The 2006 Turin Olympic curling races will take place in Pinerolo with the spotlight firmly on the sport's two leading competitors -- defending champion Britain and Canada.
Britain's Olympic curlers are trying to defend the country's only Winter Games gold medal since 1984. Rhoma Martin will lead the team to the Games for a second time.
She will be flanked by fellow Scots Lynn Cameron, Debbie Knox, Jackie Lockhart and Kelly Wood.
But there have been concerns about the form of the team after Scotland struggled at the European Championships in December, 2005 in Germany where they finished only fifth.
The Olympic title aroused great interests in Britain, even pushing soccer off the back pages of newspapers in the soccer-fever country, but Mike Hay, head coach who led Britain's curlers in the Salt Lake City Olympics and will take them to the February's Games in Turin, said that it is Canada, not Britain, who are the favorite in curling.
"There is no question Canada are the favorites, certainly in the men, less so in the women because Sweden and the United States are very strong there," Hay said.
Both Canadian teams are medal favorites. Although five members of its men's team -- David Nedohin, Randy Ferbey, Scott Pfeifer, Marcel Rocque and Dan Holowaychuk, were not part of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic team, they took an amazing three titles in a row in the World Men's Championships from 2002 to 2005.
In the 2002 Olympics, the Norwegian men and Britain's women were the gold medalists. The Canadian men and Swedish women took the golds at the 2005 World Championship, but the second-placed U.S. women gave the Swedes a tough match and look good for medal in Turin.
The American women's team, namely Cassie Johnson, Jamie Johnson, Jessica Schultz and Maureen Brunt, will try to step onto the podium for the first time in February with a team averaging 23 years old, and a silver medal at the 2005 World Women's Curling Championship in Paisley of Scotland gave them a much-needed confidence boost.
Curling made its Olympic debut at the inaugural Olympic Games in 1924. It came back in the 1932 Lake Placid Games as a demonstration sport, before a 56-year Olympic hiatus was put to an end when it returned as a demonstration sport at the 1988 and 1992 Games.
Curling was brought back again as an official medal sport at the 1998 Nagano Games.