Team World claimed the World Financial Group Continental Cup of Curling over Team North America on Sunday night, avenging a one-sided loss a year ago.
Thomas Ulsrud of Norway clinched the title for Team World early in a men's skins game against defending world champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg.
Team World needed just one point from the final event of the four-day competition to clinch the title. After the first two ends went scoreless, Ulsrud drew to the button in the third to claim a skin worth five points and the championship.
Team World and North America now have four Continental Cup titles apiece since the competition started in 2002. The winning squad included three men's and three women's rinks from China, Norway, Scotland and Sweden. Team North America comprised Canadian and American rinks.
Ulsrud helped Team World make good on its aim to deliver a better effort than last year by adhering to a no-drinking rule.
“We knew this alcohol question would be a talk of the town, and it was,” said Team World coach Peja Lindholm as he grabbed coffee and donuts after celebrating briefly with his team during the skins game. “But it really helped us, I would say, and now we'll have a great time.”
The rule was in effect from the time most curlers arrived Monday until the final rock was thrown Sunday. Lindholm and captain David Hay of Scotland invoked the rule in the wake of last year's one-sided loss in St. Albert, Alta. Team North America claimed the title a full day before the competition closed.
Although this year's overall outcome was not decided until the final match, a determined Team World led throughout the four-day competition. Team World curlers made good on Lindholm and Hay's goal of creating a more competitive environment.
A day before this year's competition began, Lindholm accused some of 2011 Team World members of being “not professional” because of their partying ways, but did not identify any culprits.
“It really hurt last year from being so kicked, because North America was so good last year and we were really poor,” said Lindholm. “So we didn't want that to happen again.”
Patterned after golf's Ryder Cup, the non-traditional format included men's, women's, mixed doubles, singles and skins matches.
Even though the championship was decided early, Ulsrud and Stoughton played the rest of their skins game out because it was worth an additional $13,000 to the winning side and the match was broadcasted live on TSN.
Most of the drama surrounding the title occurred earlier Sunday as China's Bingyu Wang came back to beat Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon 30-25 in the final women's skins game. Wang took the last skin on a tiebreaker shot that brushed the edge of the button.
“I just threw ... and let my teammates work,” said Wang, who gave the shot a little extra push upon release to ensure that it had enough weight.
The tiebreaker resulted after Lawton scored only one instead of the required two in the eighth and final end.
Wang's win gave Team World 200 of a possible 400 points, leaving Ulsrud with the task of only having to get a single point in the men's nightcap.
“She made some great shots to finish it off there,” said Lawton, who drew to the four-foot on her tiebreaker attempt.
Lawton had to settle for one in the eighth end after she attempted a hit and roll and her shooter stopped short of the button, forcing the tiebreaker. Wang's successful tiebreaker shot capped her comeback from a 25-0 deficit after five ends.
“We didn't have a good start for the skins, but we came back,” said Wang. “We tried our best and we got the points back.”
Wang was playing in only her third skins competition. She said her rink needed the first five ends to get used to skins action and had to adopt different tactics.
“It's a different strategy, so we did better, I think, the last ends,” she said, adding her foursome also had to get a read on the speed of the ice.
The rally began in the sixth end as Wang hit and stayed after Lawton barely missed on a hit-and-stay attempt of her own. That skin was worth eight points, and Wang picked up 10 more in the seventh end as she pulled off a steal after Lawton missed a double-takeout attempt.
“It's a game of inches,” said Lawton. “We were so close.”
Notes: Team World shared $52,000 in first-place money among 48 curlers and the coach and captain. Team North America's squad shared $26,000. ... The additional $13,000 prize from the closing men's skins game was to be shared among all of Team World or Team North America. ... In the event of a 200-200 tie in overall points, Team North America would have retained the Cup as defending champion. Such protocol is used in the Ryder Cup. The Canadian Curling Association, World Curling Federation, U.S. Curling Association and the respective captains and coaches agreed to that plan after Wang's win in the final women's skins game.