Brazil students challenge U.S. team for world curling berth

Four international university students in Sherbrooke, Que., hope to represent their home country of Brazil in the World Men's Curling Championship in Moncton this spring.

Four international university students in Sherbrooke, Que., hope to represent their home country of Brazil in the World Men's Curling Championship in Moncton this spring.

Members of Team Brazil, which includes Marcelo Mello, Cesar Santos, Celso Kossaka and Luis Augusto Silva, all attend the Université de Sherbrooke and are members of the Lennoxville Curling Club in Sherbrooke, Que.

The Brazilian team will challenge the U.S. team in a best-of-five series for one of two spots allotted to teams from the American continents at the world championship.

The challenge, which will be held in Bismarck, N.D., Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, will mark the first time a South American country has gone up against the U.S. for the second spot.

Team Canada, the 2008 world champion and host country, pre-qualified to compete in the 2009 championship to be held in Moncton April 4-12.

Marcelo Mello, the skip for Team Brazil, admitted his team's chances of competing in Moncton were slim. "It's not easy playing against a team like U.S.A. if you have just two seasons in curling," Mello told CBC News on Monday.

"But the objective is that we're representing our country and our club because we have been receiving a wonderful support from the Lennoxville Curling Club," he said.

Mello and his teammates discovered curling while they were looking for a sport to help them get through the long winter months in Canada. Mello said he tried snowboarding but decided that curling was a much safer sport.

However, Mello admitted that he and his teammates still have trouble keeping their balance on the ice. "We fall many times in the beginning," Mello said.

"Even today, I think it's the most difficult part of the game," he added.

Still, Mello said their bid to compete in the world championship is also a chance to raise the profile of winter sports in Brazil. The first curling rink there is expected to be built next year.

The United States Curling Association announced last week that 2007 U.S. champion Todd Birr of Mankato, Minn., and teammates Paul Pustovar, Greg Wilson and Kevin Birr will represent the U.S. in the challenge against Team Brazil.

In addition to Team Canada, teams from Scotland, Norway, France, China and Japan have already qualified to compete in the world men's championship.