Preview: Americas Challenge (USA vs. Brazil)
When: January 27–29
Where: Duluth Curling Club
Streaming: I am guessing TESN Duluth will be showing it raw, seeing as how they have a 24-hour live feed
Guys, it’s that time of year again … Brazil vs. the United States for a chance to curl in the world championship! It’s almost certainly gonna be USA, but still!
More info is on the WCF site, but just to summarize: the Americas zone (read: the Western Hemisphere) receive two spots to the 12-team world championships. Canada gets one for hosting and/or being ranked #1 in the zone. The second-ranked team plays anyone in the zone that formally challenges them to a best-of-five. The only other sanctioned WCF curling countries in our region are Mexico and Guyana (who just got provisional membership last year) and the US Virgin Islands, which has still a member in good standing for 25 years running but otherwise has no current activity.
This is the fourth time Brazil’s men’s team has challenged for a spot (2008, 2009, 2015) and the first time the women have done so. Even more interesting: the worlds in 2018 will be in Las Vegas, so Team Brazil would have to challenge the Canadian men. Juicy!
Also at stake: if Brazil does win either spot, a berth in worlds also gives them an invitation to qualify for the Olympics next year.
And this is a relevant question: is there curling in Brazil? The answer is: I am not quite sure, but all the players on the national team are either immigrants or dual citizens who live and train in different parts of Canada. So if you want to call them Canadian, then let’s do that, since it’s probably the only way we can say the Americans are favored over Canadians in curling.
TEAM BRAZIL (WOMEN): Aline Goncalves, Isis Oliveira, Allassandra Barros, Anne Shibuya, Luciana Barrella (alternate)
Goncalves, a Brazilian-Canadian who works as a librarian at the Yukon College, has played at the world mixed doubles championships each of the last three years, and last year played second on a team out of the Yukon. The rest of her team has some experienced playing at the World Mixed Curling championship. Shibuya helped win her national mixed doubles title this year and will go to worlds at 2017.
TEAM USA (WOMEN): Nina Roth, Tabitha Peterson, Aileen Geving, Becca Hamilton, Cory Christensen (alternate)
Team Roth is ranked 19th on the YTD world curling tour and #24 overall. In their last event they reached the quarterfinals of the Bernese Cup in Switzerland. While they didn’t have the strongest start (to get into the Continental Cup, at least) they are putting together a very good season and are probably the team to beat at nationals.
Prediction: with this being the first women’s Americas Challenge, Team Brazil is almost certainly overmatched, but you have to start somewhere. Hopefully they make it competitive, but USA sweeps in 3.
TEAM BRAZIL (MEN): Marcelo Mello, Marcio Cerquinho, Scott McMullan, Filipe Nunes, Sergio Mitsuo (alternate)
This will be Mello’s fourth time skipping in the Americas Challenge. The 45-year-old Brazilian-Canadian from Quebec has three times represented Brazil at the world mixed doubles championship and once at the world mixed in 2015. McMullan and Nunes are returning members of this team in the 2015 Americas Challenge. Cerquinho played second for Brazil at the 2016 WMxCs, and will represent the country at the 2017 WMDCs.
USA MEN: John Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner, Joe Polo (alternate)
As rough as their year has been, Team Shuster did bounce back at the turn of the calendar with a quarterfinal berth in the Canadian Open. Last week they struggled in Arizona and couldn’t advance out of their pool with a 2–2 record. So they’re 32nd in year-to-date points, third in the country, ergo this will probably the only time this year they will be considered Team USA. Make it count.
Prediction: Look, one of these years it’s not going to be such a foregone conclusion. The Brazilians will continue to narrow the gap, so long as they grow the program somewhere, be it Saskatoon or Sao Paulo. I’d be floored if Brazil still won a game, because the last challenge back in 2015 was the first time they even played part of a 10th end. Having said all that, this is John Shuster we’re talking about, and once in a while he lays an egg. I don’t have any information on how much the Brazilian team has improved, but am assuming they have, and have the capacity to execute and call a game. So, Brazil wins a game, but USA in 4.