03/16/2012 04:30 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian fills in for injured German skip at women's world curling championship

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - Canadian-born Melanie Robillard rode to the rescue for a German curling team suddenly missing their veteran skip.

When world champion Andrea Schoepp broke her leg downhill skiing last Saturday, the call went out to her former teammate Robillard in Madrid, Spain.

Could she join the Germans in time for the women's world championship starting Saturday in Lethbridge, Alta.?

"Pretty eventful," Robillard said Friday at the Enmax Centre. "I wasn't expecting it.

"I got a call on Saturday saying Andrea had been injured and if I would be able to go with them. I'm working in Spain right now and I had to somehow try and convince my bosses to let me go. I actually found out (I could) Monday morning when they told me it was OK."

Canada's Heather Nedohin opens the 2012 Ford World Women's Curling championship Saturday against Allison Pottinger of the United States.

The Germans decided Thursday that Robillard will skip and throw third stones. Imogen Oona Lehmann will throw fourth stones. Corinna Scholz plays second and Stella Heiss is the lead.

Robillard, 29, was born in Sussex, N.B., and grew up in Ottawa. She curled in the Ontario junior championships before heading to Europe a decade ago.

Robillard, whose mother is German, joined Schoepp's team in 2008. She was Schoepp's third when they won the gold medal at the 2010 world championship in Swift Current, Sask. They also finished ninth at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver that year.

Since Scholz and Heiss were also teammates of Schoepp and Robillard in 2010, bringing Robillard onto the team seemed the easiest solution to Germany's problem.

"That was a team decision," coach Martin Beiser said. "That's the best way I think because she played already with the girls. We don't have to mix up the team that much."

Robillard is an office manager for an investment firm in Madrid. She also helps coach the Spanish curling teams. Robillard posed in 2005 in a women's curling calendar called "Women of Curling, Fire on Ice."

She admits she's only played in two tournaments this year and hopes the game comes back quickly for her.

"It is like riding a bike," Robillard said. "Let's hope that bike stays upright."

Canada has won 15 women's world curling championships, but only three in the last decade: Jennifer Jones (2008), Kelly Scott (2007) and Colleen Jones (2004).

Nedohin appears in her first world championship since 1998, when she won a bronze medal as third for Cathy Borst.

Nedohin's third Beth Iskiw and second Jessica Mair are making their world championship debuts. Lead Laine Peters was an alternate at four world championships with the Colleen Jones team from Nova Scotia.

Canada will be tested early in Lethbridge. Pottinger, originally from Brampton, Ont., is another Canadian-born curler skipping another country. She won a world championship in 2003 playing third for Debbie McCormick.

Canada meets former world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Bingyu Wang of China on Sunday afternoon before taking on two-time Olympic silver medallist Mirjam Ott of Switzerland at night.

"Every game is big," Nedohin said. "It's a long week and we have to look at it that way. I think there's a lot of great teams here. When we had a chance to look in the program and realize there's a lot of past Olympians and world champions here, it's fabulous."

There's Canadian content in the international coaching ranks at this world championship.

Montreal's Dan Rafael, who formerly coached the Chinese women, is wearing Italian colours for Diana Gaspari's team. Lorne and Christine Hamblin of Morris, Man., are China's co-coaches. Roger Schmidt of Neudorf, Sask., is an assistant coach for Russia's Anna Sidorova.

Denmark's Lene Nielson, Linda Klimova of the Czech Republic, Ji-Sun Kim of South Korea, Scotland's Eve Muirhead, and Sweden's Margaretha Sigfriddson round out the 12-team field. The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin advance to playoffs.

Countries earn qualifying points for the 2014 Winter Olympic based on their cumulative results at the 2012 and 2013 world championships. So the pressure is on Germany and Robillard to finish as high as they can.

"We obviously don't want to finish last that's for sure," Robillard said. "But we're just going to stay calm. The last thing we want is to make everyone nervous because it's a really tough situation."

Notes: Canada and Switzerland are the oldest teams in the field with an average age of 34. Scotland is the youngest at just under 22 . . . German alternate Monika Wagner is appearing at her 16th world championship . . . Swedish skip Sigfridsson throws lead stones.