Curling competition bringing world’s best to Ralston Arena

Curling competition bringing world’s best to Ralston Arena
John Shuster, center, and his team are coming to Ralston Arena to represent the U.S. again in the Curling World Cup. The competition, which runs through Sunday, is the largest international curling event since the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea nearly 10 months ago. CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Ralston becomes the curling capital of the world beginning Wednesday when 10 of the world’s top countries in the sport will be represented in the Curling World Cup at Ralston Arena.

This competition, which runs through Sunday, is the largest international curling event since the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea nearly 10 months ago.

Curlers from Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States will compete for top honors in three categories. The mixed doubles, women’s and men’s final all are scheduled to be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network.

This isn’t the first world-class curling competition hosted in the Omaha area. In November 2017 USA Curling hosted its Olympic Trials at Baxter Arena.

Josh Todd, the president and executive director of the Omaha Sports Commission, said this event will top even the level of competition from the Trials because so many Olympians from the United States and other nations will be dueling.

“We are honored to be hosting a competition featuring so many Olympic athletes,” Todd said. “Fans are going to be able to see a quality of play and intensity of competition that rivals what we saw earlier this year at the Pyeongchang Olympics.”

Members of 2018 Olympic gold medal teams from the U.S., Sweden and Canada are scheduled to compete this week. A total of 32 curlers who competed in Pyeongchang are slated to take the ice in the main rink area at Ralston Arena at various times over the five days.

Competitors began arriving in Omaha over the weekend, and those who are here Tuesday will have a chance to practice on the five sheets. Both the Tuesday and Wednesday practice sessions are not open to the public.

The first matches begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday, followed by the opening ceremonies at approximately 5:15 p.m. Competition will continue with matches at 6:30 and 9.

For the next three days the schedule won’t change. Beginning Thursday and running through Saturday, matches will be at 8:30 a.m., noon, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

On championship Sunday only one sheet will be needed for the championship matches at 8:30 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. Awards ceremonies will be held immediately following each championship match.

Among the gold medal teams that will be on hand this week is Team Shuster, the five men who won the gold medal for the United States. Team skip John Shuster, Chris Plys, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner and Joe Polo competed in a tournament in suburban Minneapolis on Sunday.

Plys replaces Tyler George, who was with the team in South Korea but is currently taking a break from the sport. The team didn’t compete for roughly six months after the Olympics as members were celebrated in Minnesota and across the country.

In its most recent tournament Team Shuster defeated Team Allen 11-3 at the Curl Mesabi Classic in Eveleth, Minnesota.

Team Allen features all former NFL stars — former Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, former St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger and former Tennessee Titans Keith Bulluck and Michael Roos.

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