By GREGORY STRONG
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Friday, January 12, 2018
The Brazilian curling team is aiming high in its effort to help grow the sport in the South American country.
Skip Marcelo Mello will take on Canada's Glenn Howard - a four-time world champion - in the Americas Zone Challenge competition this week in London, Ont. The winner of the bestof-five series will earn a berth for their country at the 2018 world men's curling championship.
"You always learn a lot when you play with someone that's good," Brazilian alternate Sergio Mitsuo Vilela said. "I think that we could not ask for a better opponent. We are quite excited."
This will be the fifth time that Brazil has challenged for an Americas Zone spot and the first time Canada has provided the opposition. The United States won all four previous matchups by a combined score of 111-40.
Under World Curling Federation rules, the Americas Zone is guaranteed two spots in the March 31-April 8 world play downs in Las Vegas and one goes to the host country. Brazil was the only country to challenge top-ranked Canada for the second spot.
The host side installed a fourth sheet of ice at the Sports Centre at Western Fair District for the occasion. The Americas Zone Challenge will run in conjunction with the Continental Cup between Team North America and Team World.
Vilela hopes the event will create more awareness in Brazil, increase media exposure and maybe help spur interest in getting some curling arenas built in the country.
"It made a lot of sense to challenge Canada, even though we know the chances are slim at best," he said from London.
Curling is in its infancy in Brazil, a summer-sports haven where soccer and volleyball are king. However, winter sports have gained some traction in recent years. Figure skater Isadora Williams represented Brazil in figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Brazilian bobsleigh team continues to make inroads and Brazil entered the 2016 Winter Youth Games.
Given the climate and a dearth of winter-sport facilities, most Brazilian athletes train and play abroad. Curling is no different.
Mello and lead Filipe Nunes, both from Porto Alegre, live in Sherbooke. Third Scott McMullan is a Sao Paulo resident from Winnipeg and second Marcio Cerquino is a Vancouver resident from Manaus.
Brazil is 43rd out of the 47 countries with ranking points on the WCF list, currently sandwiched between Serbia and Luxembourg.
But there is hope on the horizon.
New WCF qualification procedures will be used ahead of the 2019 world championship, which could mean Brazil plays countries closer to its level instead of powerhouses such as the United States and Canada.
In the meantime, the Brazilian side will soak up the experience of playing against the sport's elite in front of big crowds on top-shelf arena ice.
"That's all we could dream of," Vilela said.