2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup begins Thursday in St. Albert, Canada

The 2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup, presented by Monsanto, gets underway Thursday at Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert, Alberta, Canada.

Team World winner of 2008 Continental Cup in Camrose, Canada Photo: CCA/Michael Burns

It’s the seventh edition of the exciting and unique international four-day curling competition, patterned somewhat after golf’s Ryder Cup, featuring six teams from North America against six teams representing The World, in a variety of disciplines – Team Games (72 points), Mixed Doubles (36 points), Singles (32 points) and Skins (260 points). Each segment awards points for wins (or ties), with the first side to reach 201 points declared the winner.

Currently, North America and Team World are tied at three wins apiece since the inaugural Continental Cup was contested in 2002 in Regina. North America won in 2002, 2004 (in Medicine Hat) and 2007 (in Medicine Hat). Team World (then Team Europe) won in 2003 (in Thunder Bay), 2006 (in Chilliwack) and 2008 (in Camrose). There were no Continental Cups in 2005 and 2009 because the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials to determine Canada’s representatives for the Winter Olympic Games were held during that time.

The Canadian TV broadcaster TSN will provide complete live coverage of the World Financial Group Continental Cup, for viewers in Canada. And, in association with the World Curling Federation, TSN will provide web-streamed coverage to viewers outside Canada which will be available on the WCF website – http://www.worldcurling.org

Team World will be led by Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud of Oslo, the 2010 Olympic silver medallist and winner of the recent Le Gruyère European Curling Championships in Champéry, Switzerland; two-time World and three-time European champion David Murdoch of Lockerbie, Scotland; 2009 European champion Niklas Edin of Karlstad, Sweden; China’s 2009 world women’s champion and 2010 Olympic bronze medallist Bingyu Wang of Harbin; Germany’s two-time (and reigning) World champion and seven-time European winner Andrea Schöpp of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott of Davos, a two-time Olympic silver medallist and European champion.

Ulsrud, Murdoch, Edin, Wang and Ott were all members of triumphant Team World in 2008, while Schöpp was a member of the winning side in 2006, as were Murdoch and Ott as well.

The captain for Team World is 2002 Olympic gold medallist Pål Trulsen of Norway while Sweden’s Peja Lindholm, a three-time world champion, is the coach, the same positions they held when directing Team World to victory at the 2008 Continental Cup in Camrose, Alberta. Trulsen also won the event twice as a curler, in 2003 and 2006, while Lindholm was a member of the winning side in 2003.

North America will be represented by four teams from Canada – skipped by Edmonton’s 2010 Olympic gold medallist Kevin Martin and the reigning men’s world champion Kevin Koe; Calgary’s Cheryl Bernard, silver medallist at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones, a four-time Canadian women’s champion and 2008 Ford Worlds winner and two teams from the United States - current national champions Pete Fenson of Bemidji, Minnesota and Erika Brown, a Madison, Wisconsin native now living in Oakville, Ontario.

Martin was a member of the winning North American side in 2002 while Jones helped engineer a home side win in 2007. Brown won as a member of North America in 2002 and 2004.

The North America captain is former world champion Neil Harrison of Newmarket, Ontario while the coach will be three-time Brier and two-time world champion Rick Lang of Thunder Bay.

Team games, at eight ends only, will be played Thursday and Friday, as will two Mixed Doubles sessions. On Saturday, the A and B Skins games, including Mixed Skins, will be held, along with the Singles competition. On Sunday, the women’s and men’s final (C) Skins games will be contested.

This year, the winning side will receive $52,000 Cdn ($2,000 per member, including captain and coach), while the losing side gets $26,000 ($1,000 per member, including captain and coach). As well, the side which wins the final Men’s Skins game will receive an additional $13,000.

The World Financial Group Continental Cup, which is being staged in a new time slot this year after having been previously conducted in late November or December, is a joint venture of the Canadian Curling Association, World Curling Federation and United States Curling Association.

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