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Continental Cup 2002

North Americans rally for win over Team World, but Continental Cup of Curling is the true winner

by Daniel Field, curlingrocks.net

Regina, November 10, 2002

Never underestimate the power of the rally mentality.

Team North America overcame long odds to claim 84 of 120 points available in two skins games at the Agridome today to win the inaugural Keg Continental Cup of Curling. Organizers could not have scripted a better finish. There will be many memories from this quirky, Ryder Cup-type event. But most memorable will be the finish, when North America’s Kevin Martin made a great shot with his last rock to put his team in position to win, and Team World’s Peter Lindholm just missed a long double raise that would have swung the victory to his side.

As the last rock came to rest, and even though “his team” lost in the end, World Curling Federation President Roy Sinclair of Scotland couldn’t help saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

The North American team—Canadian and U.S. players alike—spilled from their rink-side seats in jubilation when Martin’s team claimed the final 13 points in the Skins game to post a 60 to 17 victory. That vaulted North America to a final point total of 207, compared to 193 for Team World.

Victories and points aside, most importantly the finish solidified the credibility of the Continental Cup and left organizers, players and fans beaming. “When we came down here, we were thinking it was going to be a fun event and all, but it got incredibly intense,” said Martin. “You’d watch the other teams play and you’re just dying with every move they make. This is pretty cool. Here, we really are a 24-person team.”

Asked if the Cup is even better than the World Curling Tour Players Championship, Martin had to pause. “Is it better? I don’t know, but it’s awesome!”

“It took us about seven years to put this thing together, to convince ourselves that it was a good idea,” remarked Sinclair. “What happened at this event exceeded our highest expectations. The camaraderie on both sides, and between the two teams, was fantastic. It’s sportsmanship of the highest order.”

While only eight players were on the ice in each of the two high-stakes Skins games today, each side had another 20 players on the sidelines that were with them on every shot. After Colleen Jones’s team kept North America alive with a thrilling victory in the morning game that came down to a special shoot out, the stage was set for the decisive men’s final. The North Americans trailed Team World 176 to 164. Three ends into the men’s skins game, Peter Lindholm’s Team World foursome had a 10-4 lead and was within 15 points of victory.

In an effort to invoke comeback powers similar to the legendary “Rally Monkey” of the reigning World MLB Champion Anaheim Angels, Martin’s North American teammates on the sidelines put their jackets on backwards, trying to help turn around the course of the game on the ice. After the sixth end, with Team World now just one skin away from victory, the North American players successfully encouraged a number of fans in the stands to also turn their jackets around to help “fuel” the rally.

The tension began to build even more in the seventh end, the longest of the game by far. Both sides spent a long time studying shots and considering strategies, with Martin jokingly even looking over to usual foe but now teammate Randy Ferbey in the stands for advice. Martin’s two rocks in the seventh were somewhat throwaways, which he didn’t exactly admit in the post-game press scrum. He did say, however, that, “We weren’t overly upset,” when neither of his rocks produced the apparently intended outcome.

Lindholm had a shot at a tough cross-house double, but there was a good chance the second North American rock would jam, leaving Team World with one point. Instead of scoring in the Skins format, this results in a carryover of points, and the transfer of the hammer. Lindholm went for the double, which would have clinched the game, but he, too, didn’t seem terribly upset when the shot missed. While North America took a 30-17 lead, Team World had the hammer for the end that would determine the victor.

The eighth end was played mostly around the button and behind center guards. Lindholm’s side had first count for most of the end, until Martin made the hit-and-flop with his last rock. There was a chance for Lindholm to score the two points needed with the hammer to take game, set and match. But this time around, the North Americans prevailed.

The spirit of curling in the Cup was evident even through the closing ceremonies. After accepting the trophy for his team, North American Captain Rick Folk said: “On behalf of all my teammates in North America, I’d like to congratulate Team World. What a great competition this was.”

“Fans are attracted to the Ryder Cup like a magnet,” said Event Manager Warren Hansen. “It takes time to build it up, but over time it could be as big as the World Championships.” 

“This is an excellent way of promoting the sport,” said U.S. Curling Association Director Andy Anderson. The format, he said, helped bring players together in a sense that showed winning isn’t everything. “I definitely recommend that the USCA stay a part of the Continental Cup.”

For more information: Rick Patzke, rick_patzke@charter.net, (715) 340-8104. Complete biographies for the U.S. players are available at www.usacurl.org.

MEDIA:  FLASH QUOTES FROM U.S. PLAYERS:

Natalie Nicholson, Bemidji, Minn. (U.S. lead)—“Being here was really exciting. It was a brand new event, and being paired up with the Canadians was great. They were so welcoming. The Skins game was the greatest experience of us. It’s so much fun to play. I got nervous in the last end. We were so intense. I was still high even two hours later (after the Skins game win). The way we felt before and after the game is why we curl. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to experience that.

Mike Fraboni, McFarland, Wis. (U.S. third)—“It was a great experience to play in it (the Continental Cup). We’ve been extremely welcomed. Overall, it’s just great to be here, and to be playing in it. The way we’ve been received by our Canadian teammates is really warm. Our key motivation was to pull our own weight and not let the team down. We certainly feel like we’re all a team. The icebreaker was when they (Canadian teammates) came out on the ice after we beat Scotland. We finished shaking hands with Scotland and turned around, and there they were, shaking our hands next. That was really something.”

Richard Maskel, Green Bay, Wis. (U.S. lead)—“In this competition, you have to produce right away. You have to hit the ground running. You can’t lose one and then just run off eight straight to get into the playoffs. For me, this might be a little different experience because I was born in Canada and have dual citizenship. It’s an honor, a unique and very special opportunity to wear both the Canadian and U.S. flags. I will always be USA first, but I’m also proud to be able to represent Canada.” (Maskel was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada.)

Nicole Joraanstad, Madison, Wis. (U.S. second)—“We obviously wanted to play as a team, but I never imagined that I would be hugging Colleen Jones, that I would be as excited as she was after winning that game. Erika (Brown) and I almost had tears in our eyes. This situation is just incredible. The friends that we have now on the world and Canadian teams are great. We never got to know each other this way before. It’s an experience I can’t even really put into words. (Asked what it might be like next time she faces Colleen Jones and her teammates on the ice, as foes, Joraanstad said--) It will definitely be different. We’re friends now, and competitors. Before, we were just competitors. They were the enemy, almost.” Joraanstad suggested three changes to the Cup format: in the team competition, have all of the women’s teams play each other (and men’s); used a true, traditional Mixed Doubles competition, and give everybody a chance to shoot in the Singles events.

Geoff Goodland, Eau Claire, Wis. (U.S. second)—At fourth end break of Martin/Lindholm Skins game today: “This is so intense right now. Everyone on the North American side has been like this since this morning. This is unbelievable. I’ve never felt like this before at any sporting event. And to think that this can happen at curling.”

2002-11-11

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