Curling’s Ryder Cup equivalent, the Continental Cup, was contested in Las Vegas – and it was Team North America who again took the title… though Team World ensured it went down to the wire. And there was another trophy for Team Tirinzoni…
Six men’s and six women’s teams from across the globe competed across four days of team, mixed doubles and skins games, each worth a certain point value in the race to 30.5 points.
Team North America were represented by Teams Koe, Simmons (both Canada) and Shuster (USA) on the men’s side, Teams Homan, Jones (both Canada) and Brown (USA) on the women’s.
As for Team World, their men’s teams were Zang (China), Ulsrud (Norway) and Edin (Sweden), while Ogasawara (Japan), Muirhead (Scotland) and Pätz (Switzerland) made up the female side.
The opening round of team matches featured an extraordinary, topsy-turvy game between Teams Homan and Muirhead – Muirhead’s Scots sprinted into a 4-0 lead after three ends, Homan fought back and scored five in end seven when Eve Muirhead flashed twice, but Muirhead then secured the two in end eight that tied the game 8-8 and earned the teams a half point each.
Teams North America and World tied at 1.5 points apiece, it was onto the mixed doubles.
Thomas Ulsrud and Vicki Adams defeated Ben Hebert and Emma Miskew 8-6 (see that match below), and Torger Nergard and Eve Muirhead tied thanks to a three in end eight, but Christoffer Svae and Anna Sloan were beaten, so it was now three all.
The next team round saw Team World get two points to North America’s one (with wins for Edin and Zang), but Team North America were back ahead as Homan, Jones and Shuster swept the board in the third team round at the start of day two.
But Team World edged the second mixed doubles round, with wins for Pätz/Sundgren and Winkelhausen/Xu, and then it was their turn to pick up the maximum three points in the team round, Team Muirhead beating Brown 6-2 alongside wins for Edin and Ulsrud – that meant Team World led 10-8 at the end of day two.
Day three began with the third and final mixed doubles round, and the Continental Cup organisers decided to ditch the shot clock and music between points that gave the first two rounds added novelty factor but also seemed to confuse the competitors… good on them for experimenting, with mixed doubles on the up, but it needs more thought.
With these mixed doubles games worth two points, momentum was with Team World – Sarah Reid and Havard Vad Petersson getting one of their two wins as they went 14-8 up – only for Jill Officer to make a great shot that clawed Team North America back to 14-10… it arguably acted as a turning point in the competition.
In the fifth team round, Jones defeated Muirhead as the Scots gave up a steal in end eight to lose 6-5, while Brown beat Ogasawara and Simmons tied with Ulsrud.
After the sixth team round – with wins for Homan and Koe for North America, Ulsrud for World – Team World’s lead was trimmed to 15.5-14.5 going into the final day, though Team North America would be without the Homan rink, who had to leave Vegas for the Ontario Scotties.
Day four was all about skins games (rules explained here). Ulsrud v Simmons (mixed) and Ogasawara v Brown (women’s) both finished 2.5 points apiece, but Shuster got three to Zang’s two in the men’s game to draw the sides level at 22.5-22.5.
So, unlike last year where Team Canada steamrollered to victory, it came down to the final skins games with both sides having a genuine chance of lifting the Continental Cup.
Team Edin played a fine men’s game against Team Koe, winning 4-1 after a draw to the button for the last 2.5 points, but Team Muirhead gave up steals in ends four and seven to lose 4-1 to Team Jones in the women’s match.
That meant the result hung on the Torger Nergard v John Morris mixed skins game. Morris started strong, Nergard’s team fought back, but in end eight Morris had the chance for two and the point Team North America needed for the cup… which he made!
So near yet so far for Team World, as the recent North American dominance of this event continues.
But with high quality games in a more relaxed atmosphere than the Grand Slams or major championships, it was a superb showcase of how fun and yet also tense curling can be. And an attendance of 62,524 (a US record) is perhaps the biggest positive of all for the sport.
In Scotland, the Glynhill Ladies International took place in Braehead – read about Alan Sloan and his team of organisers here.
The Scottish teams taking part were the rinks of Gina Aitken, Karina Aitken, Hannah Fleming, Lauren Gray, Sophie Jackson and Katie Murray.
Murray made a fast start, with wins over Barbezat (6-2), Driendl (7-6) and Lundman (7-1), but defeats to Sidorova (8-3) and Hegner (6-4) saw them finish just shy of a quarter-final spot.
In fact none of the Scottish teams made the last eight, despite G. Aitken, Fleming, Gray and Jackson picking up a couple of wins apiece – Jackson’s 8-5 victory over Gray getting them third place in their section and a consolation competition place.
Team Östlund of Sweden won the consolation event, while the quarter-finals saw Team Tirinzoni beat fellow Swiss rink Maillard 8-2, Team Sigfridsson of Sweden defeat another Swiss rink, Hegner, 5-4, Russians Team Sidorova beat Team Nielsen of Denmark 6-4, and Team Wrana of Sweden see off Koreans Team Kim 7-1.
In the semi-finals, Tirinzoni beat Sidorova 7-3 and Sigfridsson saw off compatriots Wrana 8-5, which set up a repeat of the previous weekend’s Bernese Ladies Cup final.
And again it was Tirinzoni who emerged victorious (Sigfridsson being down to three players due to Maria Prytz being unwell), continuing their current hot streak with an 8-2 win and the Glynhill title.
The Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles also took place this weekend, with Scotland represented by Lee and Judith McCleary – one of 20 teams in five groups of four.
They topped their group, beating Switzerland’s first team 6-3, the third Dutch team 18-0 and then Belgium 16-0.
But in the quarter-finals they were drawn against the current World Mixed Doubles champions, Zsolt Kiss and Dorottya Palancsa of Hungary, and the Hungarians triumphed 7-5 to make the last four.
Ultimately it was Kiss and Palancsa who won the Dutch Masters title, beating Russia’s Petr Dron and Victoria Moiseeva 10-6 in the final.