On the eve of the annual July 31st deadline, the Brazilian Curling Federation registered its intent to challenge USA for both the men’s and women’s berths for the Americas Zone for the 2017 World Curling Championships. Per the World Curling Federation (WCF) qualification system, the 2nd ranked Americas Zone association from the previous World Curling Championship—provided they are not hosting the next championship—is subject to any challenges that might come from other associations in the zone. The USCA is the 2nd ranked Americas Zone association for 2016-17, and had registered intent in April to accept any challenges.
The best-of-five competition must be played during the month of January 2017, as per WCF rules, unless another suitable date is agreed upon by both the WCF and Brazil.
After much discussion and review of various options among the USCA staff and Athletes Advisory Council leaders, a recommendation was put forth and discussed further with the USCA Executive Committee and Board of Directors, because of the impact it has on another USCA event. It has been decided that the Americas Challenge will be held Jan. 27-29 (or thereabouts), and that the USCA High Performance Program staff will select the two most experienced men’s and women’s teams to compete against Brazil.
Because these dates overlap with the 2017 USCA Mixed Doubles Qualifying Round, and the athletes playing for USA in the Americas Challenge would be unable to play in that event, four additional discretionary team selections will be added to the qualifying for the 2017 USCA Mixed Doubles National Championship.
The rationale used to make this decision includes:
- The best teams in the USA need to be entered into the Americas Challenge, as Olympic qualification is ultimately at stake. The 2017 World Championships are the second qualifying event for the 2018 Olympic Games. USA is currently ranked third for men and sixth for women in qualifying, with the top seven ranked nations after the 2017 Worlds qualifying for the Olympics, along with host nation Korea. Failing to qualify for the 2017 Worlds would put USA’s Olympic qualification in jeopardy, with only two spots left to chase in the last-ditch Olympic Qualifying Event in December 2017.
- All other weeks/weekends in January feature major WCT events in which top USA men’s and women’s teams will be competing in for points and Order of Merit rankings (which factor into world team qualification and Olympic Trials qualification).
- The same thing is true throughout November and December, so petitioning the WCF and Brazil to host the Americas Challenge sometime other than January does not resolve the issue. The first week of February is also unsuitable as it is the last open weekend before the USCA men’s and women’s National Championships, and the weekend after the Mixed Doubles Qualifying Round.
- Because the Mixed Doubles Qualifying Round is the sole event for teams to qualify for the Mixed Doubles National Championship, which is also qualifying teams for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Mixed Doubles Trials, preventing athletes from playing in the Qualifying Round presents a legal right-to-compete issue.
- The potential right-to-compete issue is being reduced by adding four discretionary selections to the Mixed Doubles National Championship. Should the athletes competing in the Americas Challenge not be interested in being selected to compete in the Mixed Doubles Nationals, selections would be made from other teams that competed in the Qualifying Round that did not already advance.
- While the WCF rules allow for having separate events for the men’s and women’s challenge, and the first week of January could be an acceptable time to have the women’s challenge, having just the men’s team play in the last week of January doesn’t change the fact that there will still be up to eight athletes unable to compete in the Mixed Doubles Qualifier (since the men’s half of the teams would be playing in the Challenge).
- Adding four more teams will increase the Mixed Doubles National Championship field to 12, which the host site (Blaine, Minn.) can easily handle. The competition schedule can be arranged for the event to still take place over a similar number of days. As previously determined, there would still be six teams advancing from the Qualifying Round to the Nationals, plus the returning USA world championship team, and one other discretionary selection.
The Mixed Doubles National Championship will still determine the top five teams, since five teams advance from this event to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Mixed Doubles Trials, tentatively set for mid-December 2017.