Sochi recap: Curling, final day of group play

Canada and Sweden rule the ice, we’ll have one tiebreaker, and the USA went out in ugly fashion as Olympic round-robin play ended.

Date: 17-Feb

Sport: Curling

Event: Last day of group play

How U.S. fared: Do we have to mention the final women’s game? After several close losses, this one got away early. Erika Brown whiffed on a double takeout, one of several wayward shots in the first end, to give up four points in the first. South Korea stole one in the second. Another double takeout miss in the fifth gave South Korea a steal of two. Down 9-1 at the halfway point, Brown and company were limited to a single in the sixth. When South Korea scored two in the seventh, Brown conceded.

So a women’s team loaded with Olympic experience finished last. Their 1-8 record was a game worse than 2010, when current vice-skip Debbie McCormick was the hard-luck skip. Since Kari Erickson (with McCormick and current lead Ann Swisshelm) made the playoffs and finished fourth in 2002, the U.S. women have five total wins in three Olympics.

John Shuster’s team simply couldn’t score more than a single in any end. Down 5-2 after seven ends, Shuster hit a solid double takeout with his first shot in the eighth to stay in it but then missed an open draw and gave up a steal. The USA scored one in the ninth to make it 6-3 but couldn’t steal a triple in the 10th.

What happened:

Morning session (women):

Britain and Russia played a wild one. Tied 3-3 after seven, Britain scored four in the eighth. Russia answered with three to stay in it, but Eve Muirhead hit a gutsy double takeout in the 10th to win 9-6.

Japan made things interesting in a game with no blank ends and no steals. The hammer scored in each end. But Japan had three triples to China’s one, and when Japan’s Ayumi Ogasawara removed two stones with her last shot in the 10th, China conceded the hammer. Japan took the 8-5 win to forge a three-way tie for fourth.

So with one game left for everyone but the USA and Russia (both out of the running), it was unbeaten Canada clinching first, then Sweden (6-2) safely in the playoffs. Britain (5-3) led the three fourth-place teams (China, Japan, Switzerland) at 4-4. Denmark and South Korea were just out of it at 3-5.

Afternoon session (men):

Funny quirk of the standings — while the bottom two teams would miss the last women’s session, the top two teams were idle for the last men’s games. Sweden (8-1) and Canada (7-2) already knew they would be in different semifinals on a course to meet in the final.

That left China (6-2) and Britain (5-3) playing a vital game. China could avoid the tiebreakers with a win or Norway (also 5-3) loss. Britain would make at least the tiebreakers with a win. And that was, appropriately, the last game of the session to end. That gave the crowd some time to calm down from Russia’s finale, with the home team beating last-place Germany 8-7.

Denmark waited patiently for its opportunity, blanking two ends before scoring a double in the ninth to go up 5-3 on a sublime shot from Rasmus Stjerne Hansen. With Norway holding shot rock (closer to the button than the others), Hansen’s hammer nudged that rock just enough to make a Danish rock count. The hammer also stayed in play.

Meanwhile, Britain escaped a potential big score for China in the seventh and gave up only one for a 4-3 deficit. But David Murdoch left a draw just short in the eighth end, giving China a steal of one. Murdoch fought back with two in the ninth to tie it, but Liu Rui nailed his precise draw in the 10th for a 6-5 win.

So China (7-2) advanced to face Canada in the semifinals. Norway and Britain will play a tiebreaker on Tuesday for the right to face Sweden in the semifinal.

Evening session (women):

China and Switzerland had a near-playoff game — each with a 4-4 record, the winner clinching at least a tiebreaker and the loser eliminated. And the Swiss took a big lead early, stealing three when Wang Bingju missed a draw in the second. China came back with a double and a steal of one to cut the lead to 4-3. Swiss skip Mirjam Ott got two with a pretty promotion takeout (bump one of mine in, one of yours out) in the fifth.

In the eighth, China lined up three stones several feet apart. Swiss vice-skip Carmen Schaefer removed two and bumped the other out of the way. Wang Bingyu then came up short on her final draw, and Ott drew for three and a 9-4 lead. China scored two in the eighth and put three in the house to make Ott draw to the eight-foot for the win, which Ott did with ease for the 10-6 win and the playoff berth.

Britain (5-3) was playing to ensure a space in the semifinals without going through the tiebreaker. Eve Muirhead dominated the house in the fourth, leaving Denmark’s Lene Nielsen with a difficult hit and roll just to hold Britain to one. Nielsen couldn’t leave her shot in the house, giving up a steal of two. Denmark fought back with two, then Britain scored three in the seventh and stole another one in the eighth.

But Denmark, despite being mathematically eliminated, wasn’t done. They blanked the ninth end and scored three in the 10th to force the game to an extra end. And Muirhead missed a tricky hit-and-roll in the 11th to give Denmark the 8-7 stunner.

By that point, though, Britain could see the playoffs. Japan (also 4-4) needed a win to stay in contention. But Ayumi Ogasawara missed a draw in the fifth for a steal of one and a 5-2 deficit. A Japanese steal in the seventh trimmed the lead to 5-4, but Sweden scored two and stole another to lead 8-4 after nine ends. Japan played into the 10th but had to concede.

So Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and Britain advance to the semifinals. There will be no tiebreaker on the women’s side.

In the one game not affecting the playoffs. Canada got a bit of help in its bid to be the first team to go unbeaten in an Olympic women’s round-robin. South Korea scored doubles with its first two hammers to go up 4-1, then conceded six points over five ends without ever giving back the hammer. Down 9-4, South Korea conceded the 10th end.

Full results | Men’s standings | Women’s standings | Recaps with diagrams

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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

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