(By Al Cameron) Many of the curling teams heading to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics will get one final head-to-head test when the history-making 2014 World Financial Group Continental Cup gets underway Thursday at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Nine of the 12 teams that will participate in the WFG Continental Cup will also be at the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi for the Olympics; the curling competition begins in Sochi on Feb. 10.
Before then, though, they will face each other in Las Vegas as curling’s version of the Ryder Cup — a joint venture of the Canadian Curling Association, World Curling Federation and USA Curling, in partnership with the Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition — takes place outside of Canada for the first time.
The unique format will pit Team North America against Team World in various disciplines during four days of competition — traditional team games, mixed doubles, singles, mixed skins and standard skins games. Each segment awards points for wins (or ties). A total of 60 points are available, meaning the side that earns more than 30 points will be declared the champion.
Team North America, which will be coached by Rick Lang of Thunder Bay, Ont. (the national coach for the Canadian Olympic men’s team) and captained by Steve Brown of Madison, Wisc. (the U.S. Paralympic national coach), will feature four teams heading to Sochi: Canada’s Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) and Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg), along with the U.S. entries of John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.) and Erika Brown (Oakville, Ont./Madison, Wisc.).
The North American team will be rounded out by two-time world champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg and reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian women’s champ Rachel Homan of Ottawa.
Team World, meanwhile, consists of five Sochi-bound teams: reigning world champions Eve Muirhead of Scotland (wearing Great Britain colours in Sochi) and Niklas Edin of Sweden, two-time world champion David Murdoch of Scotland (Great Britain at the Olympics), 2010 Olympic silver-medallist Thomas Ulsrud of Norway, and four-time world silver-medallist Margaretha Sigfridsson of Sweden. Team World also will feature Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa.
Scotland’s David Hay will serve as Team World captain while Sweden’s Peja Lindholm will be the coach.
It will be the 10th edition of the WFG Continental Cup, and no team has ever managed to win back-to-back titles. Team North America currently holds a 5-4 edge after prevailing at the 2013 WFG Continental Cup in Penticton, B.C.
For the six mixed doubles and six singles matches, one point will be awarded for each victory, one-half point if tied. There will be 18 team games (nine men’s and nine women’s) played, each worth one point for a win and a half-point for a tie. All games are eight ends and there are no extra ends. There will also be six skins games, with each game worth a total of five points to the winner.
The winning side receives $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the losing side gets $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, the side which generates the highest points total from the six Skins games will receive an additional $13,000 ($500 per player, plus captain and coach).
For ticket and other event information, visit www.curling.ca/2014continentalcup-en/
For the complete schedule, go to: www.curling.ca/2014continentalcup-en/draw-schedule/
TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for the CCA’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the WFG Continental Cup.
Team North America Lineups
Brad Jacobs (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.)
Jeff Stoughton (Winnipeg)
John Shuster (Duluth, Minn.)
Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg)
Rachel Homan (Ottawa)
Erika Brown (Oakville, Ont./Madison, Wis.)
Captain: Steve Brown
Coach: Rick Lang
Team World Lineups
Niklas Edin (Sweden)
David Murdoch (Scotland)
Thomas Ulsrud (Norway)
Håvard Vad Petersson
Eve Muirhead (Scotland)
Margaretha Sigfridsson (Sweden)
Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan)
Captain: David Hay
Coach: Peja Lindholm