U.S. men, women fall short as curling opens

German curler Andreas Kapp instructs teammates against U.S.

Germany's Andy Kapp never even had to release his final rock. He took out two U.S. stones with his second-to-last throw to secure a win for the Germans in their Olympic curling opener.

The Americans' shot-making wasn't nearly as spot on in their 7-5 defeat yesterday.

"We played really well," Kapp said. "It took a little bit of time to get the right shots, but at the end I made all the shots. It's always nice to win the first game. That's one point nobody can take away from us."

In women's play, Japan rallied back from an early, three-point deficit to spoil the Olympic opener of U.S. skip Debbie McCormick's team, beating the Americans, 9-7, in a dramatic finish that brought out an official measurement.

McCormick threw her final stone with a chance to tie, and both teams wound up with one rock on the edge of the button. They were so close that an official measurement was done, and Japan's rock was a hair closer in the innermost scoring circle. If the U.S. stone had won, the teams would have played an extra end.

Japan scored one point in the ninth end to take the lead.

Men's skip John Shuster liked his shot selection fine. The rock just didn't curl the way he hoped.

Shuster and his teammates missed key scoring chances and find themselves in an early hole. They even caught a few breaks on ends where they easily could have given up more points.

In this sport, precision in throwing the granite stone is paramount, and a matter of mere inches can determine who wins and loses. The Americans, ranked fourth in the world, got another chance last night against Norway.

Shuster, bronze medalist in Turin 4 years ago, considers his team a medal contender. Several players have hinted that more than three losses might be too many to reach the semifinals following the initial nine-game, round-robin schedule.

"I had three rocks through the course of the game, or four rocks, that just didn't quite curl enough," Shuster said. "Any time you have that happen and end up giving up a steal instead of scoring two, it's a bad deal. We thought I threw them OK. It's one of those weird deals where you're very close."

The teams played an aggressive third end, with a combined nine rocks in the house at one point. But the U.S. foursome failed to come away with a point as Germany got two for a 3-1 lead. They evened it in the fourth with two.

Shuster's throw to close the sixth end went to official measurement, but Germany was closer to button and took a 5-3 lead.

The easygoing Americans bumped fists and seemed plenty loose before the first rock was thrown. Any jitters?

"Absolutely not," Shuster said. "I don't think I've ever felt so comfortable on a sheet of ice. I was out there enjoying the crowd, enjoying the moment. Even through some of those tough times, I think we managed our emotions well out there."

In other early men's games, Canada defeated Norway, 7-6; Sweden defeated Britain, 6-4; and Switzerland held off Denmark, 6-5.


South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa knocked off two overwhelming favorites to win gold in the women's 500 meters.

German world-recordholder Jenny Wolf and China's Wang Beixing came in expecting to battle for top spot on the podium, having swept all eight races during the World Cup season. But Lee held off Wolf by five-hundredths of a second, winning with a total time of 1 minute, 16.09 seconds.

Wolf had the fastest time in the second race, but it wasn't enough to erase Lee's lead from the first heat, leaving the German with a silver at 1:16.14. Wang took the bronze in 1:16.63.

Heather Richardson, of High Point, N.C., was the top American, finishing sixth, with an overall time of 1:17.17. Other Americans were Elli Ochowicz, 17th; Jennifer Rodriguez, 21st; and Lauren Cholewinski, 30th.


Bjorn Ferry, of Sweden, won the men's 12.5-kilometer biathlon pursuit for his first Olympic medal. Ferry took the lead on the final lap after his fourth shoot and had a winning time of 33 minutes, 38.4 seconds.

Austria's Christoph Sumann won the silver. France's Vincent Jay, who started first after winning the 10K sprint in his Olympic debut Sunday, took the bronze.

The first multi-medalists at the Olympics are biathletes Magdalena Neuner, of Germany, and Anastazia Kuzmina, of Slovakia.

Neuner won the women's 10-kilometer pursuit, giving her a gold to go with her silver in the 7.5-kilometer sprint. Kuzmina got silver, to go with her gold from the previous event.

Sara Studebaker was the top American, finishing 46th.


Germany's Tatjana Huefner won the gold medal in women's luge, the ninth for her country in 13 Olympic competitions.

Huefner finished four runs in 2 minutes, 46.52 seconds. Austria's Nina Reithmayer won the silver, and Germany's Natalie Geisenberger took the bronze.

Erin Hamlin, of Remsen, N.Y., the 2009 world champion, was the top American, finishing 16th.

Cauldron of controversy

Organizers of the Vancouver Games expect to unveil a plan today to make the fenced-off Olympic cauldron more accessible to the public.

Renee Smith-Valade, a spokeswoman for the Vancouver organizing committee, said the plan would bring spectators closer to the flame so they can take better pictures.

Olympic planners have drawn criticism because the flame sits behind a chain-link fence.

Skiers cleared

Two skiers passed blood tests to take part at the Olympics after earlier being suspended from competing. The International Ski Federation said it cleared Nordic combined athlete Niyaz Nabeev, of Russia, and cross-country skier Kaspar Kokk, of Estonia, to resume competition after sidelining them for 5 days because of too-high hemoglobin levels. *