The Russians are so keen on having a competitive team in place for Sochi 2014 that they have taken 75 per cent of one of Manitoba's top teams are negotiating a deal they probably won't refuse.
Several media outlets in Manitoba have reported Jason Gunnlaugson, who is regarded as one of the top three teams in one of Canada's toughest curling provinces, is in the final stages of negotiations with the Russian curling federation, where the Russian ministry of sport will foot the bill for the squad to play under their banner. The Gunnlaugson crew, which includes third Justin Richter and lead Tyler Forrest, will have to pick up a Russian player, spend a minimum of 60 days in Russia each year, and help build the sport in Russia. Gunnlaugson's second, Braeden Zawada will not be part of the deal.
This does not guarantee Gunnlaugson an Olympic berth. They would have to take up Russian citizenship (they can keep their Canadian citizenship as well), and compete for the Olympic berth. This likely involves attempting to improve Russia's world ranking with solid performances at world championships and producing on the World Curling Tour.
Gunnlaugson told several Manitoba media outlets the deal makes sense because even with $20,000 of sponsorship dollars last season and a successful run on the cash circuit, the team still lost money when all expenses were paid out. This won't be the case in Russia.
Check out an interview by thecurler.com's' Resby Coutts.