LAS VEGAS — Team World finds itself in an uncustomary position at the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming — in the lead.
Riding a three-year losing streak, the World squad made a strong statement on Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas that it’s ready to end that slump, taking a 5-4 lead over Team North America and an accompanying boost of confidence at the end of Day 1.
The World squad won twice — including the day’s most surprising result — on Thursday night in traditional team play. The shocker was provided by China’s Jialiang Zang, whose team put together a flawless fourth end to steal four points en route to a 7-6 win over two-time defending Tim Hortons Brier champion Pat Simmons of Calgary.
That complemented a 7-5 win by Sweden’s Niklas Edin over John Shuster of the U.S. The lone North American point (each traditional team game is worth a point) was provided by Jennifer Jones, whose Winnipeg team cruised past Ayumi Ogasawara of Japan 8-3.
“Very happy with our first day,” said a smiling Team World coach Pål Trulsen. “Having the lead after the first day is nice, and we talked about the importance of having a good start to the weekend, and we certainly had that tonight. The Chinese boys beating Simmons is a surprise, of course, and we were unsure about the mixed doubles because I know the North Americans have practised more together than we have, and we had to put together team from different countries, so we’re really happy about those results.”
The World team and Team North America each took 1.5 points from the afternoon mixed doubles draw earlier Thursday.
A year ago in Calgary, Team World trailed 7-2 after the first day; two years ago, in Las Vegas, Team North America held a 6-3 lead after the first day.
A total of 60 points are up for grabs, so the first team to 30.5 points will win the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup.
“We’re pretty much always going in as underdogs; the top teams here (in North America) are so good, and the last few years, we haven’t won any of the Continental Cups we’ve played,” said Edin. “So we’re really happy, keeping it close the first day and having the lead.”
Edin, too, said the Chinese win was an inspiration.
“We had a good start but kind of let them (Shuster) back in the game,” said Edin, who was down 4-2 through four ends. “And then watching the Chinese team steal the four-ender really gave us some confidence and we started playing better after that.”
Jones wrapped up her win early against Japan, taking control with a steal of two in the fourth end and one more in the fifth — a crucial win, as it turned out based on the struggles of the North American men.
“It’s a tight battle out there and it doesn’t look like it’s going to go our way tonight, so every point matters,” said Jones. “You’re definitely watching the other games; I mean, our teammates are playing so you want to see what’s going on, and you want to pull your weight as much as you can. But at the end of the day, we’re focused on how we’re performing, and we played well tonight.”
The 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup continues Friday with three more draws — traditional team games at 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., sandwiched around another round of mixed doubles, at 1 p.m. (all times Pacific).
Tickets for the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup can be purchased at www.curling.ca/2016continentalcup/tickets/ or by calling 1-888-234-2334.
For the complete schedule, go to: www.curling.ca/2016continentalcup/draw-schedule/
TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for the Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the World Financial Group Continental Cup.