; Silvania Tirinzoni 9 Deanne Nichol 3; Chelsea Carey 6 Maria Bushell 4; Faye White 6 Nola Zingel 4; Nadine Chyz 6 Heather Nedohin 3; Marla Mallet 6 Joane Delanoy 3.
4 p.m. — Jones 11 Recksiedler 5; Bernard 5 Adina Tasaka 1; Law 7 Sonnenberg 4; Bryden 4 Sauder 3; Kleibrink 10 Knight 1, Kirk 8 McCutcheon 5; Scheidegger 6 Doroshuk 3; Crowther 8 Johnson 7.
7 p.m. — Muirhead 7 White 2, Mallet 9 Carey 4, Chyz 5 Sweeting 4, Tirinzoni 7 Odegard 6, Nichol 10 Rogers 0, Campbell 6 Zingel 5, Bushell 5 Delanoy 3, Nedohin 6 MacInnes 5.
10 a.m. draw — Rob Krepps 7 Brent Bawel 1; Dean Ross 6 Andrew Biletsky 2; Warren Hassell 9 Rob Armitage 6; Terry Meek 7 Wade White 4.
1 p.m. — Mark Johnson 7 Doug Rae 1; Brad Heidt 6 Geoff Humphrey 4; Mike Jantzen 6 Thomas Dufour 2; Mike Jakubo 6 Scott Egger 3.
4 p.m. — Jamie King 6 Leon Moch 2; Steve Petryk 3 Tyrel Griffith 2; Claudio Pescia 6 Don Delair 5; Justin Shuchinsky 8 Lowell Peterman 6.
7 p.m. — Ferbey 8 Koe 0, Hassall 6 Krepps 5, Stockli 9 Buchy 7, Ross 6 Meek 5.