Round-robin curling action continues at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Day 5.
Men's Curling Session 4
Flipping the script from Tuesday's action, the men got Day 5's action underway on Wednesday with a threesome of matches. This session allowed all 10 participants to complete their third matches, setting the stage for how the rest of the day would play out.
Here is a look at the results from session four:
The United States provided perhaps the early session's most surprising result, dominating for much of its contest against Denmark en route to a 9-5 victory.
Sochi had been a struggle thus far for the Americans, losing their first two matches against China and Norway a combined 16-8. Skippered by three-time Olympian John Shuster, this wasn't expected to be a medal event on either the men's or the women's side but the lack of competitiveness was a surprise.
The remnants of those early failings were nowhere to be found Wednesday. The Americans survived a three-point first end for Denmark to go on a 6-0 run of their own, stealing points in the third, fourth and fifth ends with Denmark in the hammer. Terry Kolesar, USA Curling's director of communications, noted sometimes in curling even American football sayings ring true:
The United States' run of steals was a double-edged sword, of course, as Denmark was able to strategically keep itself in the hammer position. Given the option of an easy point or the hammer in the sixth and seventh ends, Denmark's skipper chose to hold out for one more big run.
Curling is often referred to as a sport of runs, but this strategy also put a ton of pressure on Johnny Frederiksen and Co. to come up big.
They couldn't. Rasmus Stjerne Hansen made critical mistakes time and again, particularly in the eighth end when Denmark could have made some headway. Needing to knock out the United States' stones for a successful end, Stjerne Hansen instead gave away another steal that all but wrapped up the match. Ahead 7-3 with only two ends remaining, the United States went into conservation mode and wrapped up its first victory in Sochi.
Denmark dropped to 1-2 in its three matches.
Unexpected results are seemingly the name of the game for much of Wednesday. Germany and Norway played a surprisingly competitive match throughout, before Norway's talent ultimately won out in a 8-5 triumph.
Ranked fourth in the world after the 2012-13 season, Norway got out to a 2-0 lead in the first end and looked like it would cruise to a third straight victory. But strategically smart plays from the Germans to stay in the hammer followed by a two-point sixth end had the heavily favored Norway going into the seventh end ahead only 4-3.
The prospect of an upset wouldn't go away, either. Norway moved ahead 5-3 in the seventh end but a two-point ninth from the Germans took the match to the 10th end with everything on the line. And in true Norwegian fashion, they came back with a huge stamp to end the match. Skipper Thomas Ulsurd helmed a three-point end to finish it off.
While Norway is obviously happy with its win, anyone who watched the match would be remiss without mentioning the team's pants. In an eclectic choice making the rounds on social media, the curling outfit chose to go with red and indigo blue houndstooth knickers. Joel Darling of CBC Sports was impressed with the look:
Norway has been making a splash with its attire throughout these Olympics, taking on the personality of its curlers.
"One of the players said, 'Ach, this is boring black pants,'" Lars Otto Bjornland, the team's spokesperson, told CNN's Aaron Smith. "The player looked up the more colorful pants on Internet. He bought the pants with his own money for the whole team."
The wacky pants have paid off thus far. Norway is 3-0 and is one of three undefeated teams remaining with Sweden and China
China, the other unbeaten team in action early Wednesday, also had itself a 5-4 victory that came down to the wire against Switzerland. Like Norway, the Chinese got out to a 2-0 lead by the second end but saw their opponents come right back in the match. The Swiss answered with a two-point third end, sparking a low-scoring period of inertia for both sides.
Trading one-offs back and forth, China and Switzerland went into the 10th end tied at 4-4. Rui Liu's one-point finisher kept China undefeated and continued one of the better curling stories from Sochi. Ranked only seventh in the world, China was expected to be a doormat in this competition but has instead soared.
We'll have to see whether the early success is sustainable, but for now, it adds a bit of intrigue to an already solid start to the curling event.
Women's Curling Session 4
Some things never change in the sport of curling as the USA women's curling team continued to struggle. After falling to 0-3 in the tournament, an 0-4 start would likely doom them to not advancing.
After playing a hard-fought match against China, the women once again came up short. They had a chance in the 10th frame down by just one point to knot the score up or go ahead, but the shortcomings continued as China pulled away with two points and the win at 7-4.
Team USA skip Erika Brown spoke about the loss on the USA Channel broadcast following the match:
We're frustrated. We're looking for that win and we thought we were going to get it today. It was a tough battle out there against Team China, they're a great team. [...] We just needed a couple of shots here and there to pull it out and get us on top of the scoreboard.
While it was a somber day for the U.S. women, it was a huge day for two teams in need of a win.
Both Japan and Sweden came into Day 5 at .500 and came away with a record after crucial victories.
After getting crushed by South Korea in their first match, Japan bounced back with an 8-3 over fellow winless team Denmark. But with their Day 5 win over Russia, 8-4, it appears Japan might be back on track in the qualification rounds.
As for the Swedes, a disappointing 9-3 loss to Canada was hard to stomach, but a win over South Korea puts them firmly back in the hunt for a spot to advance out of the qualifying round.
Sweden come in as the defending champion but couldn't match up with Canada in the previous match, as their Skip Margaretha Sigfridsson said after the match, according to The Associated Press:
"We played a good game," Sigfridsson said, "but that is not enough when you play a team that is playing perfect."
With the Swedes getting back to their winning ways and having five more matches remaining, they could be turning it around late.
The Canadians continued to roll on Day 5 with a 9-6 win over Great Britain to move to 3-0 thus far. Unfortunately for the Brits, they fall to 1-3 in the Games, but BBC Sport explains why there is no need to give up hope:
So what does it all mean? There's still a long way to go in this curling competition - Britain have played only three on their nine group matches. Their defeats have come to defending champions Sweden and the 2010 runners-up Canada. There's still time to get inside the top four of the 10-team group and make the semi-finals.
With every nearing the midway point in women's curling, it appears a few teams are already separating themselves from the pack like Canada and Switzerland. But with several games still left to play before the semifinals, there is still a lot to be determined in Sochi.
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