An international curling competition heated up the ice last week in Omaha.
Curlers from 10 countries gathered in hopes of qualifying for the World Cup Grand Final, which will take place in Beijing, China, in May. Curlers hoping to make the finals have to win at one of three competitions held in Suzhou, China; Omaha, Nebraska; and Jönköping, Sweden.
The men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles categories included teams from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.
Read on for a recap of the who won the qualifying matches that took place on Sunday.
United States’ Men’s Team Beats Sweden...Again
The U.S. men’s curling team, led by skip (captain) John Shuster, defeated Sweden 3-1.
The winning squad, known as Team Shuster, earned a spot at the World Cup Grand Finals and took home $27,500 in prize money.
Shuster said he was pleased to beat the Swedish team, which was ranked No. 1 in the world by the World Curling Federation.
“To have a good record against them and to play well against them is awesome,” said Shuster, who is from Minnesota.
This was the same team that Shuster faced at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where the U.S. took home the gold.
Curling is not as well known as other sports, but Shuster said he has noticed a change in the United States since his team won gold.
“Curling has definitely increased in popularity since our team won at the Olympics,” Shuster said. “It’s been fun seeing all the new people coming out to the curling clubs that currently exist and the new clubs popping up all over the country.”
On the ice with Shuster in Omaha were his Olympics teammates Matt Hamilton of Wisconsin and John Landsteiner of Minnesota. Also on the ice with the team was Chris Plys, who joined Team Shuster in May.
Plys, who is also from Minnesota, was excited to curl at Ralston Arena, where the competition took place.
“It’s always fun to play in the big arenas, and winning tournaments is as fun as it gets,” he said.
Shuster said the teammates have only one good luck ritual, and it takes place on the way to the competitions.
“When we are traveling to a game in the car, we always sit in the same seats,” he said. “And if we lose we change it it up.”
Looking forward to the World Cup Grand Final in Beijing, Shuster said he is hoping for a repeat of what happened in Omaha.
“There’s been a lot of fan support here in Omaha and the ice was great,” he said. “I hope we get as good of ice and we go and play as good as [we did] here and take home a Grand Final for the United States.”
Japan’s Women’s Curling Team Wins Against Korea
Team Fujisawa of Japan beat Korea 7–6 and took home $27,500 in prize money.
Skip Satsuki Fujisawa said she was happy to get the win over Team Minji Kim, to whom they lost at the recent Pacific-Asia Curling Championships.
Fujisawa said her teammates all worked well together to earn the win.
“We have great sweepers and good teammates,” Fujisawa said. “We had a really good game. We are very happy to play at Beijing.”
Teammate Chinami Yoshida said she was surprised her team won because Korea’s Team Minji Kim had a 6–5 lead going until the end of the game.
“We were struggling,” Yoshida said. “But we didn’t give up.”
Yoshida encouraged all children to give curling a try because it’s a good sport for all body types.
“If you are tall, short, small, or big, you can play curling,” she said. “It doesn’t matter about your physical body size.”
The other two players on the ice for Team Fujisawa were Yumi Suzuki and Yurika Yoshida.
Norway Beats Switzerland in Mixed Doubles
In the mixed doubles category, the team is made up of one male and one female player. Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedgrotten of Norway were the mixed doubles winners over Switzerland’s Jenny Perret and Martin Rios in a match that ended at 10–5.
The Norwegian curling duo won $13,000 and will compete in Beijing. Skaslien had competed in mixed doubles at the first stop of the World Cup, which took place in Suzhou in September. However, she had a different partner, Sander Roelvaag, and the pair did not make the finals.
The third leg of the Curling World Cup—and the last chance for teams to qualify for the finals— will take place January 4 through February 3 in Jönköping.
Top photograph by Céline Stucki/WCF