January 9 - North America and Team World are preparing to battle it out to for that coveted fifth win to top the other as the World Financial Group (WFG) Continental Cup of Curling gets underway tomorrow in Penticton, Canada.
The six teams from North America and the six representing the rest of the world are currently tied at four wins apiece since the inaugural Continental Cup was held in 2002 in Regina, and the squads will hoping to make a difference at the South Okanagan Events Centre in what will be the ninth edition of the tournament.
The competition features some of the sports biggest names set to compete in various disciplines – team games, mixed doubles, singes, mixed skins and skins games – during the four-day international competition which runs until January 13.
Team North America will be represented by four teams from Canada – skipped by Coldwater's Glenn Howard (pictured top); Kevin Martin and Heather Nedohin of Edmonton; Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg – and two teams from the United States to be skipped by Heath McCormick of Ontario and Allison Pottinger of Minnesota.
Their captain will be 2000 world champion and Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic bronze medallist Kelley Law of Coquitlam, with three-time Canadian Men's Curling Championship – otherwise known as the Tim Hortons Brier – winner and two-time world champion Rick Lang of Thunder Bay returning as coach.
Howard is a four-time Brier winner and world champion after capturing the 2012 world title in Basel, Switzerland, and his team qualified for the Continental Cup by winning last year's Tim Hortons Brier in Saskatoon.
Martin is also a four-time Brier winner, Vancouver 2010 Olympic gold medallist and 2008 world champion, with his team earning their berth by taking the 2011 Capital One Canada Cup in Cranbrook.
Nedohin secured her berth with a victory at the 2012 Canadian Women's Championship – also known as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts – in Red Deer, then earned a bronze medal at the Ford World Women's in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Jones, a four-time Scotties winner and 2008 world champion, won last year's Canada Cup to earn her spot for the Penticton event.
2003 world champion McCormick leads a squad that are the reigning US national champions who finished eighth at the 2012 Men's World Championship, while Pottinger was fifth at the 2012 Women's World Championship.
Meanwhile, Team World comprises teams skipped by Sweden's Niklas Edin and Margaretha Sigfridsson, Scots Tom Brewster and Eve Muirhead, Thomas Ulsrud of Norway and Switzerland's Mirjam Ott.
Former world champion David Hay of Scotland will captain the team, while three-time world champion Peja Lindholm from Sweden will be coach – the same positions they held last year when Team World won the Cup in Langley.
Brewster has claimed silver medals at the last two Men's World Championships, losing the final to Canada's Jeff Stoughton in Regina in 2011 and to Canada's Howard in Basel in 2012, while Edin and his team were recently crowned European champions in their hometown Karlstad, as well as securing bronze medals at the last two World Championships.
Two-time European champion and 2012 European silver medallist Ulsrud, is another experienced athlete in Team World.
He took the silver medal at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, where he lost the final to Canada's Martin and his team finished fourth in the last two Men's World Championships.
Two-time Olympic silver medallist Ott is the reigning women's world champion, having won the 2012 gold medal in Lethbridge, over Sigfridsson's team, and 2010 world silver medallist Muirhead is a four-time world junior champion and a silver medallist at the 2012 European Curling Championships.
Each segment sees teams awarded points for wins or ties and this year's event will use a new points system, with a total of 60 points now available, meaning the side that earns more than 30 points will be declared the champions to receive the CDN$52,000 (£32,800/$52,600/€40,300) prize money.
For the six mixed doubles and six singles matches, one point will be awarded for each victory, one-half point if tied, with a point up for grabs - one-half point for a tie - from the 18 team games, nine men's and nine women's, played.
All games are eight ends and there are no extra ends and there will also be six skins games - two mixed, two women's and two men's – offering a total of five points per game, with the first six ends of each game worth one-half point each, while the seventh and eighth ends are worth one point each.
In skins, a count of at least two with last rock or a steal is required in order to win an end otherwise the points carry over.
Canadian sports broadcaster TSN will provide complete coverage of the Cup inside Canada and this coverage is available to curling fans outside Canada via the World Curling Federation website here.
This year's event is the third time the competition has been staged in British Columbia, following Chilliwack in 2006 and Langley in 2012.
The next WFG Continental Cup will be staged in Las Vegas on January 16 until 19 2014, and is a joint venture of the Canadian Curling Association, World Curling Federation and United States Curling Association.
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