Curling in a shopping mall? It’s certainly not your everyday experience, but that’s exactly what athletes and coaches will encounter this week at the 2024 USA Curling Men’s and Women’s National Championships, hosted inside the American Dream’s retail center in East Rutherford, NJ.
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The American Dream, touted as a “large retail and entertainment complex,” is playing host to the nation’s top-tier curlers as they vie for national titles and the chance to represent Team USA in the upcoming women’s and men’s world championships this spring.
With the first women’s draw scheduled to commence tonight at 7:00 p.m. (E.T.), athletes have already hit the ice for practice, and initial impressions are positive.
“Seeing the rink for the first time was very exciting!” remarked skip Danny Casper. “The months leading up to this, there was a lot of skepticism about what to expect, but seeing it in person and the great setup changed all of that.”
Casper, hailing from Briarcliff Manor, NY, and currently residing in the Twin Cities, is eager to compete at home with the first men’s draw set for Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. (E.T.).
Ranked No. 22 in the world, Casper’s team is among the favorites on the men’s side.
USA Curling CEO Dean Gemmell, a long-time native of New Jersey, expresses excitement about hosting the Nationals on the East Coast for the first time since 2016.
He sees the rink and mall setting as an excellent opportunity to reach more casual fans, and being in the country’s largest media market provides exposure for elite players.
On the women’s side, the competition is anticipated to be a two-horse race among teams ranked in the top 15 globally.
Skip Tabitha Peterson, a two-time Olympian and defending U.S. champion, leads a squad loaded with experience.
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Meanwhile, Delaney Strouse’s team, currently ranked No. 15 globally, has been making waves with notable successes in various competitions leading up to the Nationals.
On the men’s side, the race for the opportunity to represent Team USA is expected to be closely contested, with three prominent teams in contention, all led by five-time Olympian John Shuster.
Shuster, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist, has skippered six U.S. national championship rinks, securing three out of the last four titles with a formidable team consisting of third Chris Plys, second Matt Hamilton, lead John Landsteiner and versatile alternate Colin Hufman.
Throughout the season, Shuster’s team has notched a pair of second-place finishes, most recently at Arizona’s Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic and an impressive run at the Penticton Curling Classic in December.
Their September performance in the semifinals of the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard showcased their competitive edge, falling 5-1 to eventual champion Team Mouat.
Korey Dropkin, the skip who clinched his first U.S. title in 2021, is currently the world’s highest-ranked U.S. men’s team at No. 15 overall.
Team Dropkin showcased their prowess with semifinal appearances in the Euro Super Series and the Western Showdown while also reaching the final of the Curve U.S. Open of Curling, where they fell 6-3 to Team Casper.
The Casper squad, riding the momentum from their impressive 2022-23 season, secured silver at the FISU World University Games and finished second to Team Shuster at the 2023 U.S. Nationals.
Notably, they became the second U.S. men’s team to win a Slam event, clinching the Tour Challenge (Tier 2) title in October.
Despite a recent 1-3 performance at the Canadian Open, Team Casper, with Luc Violette, Ben Richardson, and Chase Sinnett, is optimistic and eagerly chasing their first U.S. national championship this week.
Casper spoke about the team’s readiness: “The team feels great. We do a great job of enjoying the moment and having fun, although this event should bring a lot of pressure. We are excited to just enjoy it!”
How to Watch
For fans, every game of the 2024 U.S. Nationals will be available for live streaming on CurlingZone’s Curling Stadium, featuring color commentary by 2018 Olympic champion Tyler George and play-by-play duties handled by New York Rangers public address announcer Joe Tolleson.
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