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World and Olympic champions headline 2008 Continental Cup

The rosters for the 2008 Continental Cup of Curling, presented by Monsanto, are now confirmed.

Now in its sixth edition, the Continental Cup, featuring Team World (formerly Team Europe) versus Team North America, will be staged December 18-21 at the 2,300-seat EnCana Arena in the Edgeworth Centre in Camrose, Alberta. Among the skips slated to compete are the reigning world champions, Canada’s Kevin Martin and Jennifer Jones, and 2006 Olympic gold medallist Anette Norberg of Sweden.

North America holds a 3-2 edge over the ‘World’, after winning last year’s Continental Cup in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The unique event, patterned somewhat after golf’s Ryder Cup, will offer a purse of $88,400, with each member of the winning team receiving $2,000, while each losing team member gets $1,400.

Team North America consists of four teams from Canada and two teams from the United States. The Canadian contingent comprises teams skipped by Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon, Edmonton’s Kevin Martin and Kevin Koe. The American teams will be skipped by current national champions Debbie McCormick and Craig Brown of Madison, Wisconsin.

Jones and Martin earned Cup berths by winning the 2008 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Regina and 2008 Tim Hortons Brier in Winnipeg, respectively. Both then went on to claim world titles, as Jones captured the Ford world women’s in Vernon, British Columbia, while Martin took the world men’s crown in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Jones, a two-time Canadian champion, was a member of the winning North America side at the 2007 Cup, while Martin, a three-time Brier winner and 2002 Olympic silver medallist, played in the inaugural Continental Cup in Regina in 2002, when North America scored a dramatic, last rock victory over the World in the final men’s skins game between Martin and Sweden’s Peja Lindholm.

Lawton and Koe earned their first Continental Cup berths by winning the 2008 Strauss Canada Cup in Kamloops, British Columbia.

McCormick, the 2003 world champion, will be making her fourth Cup appearance for North America, after competing in 2003, 2006 and 2007, while Brown will be playing in his first Cup.

Russ Howard, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist and two-time (1987, 1993) world champion, will be the captain for North America while Jim Waite will be the coach.
Team World is headlined by reigning Le Gruyère European champions Anette Norberg of Sweden and David Murdoch of Scotland.

In addition to her Olympic gold medal in Turin (Pinerolo), Italy, Norberg won back-to-back world titles in 2005 and 2006. She’s also competed in three previous Cups, winning in 2003 in Thunder Bay, Ontario and 2006 in Chilliwack, British Columbia. Murdoch, who won the 2006 world men’s title in Lowell, Massachusetts and was runner-up in 2005 and 2008, will also be making his fourth Cup appearance, winning in 2006.

Coming on the heels of remarkable international success in 2008, two teams from China will join Team World….skipped by Bingyu Wang, who earned a silver medal at the Ford world women’s and Fengchun Wang, who finished fourth at the 2008 world men’s, while making his country’s debut in the championship.

The other World skips are Switzerland’s 2002 and 2006 Olympic silver medallist and 2008 world bronze medallist Mirjam Ott, who was also a member of Team Europe when winning the 2006 Continental Cup, and Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud, bronze medallist at the 2006 and 2008 world men’s and runner-up to Murdoch at the 2007 European championship.

The coach will be Sweden’s three-time (1997, 2001, 2004) world champion Peja Lindholm, while 2002 Olympic gold medallist Pål Trulsen of Norway will be the World captain. Lindholm played in the first three Cups, winning in 2003, while Trulsen also participated in three Cups, winning in 2003 and 2006.

The Continental Cup is a four-day competition involving Team games (72 points), Mixed Doubles (36 points), Singles (32 points) and Skins (Men’s, Women’s and Mixed, worth a total of 260 points). The first side to score 201 points is declared the winner.

In 2002, Team North America edged Team World at the inaugural Continental Cup in Regina, Saskatchewan, 207-193, but Europe evened the score in 2003, winning 208-179 in Thunder Bay. In 2004, North America recaptured the title with a 228-172 tally in Medicine Hat, before a record four-day crowd of 42,317.

In 2006 in Chilliwack, Europe emerged victorious, 229-171, as all of the curling medallists from the 2006 Olympic Winter Games participated. Last year in Medicine Hat, North America wound up with a 290-110 advantage, clinching the competition, for the first time ever, on Saturday night, before the women’s and men’s final Skins games were played on Sunday.

This year, TSN will provide extensive national coverage (28 hours) of the competition, similar to what The Sports Network did for the first three Continental Cups from 2002-2004.

The Continental Divide, the event’s entertainment centre, will be located in the adjacent Border Paving Arena.

The world’s best curlers have competed in the Continental Cup. In addition to this year’s line-up, previous participants include teams skipped by Canada’s Brad Gushue, Randy Ferbey, Glenn Howard, Kelly Scott, Kelley Law and Colleen Jones, Norway’s Dordi Nordby, Sweden’s Elisabet Gustafson, Scotland’s Rhona Martin, Jackie Lockhart and Hammy McMillan, Germany’s Andrea Schöpp and Andy Kapp and Finland’s Markku Uusipaavalniemi.

Full event passes (includes all draws) are on sale through Ticketmaster (780-451-8000 or Ticketmaster.ca). For more event information, visit Seasonofchampions.ca.

The Continental Cup is a joint venture of the Canadian Curling Association, the United States Curling Association and the World Curling Federation.