Sweden and Canada on course to meet again for gold
SOCHI, Russia - Sweden and Canada became the first two men's teams to qualify for the Olympic men's curling semifinals yesterday, leaving a three-way fight between Norway, China and Britain for the two remaining spots.
Britain and China lost their games on the next-to-last day of round-robin play, squandering a chance to complete the lineup for the playoffs. Norway stayed alive in the tournament by winning two games - one against the British, 7-6.
The Swedes were watched by the country's king and queen in an 8-4 win over Russia in the morning and then beat the United States, 6-4, to finish the round robin at 8-1, guaranteeing that the world champions will be the top seed in the playoffs.
"You feel more important when you play for your country and that the king is there watching as well," Sweden skip Niklas Edin said. "It is great he came out to support us playing for the nation."
Canada also won both its games, stealing a point in the 10th to beat the U.S., 8-6, then being taken to an extra end by China before winning, 9-8. The Canadians (7-2) have also completed their round-robin campaign, which started rockily at 1-2 but steadily improved, and will be the No. 2 seed.
"When you come to an Olympics, there is so much hype about gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, especially with the Canadian men's curling team because it is so successful," Canada skip Brad Jacobs said. "We kind of let that get to us a little bit so we had to refocus, regroup . . . and stay in the present. Forget about the gold medal. It was all mental. It's character-building."
It leaves open the possibility of Sweden meeting Canada in the gold-medal match, which would be a repeat of last year's world championship final.
In the women's competition, Sweden's curlers gave each other long, warm hugs on the edge of the ice and waved into a TV camera after securing their place in the Olympic semifinals.
Then they looked up to the stand to thank their small band of travelling fans.
But if the Swedes were hoping to see their king and queen, they were out of luck.
King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife, Queen Silvia, were at the Ice Cube Curling Center yesterday morning to watch the men's team reach the playoffs.
The royals had long gone - up to the mountains to see Sweden win the men's cross-country skiing relay - by the time Maria Prytz bumped a stone into the button for two points at the final end and a 5-4 win over Russia.
It guaranteed the team a spot in the playoffs and a shot at Sweden's third straight gold medal in women's curling.
Canada, which qualified for the semis on Saturday, guaranteed the top seed in the playoffs by beating the United States, 7-6, in an extra end for an eighth straight win. If the Canadians beat South Korea today, they will become the first women's team to go through an Olympic round-robin campaign undefeated.
"We don't really think about the record," Canada curler Kaitlyn Lawes said. "We are in the playoffs - the next goal now is to win that semifinal."
The American women are 1-7 and on track to finish in last place for the second straight Olympics.
"We're not giving up," U.S. player Debbie McCormick (Rio, Wis.) said. "We finally got our mojo back, but unfortunately it was just a little too late."