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Team World victorious at Continental Cup

Team World evened the score with North America, at three wins apiece, by taking the sixth Continental Cup, presented by Monsanto, 208-192.

Team World wins the 2008 Continental Cup of Curling

The end came early in the 55-point men’s Skins game between Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud and Canada’s Kevin Martin, the acknowledged master of Skins Games and reigning world champion.

Team World entered the final game needing only eight points to claim the Cup, leading North America, 193-152, after Sweden’s Anette Norberg had defeated Canada’s Jennifer Jones, 41-14 in the morning’s 55-point women’s Skins game.   So Martin’s unenviable task was to either take skins or force carryovers.

After the teams traded four-point skins in the first two ends, it meant that Martin had to sweep the rest of the game.  After a third-end carryover, when Martin couldn’t count a deuce on a hit, it was left to Ulsrud for the fourth-end heroics.

With hammer, he made an incredible triple-raise takeout with his last stone, removing a Martin rock biting the button, and sticking around for a deuce and the 11-point skin.  That elevated the World total to 208, seven more than necessary to claim the Cup.

“We got that early skin, so I told the guys, if we get one, we’re going to win the Cup,” commented Ulsrud, a two-time world bronze medallist.   “So we then thought there would be pressure on him (Martin). We had a big head start going into it (final game).

On his clinching shot, Ulsrud said, “That was a nice way to win it.  That was probably a tough shot. I’m guessing maybe one out of five I make in practice…maybe not even that.  That was just a beautiful feeling.  I told the guys we’re going to get some chances, but not many against Kevin, so we’ll take the first one.

“After that, it was tough to stay focused.  I didn’t think we were going to play through (the full eight ends), so I guess my mind was somewhere else.  This is beautiful.  I just hope it (the Cup) comes back. This is the best experience I’ve had in my curling career.”

While the teams continued to finish out the game over the remaining four ends, it was simply a formality, as Martin eventually won 40-15.

Among the World roster, it was the third Cup win for Sweden’s Anette Norberg, Cathrine Lindahl and Anna Svärd.  Dual Cup winners are Scotland’s David Murdoch, Ewan MacDonald and Euan Byers and Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott, Valeria Spälty and Janine Greiner.

World captain Pål Trulsen is also a previous two-time winner of the Continental Cup as a player, while world coach Peja Lindholm was a member of winning Team Europe in 2003.

“There’s a couple of ways to look at it,” said Martin, who was also a member of the winning North America side at the inaugural Cup, when the men’s Skins game went down to last rock between him and Sweden’s Peja Lindholm.

“The biggest thing is we couldn’t play our normal Skins game, but we were in a situation where we couldn’t miss many.  We kind of had to play real defensive and go as long as we could and try to survive.  But (after Ulsrud clinched it) we played like a normal Skins game.  The carryover was expensive, too, but he made a great shot to take it.”

The Continental Cup, the first event in curling’s Season of Champions, involves 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 the winner.  Each member of the winning team received $2,000 while each losing team member got $1,400.

North America held a 3-2 edge in Cup victories entering the 2008 edition, winning the inaugural Cup in 2002 in Regina, then renewals in Medicine Hat in 2004 and 2007.   The World (formerly Team Europe) won in 2003 in Thunder Bay and 2006 in Chilliwack.

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

While there will definitely not be a Continental Cup in 2009 (the space on the Canadian curling calendar will be taken by the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, December 6-13 in Edmonton) no decision has been made yet whether to continue the unique international Ryder Cup-like competition, possibly in 2010.