January 10, 2013
Curlers Jones, Martin return to action at Cup
By GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency
TORONTO - It didn’t take long for the rock stars to work off their Christmas turkey waistlines. Said waists are still quite trim, since curling’s ice warriors weren’t troubled — are never troubled, actually — by things like collective bargaining agreements.
The first major of the new calendar year is underway in Penticton, B.C., as North America is taking on the World at the ninth edition of the Continental Cup.
Modelled somewhat on golf’s international Ryder Cup, this four-day event throws six men’s and women’s teams from Canada and the U.S. against another six men’s and women’s squads from Europe. The disciplines range from regular team competition to singles, skins and mixed doubles, and total points are earned in search of the lion’s share of a $91,000 prize purse.
The power-packed North American team features Canadian men’s foursomes skipped by reigning world champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont. and 2010 Olympic champ Kevin Martin of Edmonton, and women’s teams led by 2012 world bronze medallist Heather Nedohin of Edmonton and 2008 worlds winner Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg. The U.S. teams are skipped by reigning national champs Heath McCormick of Lansing, Mich., (who lives in Sarnia, Ont.) and Allison Pottinger of St. Paul, Minn.
The “home” team is also captained by 2002 Olympic bronze medal skip Kelley Law of Vancouver, and coached by much-decorated (think Briers and worlds) Rick Lang of Thunder Bay, Ont.
The 2013 version of Team World is once again steered by Scottish captain David Hay and Swedish coach Peja Lindholm. Their lineup features reigning world women’s champ Mirjam Ott of Switzerland, 2012 world medallists Margaretha Sigfridsson and Niklas Edin of Sweden, Scotland’s Eve Muirhead and Tom Brewster, and Thomas Ulsrud of Norway.
This one marks the rubber match, as the combatants have scored four tournament wins each. Last year at Langley, B.C., Team World absolutely smoked the North Americans — it was over before the final day of play began.
Jones and Martin are ready to play, despite some recent upheaval. KMart is still recovering from December hernia surgery, and says he can’t quite throw the stones as hard as he might like. Meanwhile, JJ has her mom in Penticton helping with new baby Isabella, but is otherwise raring to go.
“I really only took two weeks off,” said Jones, who gave birth in mid-November. “I was throwing stones up to a week before (the birth) and I was back on the ice a week to 10 days after. The last two weeks, I’ve been trying to throw as much as possible, every day.”
Last April, Brewster had a shot to win the world championship over Canada’s Howard, but his hit and roll attempt hung wide and rolled out of play. It marked his second straight silver at the worlds, and he’s had a difficult first half of the 2013 season.
Brewster has welcomed rival Scotland skip David Murdoch onto his squad, and the rotating lineup has yet to jell. The team has one tour victory, a bunch of C-final losses and, worst of all, finished a gaudy 4-5 at the recent European championships.
“We’ve had one of those seasons to forget,” sighed Brewster. “We’ve had some injuries, and some illness, David was sick at the Europeans. Really sick, like during a game. He had to leave after the fourth end. Even with that, if we’d have won two more games we’d have been in the playoffs.”
Murdoch is not in Penticton this week. The team rotations have generated criticism at home, and appear stark compared to Russia’s recent women’s lineups. That team — previously known for seemingly ad hoc lineup switches — recently stabilized with zero rotations occurring at the Europeans ... which the Russians won.
“We brought David in to turn silver into gold, basically,” said Brewster. “To push everyone to work harder. From our perspective we know why we’re doing this, but I can understand why people look at this and say, ‘What are they doing?’ ”
TSN is televising three daily draws from Jan. 10 through Jan. 12. On Jan. 13, the climactic skins finales take place at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET.
Canada has an impressive four squads battling in this week’s International Bernese Ladies Cup in Switzerland. Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink and Crystal Webster are joined by Winnipeg’s Cathy Overton-Clapham and Colleen Jones’ reunited Halifax squad, skipped by Mary-Anne Arsenault. Fans can bounce from the Con Cup to their computer screens and watch numerous draws on Jan. 13 and 14 via: bit.ly/SCdGy3.
Calgary Olympians Cheryl Bernard (silver in 2010) and Amy Nixon (bronze in 2006) were both eliminated from Alberta women’s provincial play over the weekend. In Ontario, Ottawa’s Rachel Homan, cottage country’s Sherry Middaugh and Toronto’s John Epping are among those who made it through. The Territories are the first (women’s) provincial now underway, while British Columbia’s ladies kick off next week.
Ulsrud’s Norwegian Pants Brigade scored a big win immediately after the holidays in Scotland, beating Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen in the final of the Perth Masters. Brad Gushue of St. John’s and Scotland’s Ewen MacDonald lost out in the semis.