Brad Gushue guides North America to Continental Cup of Curling title

After four full days of curling, trying to decide a winner of the Continental Cup came down to a dramatic one-shot draw to the button shootout after North America and Team World tied 30-30.

In front of a capacity crowd, Brad Gushue shot first for North America. His rock stopped at the top of the four foot and gave the World’s Thomas Ulsrud the chance to win. 

Ulsrud’s rock slid just too far, sealing a sixth consecutive Continental Cup of Curling title for North America. 

“Roller coaster is an understatement,” Gushue said after the win. “It was eerily quiet before I threw. It was a little unsettling but I got it out of my head. It’s fun to win and have it come down to your shot. I had a good time here this week.”

North America won a sixth consecutive Continental Cup title 30.5-30 when Thomas Ulsrud’s rock slid too far1:09

The fun and games that make up the Continental are over. It signals the end of some lighthearted curling and the beginning of a serious last push to the Olympics for many of the teams who were at the Continental Cup.

Ten out of the 12 teams competing at the event are heading to South Korea in less than a month to compete in the Games.

They include, on the men’s side:

  • Kevin Koe (Canada)
  • John Shuster (USA)
  • Peter de Cruz (Switzerland)
  • Thomas Ulsrud (Norway)
  • Niklas Edin (Sweden)

On the women’s side:

  • Rachel Homan (Canada)
  • Nina Roth (USA)
  • Satsuki Fujisawa (Japan)
  • Silvana Tirinzoni (Switzerland)
  • Anna Hasselborg (Sweden)

Team North America poses with the Continental Cup following an exciting shootout win on Sunday. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

Coming after Canada 

There’s no question the gap between Canada and the rest of the world has closed when it comes to curling. Canada is the only country to have medalled at every Olympics since curling was reintroduced in 1998, including double gold four years ago.

But the world is coming. In a lot of ways, this year’s Continental Cup of Curling highlighted that.

For Canadian skip Kevin Koe, however, none of what happened this week means anything to him going into the Olympics.

“I don’t put a lot into beating a guy this week so it means you’ll beat him at the Olympics. This week was about this week and the Olympics will be about the Olympics,” he said. 

Koe’s team took a month off from the game and each other after winning the trials in December. They reunited in London this week to play the Continental Cup and the skip liked what he saw.

“It’s been solid. No big misses. It feels good right now for having taken a month off,” he said. “Our focus has been on playing well. It’s nice to play some great teams and have some pressure on us.”

It’s a similar sentiment shared by the other Canadian skip heading to the Olympics — Rachel Homan.

“We just started back up again. We’ve been practising individually and took some time off,” she said. “We couldn’t have prepared like crazy for this because we couldn’t sustain that level for six or seven weeks into the Olympics.”

The team also stepped away from the game and one another over the past month, reuniting in London for this event. 

Trouble for Norway?

While the Canadians aren’t using the Continental Cup to gauge how good or bad they’re playing going into the Olympics, Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud is and he’s somewhat concerned.

“I’m not so happy with what I’m seeing,” he said. “We’re not as sharp as I want us to be. We need to play a lot more games. This level is not good enough. In my mind we want to fight for a medal at the Olympics but we’re not where we need to be.”

He would know.

Ulsrud has represented Norway in curling at the past two Olympics. In 2010, he lost the gold-medal game to Kevin Martin. Four years ago in Sochi, Ulsrud and his team finished a disappointing fifth.

Now with less than a month to go before he plays at his third Olympics, Ulsrud is trying to rally his team.
“It’s tough to put my finger on what’s wrong but all four of us need to figure it out.”

Olympic format

Ten men’s teams and ten women’s teams will compete at the Olympics.

The round-robin portion of the tournament begins on February 14. The women will play nine games against the other teams and the men will play nine games against the other teams.

The top four teams will advance to the playoff round. The men’s championship final will be played on Saturday, February 24. It’s the first time since 1998 that the men will play their gold medal game a day before the women’s final.

On the final day of the Olympics, the women will play for curling gold. 

Mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut with competition starting a day before the opening ceremony on February 8. 

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