By Robbie Gallaugher 2017-03-30 14:07:24
The Americas Challenge may be the least known event in the World Curling Federation’s list of seasonal championships, but with time it may very well change the scheme of curling playdowns as we know it today. While many people assume that Canada and the USA are automatically handed berths into the world championships, this false assumption is the result of a lack of participation from the remaining countries in North and South America. Between both continents, two berths are up for grabs and can be challenged for by any of their 35 countries. The current WCF rules state that “The second-ranked Americas Zone Association from the previous World Championship, provided they are not hosting the next Championship, will be subject to any challenges that might come from other Associations in the Americas Zone.” Simply put, the top finishing Americas country in a world championship automatically earns a spot into the following year’s Championship, and the others are subject to a playoff. To date, Brazil is the only other Americas country currently making its way onto the competitive international scene. The men’s team has previously challenged the USA in 2009, ’10 and ’15. This past season the men once again challenged the USA and, for the first time, so did the Brazilian women. The best-of-five series took place in Duluth, Minnesota in late January. Featured were the Nina Roth and John Shuster teams representing the USA up against the Aline Goncalves and Marcelo Mello foursomes from Brazil. Came to play USA Curling nominated the Roth and Shuster teams to represent the country in this playoff; coincidentally, both squads went on to win their national titles and wore the blue and white at the worlds in Beijing and Edmonton. In Draw 1 the men had a close battle, with Shuster coming out on top by a score of 8-6, while the women’s match ended with Roth scoring an 8-ender in the sixth frame to seal a 16-2 victory. The Americans continued to dominate in Draw 2, with the men winning 9-4 and the women 12-2. Similar results were posted for the men in Draw 3 with Shuster clinching the Championship by a score of 9-3, but in the third women’s match the Brazilian ladies came to play, and forced Roth to make her final stone for a 9-8 win to capture the title. While it may not be a surprise that the USA came out victorious on both sides of the challenge this year, we don’t have to look back very far to remember the days when countries such as Japan, China and Korea were on the losing sides of lopsided games such as these. Give any country some time, and with the right resources, training and dedication they too can become dominant forces on the curling scene. It may seem far-fetched to have a men’s or women’s world championship that doesn’t include Canada, but if we’re lucky, hopefully one day this may happen. If it does, it means our sport will have grown across the Americas to the point where multiple countries are not only participating, but being competitive on the world scene. The Americas Challenge would then be comparable to the European and Pacific-Asia Championships. If the Americas can grow the number of countries participating in curling, their competitive development will soon follow. We also must not underestimate the USA, as they too have access to all the resources needed to raise their profile in the sport; and it should be no surprise to see them inch closer to the podium in future years. Canada must host Speaking of the USA: Las Vegas is home to a few successful Continental Cup curling events in recent years and is also poised to begin play with a National Hockey League franchise debuting soon. Vegas also happens to be hosting next year’s 2018 World Men’s Curling Championship and as such, the United States is automatically awarded the first Americas berth into the event. Flip back to the definition of WCF qualifying rules, and that means in 2018 it is the Canadian men that will be challenged by Brazil before earning a berth into the worlds. So there you have it. Assuming that Brazil once again issues the challenge, Canada must nominate a team to play a best-of-five challenge series at some point next season, date and location to be announced. Curling Canada can nominate any team it wishes to face off against Brazil and must organize and host the playoff as well. This may cause some debate and conflicts of schedules as the Americas Challenge typically takes place before both the Canadian and American domestic championships, but if Brazil and other countries continue to develop and compete, this event could soon become a well-known and integrated event on the road to the world championships. While it may have been nice to always have guaranteed spots for Canada in the worlds, would it not be nicer to see our sport grow into new areas of the world? After all, what curling fan would say no to attending a championship hosted in Brazil? Robbie Gallaugher coached Brazilian athletes at their domestic Mixed Doubles Championship and also coached Brazil’s women at the Americas Challenge. Follow him on Twitter @robbie778.
Published by Curling News. View All Articles.