Norwegian official Bent Ånund Ramsfjell has served on the WCF Board since 2012 ©WCF

World Curling Federation (WCF) Presidential candidate Bent Ånund Ramsfjell has advocated for maintaining the authority of the national governing bodies and insisted that the WCF should "embrace new and innovative ideas".

Ramsfjell helped Norway to win men's team gold in curling at the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics, and believes "that helps in certain areas" if he is successful in the four-way race to succeed Kate Caithness as WCF President.

He held a transportation role on the Organising Committee for the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics in his native Norway, prior to a career highlight as an athlete at Salt Lake City 2002.

The 54-year-old became vice-president of the Norwegian Curling Association in 2008, before taking over as President from the following year until 2012, and has been credited with driving an increase in the number of curling rinks and clubs in the country.

For the last 10 years, Ramsfjell has served on the WCF Board as vice-president - and since 2014 as vice-president for Europe thereafter.

The establishment of the WCF's inaugural Athlete Commission is listed among his achievements, and Ramsfjell insists that the athletes' voice is "heard to a much larger extent nowadays than it was before, and now athletes are selected by athletes, so we are on the right track".

Ramsfjell also believes that his past experience is "tailored to strengthen the relationship with the IOC [International Olympic Committee]", although remains content with the sport's place on the Olympic and Paralympic programme.

Curling first featured as a Winter Olympic medal sport at Chamonix 1924, and returned at Nagano 1998 after three appearances as a demonstration sport.

Since Pyeongchang 2018, a mixed doubles event has been added to the men's and women's team competitions, and wheelchair curling is set for an expansion at the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Paralympics, with mixed doubles provisionally added by the International Paralympic Committee as a second medal event.

Bent Ånund Ramsfjell, right, won men's team curling Olympic gold with Norway at Salt Lake City 2002 ©Getty Images
Bent Ånund Ramsfjell, right, won men's team curling Olympic gold with Norway at Salt Lake City 2002 ©Getty Images

Ramsfjell believes that represents a fair allocation of events, and would focus his attention on ways to increase the attractiveness of the sport.

"We have increased in terms of athletes," Ramsfjell said in an interview with insidethegames.

"I understand the IOC is restricted in terms of numbers of competitors, so I think we have our fair share when it comes to broadcasting coverage.

"Curling has more than its share, because I think almost half of the production is about curling.

"I don't want to promise any revolutions that we should have more teams or expand with another discipline.

"I think rather we need to look at new and innovative ideas to make our sport even more attractive for viewers, fans and athletes.

"[Influenced by] my background, we have to listen to the athletes

Ramsfjell vowed to use his "team member skills to be a team leader, to get the best out of the team" as WCF President.

He praised Scottish official Caithness, who has led the WCF since 2010, for what he described as a "tremendous job to put our sport and our organisation in the right position in relation to stakeholders like the IOC".

However, Ramsfjell called on National Federations "to recognise that for the future, they cannot rely on having a President who is either retired and not working any more, or who is wealthy enough to not work for a living", expressing his belief that his juggling of responsibilities would make him a suitable successor.

A second wheelchair curling medal event is set to be added for the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Paralympics ©Getty Images
A second wheelchair curling medal event is set to be added for the Milan Cortina 2026 Winter Paralympics ©Getty Images

"I sincerely think that throughout my whole career, I balanced that - being a curler, having a full-time job and also being a family man with my wife and kids, and that's something that hasn't changed too," Ramsfjell said.

"I have the same wife as I had for the last 27 years, and I have two kids aged 21 and 26, so they have been really supportive all the way, and I'm really happy for that."

Among his key pledges as President is allowing more teams to compete in WCF World Championships, and he believes a change to the format is necessary in the interest of athlete welfare.

"As it stands, we know we have a pace of play issue, so there is a proposal to reduce it to eight ends, but we have to deal with this process right," Ramsfjell said, referencing a motion which proposes granting greater authority to the WCF Board at the expense of the General Assembly.

"We have 13 teams in the Women's and the Men's Worlds, so to become the world champion you have to play at least 14 games.

"That takes about 40 hours of activity, so there is a big burden on the athletes to win the gold.

"I played at the Worlds several times with 10 teams, and when it increased to 12 teams it was about 20 per cent more effort, and now we have increased it to 13.

"Back to athlete welfare, I think we need to do something about our competition structure to bring more teams into the World Championship and also to reduce the burden on the athletes, because I know them and when a competition is on, they are in a bubble and it is physically exhausting, especially for the sweepers, and particularly mentally exhausting."

Ramsfjell made his opposition to granting of further powers to the WCF Board known, arguing that it would be better to take decisions more widely at the General Assembly.

"I advocate strongly that the right decisions made by the right people is by the Member Associations, with the General Assembly," he declared.

Norway's Bent Ånund Ramsfjell believes his CV is
Norway's Bent Ånund Ramsfjell believes his CV is "tailored to strengthen the relationship with the IOC" ©Getty Images

"Taking a decision now that it should be moved to the Board based on recommendations from Commissions means fewer people will take the decision, and it is human to make errors.

"The glue between all Member Associations, whether they are small or big, is their passion for the sport and the competitions, so I think that would be a wrong decision made by the wrong people if that authority is taken away from the General Assembly."

Ramsfjell expects growth in the number of WCF members which has bben seen under Caithness to continue in the coming year, but believes that the sport should continue to move forward while respecting its traditions.

"I think it is important to state that the WCF has not recruited one single curler and we haven't built one single curling rink - that is the Member Associations' responsibility," Ramsfjell said.

"The WCF has the tools, the resources and the knowledge to help the members do so, and I hope that we can show the success stories, and for example the smaller MAs [Member Associations] can learn from the bigger MAs about what works and what does not.

"We are stronger together if we work together.

"And again based on my athlete mindset, what was good enough yesterday, isn’t good enough tomorrow.

"[On the] Olympic statements - faster, higher, stronger - we try to have that attitude going forward because if we don’t change, changes will be forced upon us.

"I would like to have the WCF in the front seat.

"We need to embrace new and innovative ideas, and at the same time we need to respect our traditions and the spirit of curling, which is about fair play and camaraderie."

Bent Ånund Ramsfjell opposes proposals to grant the WCF Board greater authority at the General Assembly's expense ©WCF
Bent Ånund Ramsfjell opposes proposals to grant the WCF Board greater authority at the General Assembly's expense ©WCF

Fellow WCF vice-presidents Hugh Millikin of Australia and Graham Prouse of Canada, as well as the United States' Beau Welling, are also running for the WCF Presidency, and Ramsfjell believes that the competition is beneficial for the sport.

"It is healthy for the organisation that there are more contenders for the position and it is not an automatic pre-defined career step," he said.

"Competition is healthy, and I know the three other guys really well.

"We are friends and we respect each other."

The WCF is set to decide its new President at a Congress in Lausanne next Sunday (September 11).