LAS VEGAS — It was a nailbiter of historic proportions to the very end.
So, it was only fitting that in the four-day roller-coaster that was the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Boyd Gaming, it took three attempts to finally win it for Team North America in the final round of skins play.
Leading 29.5 to 26, Team North America needed an Eve Muirhead miss on her final shot against Jennifer Jones for the title title. Instead, the Scottish veteran made her final shot to put one more point on the board for Team World.
Then, on Sheet B, Team North America’s Kevin Koe had a difficult raise takeout that would have won the game, and the overall title, against Team World’s Niklas Edin. He missed, forcing a carry-over and leaving the 2.5 available points up for grabs, to be decided in a post-game draw to the button.
Finally, on Sheet C, in the mixed skins game, John Morris would deliver the killing blow, making a board-weight inturn takeout to beat Torger Nergård’s team 3-2 and set off a wild Team North America celebration.
“I’ve never been a part of something like that, a championship that was so close,” said an ecstatic Morris, whose mixed team was rounded out by third Allison Pottinger, second Nolan Thiessen and lead Natalie Nicholson. “It was pretty electric in there, pretty cool to be a part of.”
The Morris shot gave North America 30.5 points, the exact total needed to win curling’s version of the Ryder Cup.
At one point, North America trailed 14-10 in the overall standings before fighting back to tie the championship at 22.5 apiece going into the final draw Sunday night.
The anti-climactic shot-to-the-button between Koe and Edin was held after the Team North America celebration, and Edin covered the pin to bring Team World’s final total to 29.5 points, leaving a one-point victory margin for the hosts — easily the closest in the 12-year history of the WFG Continental Cup.
“Wow,” whistled Lang. “We had to have character, and I think both sides showed a lot of character. They were up on us, then we bounced back and got some momentum, and they just fought crazy hard today. Crazy competition.
“We have great character people on our team and they know what this is about. They take a lot of pride in this; they’re playing their guts out there. There are bigger prizes on the world, but you can tell by the reaction and response at the end that they really wanted to win this thing.”
It marked the fourth straight loss for Team World, although it was a far closer championship than the past three lopsided affairs.
“It’s a little like kissing your sister, but congratulations to Team North America,” said Team World captain Andy Kapp. “They just made a few more shots at the end. We were close this year; we’re looking forward to next year.”
For Jones and her teammates second Jill Officer and lead Dawn McEwen, it was their record sixth WFG Continental Cup title (vice-skip Kaitlyn Lawes has five).
“I’m so proud of Team North America” said Jones. “We got behind a couple days ago, and we just pulled up our socks and here we are.”
Team North America won $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the World team earned $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, Team North America won a $13,000 bonus ($500 per player, plus captain and coach) for taking the most points out of the six skins games.
Final attendance for the four days was 62,498, a record for not only the event, but also any curling event staged in the United States.
This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2016continentalcup/?lang=fr