The best action in curling is still yet to unfold across the ice in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics, as the world's best gear up for a packed slate on Day 9.
The round-robin section of the curling tournament in this year's Games is still going on during Sunday and Monday. After that the men and women will both have a day off before the qualifying nations compete in the knockout round.
There were plenty of matches on the slate for Saturday as Great Britain took on South Korea, Canada faced Japan and China played Sweden on the women's side. For the men, we saw Canada take on Great Britain, Sweden play Germany and Denmark face Switzerland.
Many men's teams embark on a double-header for a busy Sunday slate on the ice, while there are four matches on the women's side.
Let's break down those matches.
|Men's: Team 1||Score||Team 2|
|Women's: Team 1||Score||Team 2|
Results for Day 9
Men's Round-Robin Session 10
Following Sunday's early session for the men, a very clear hierarchy is beginning to be established with only two more sessions remaining. Four of the 10 countries in the round-robin field have played eight matches. While that still leaves six countries to even out the field in Session 11, there were some critical results that very well could decide the elimination-round competitors.
Canada is one win away from clinching a semifinal berth after Sunday's 8-6 win over the United States, but the contest was far more competitive than either side would have expected. The United States, mostly playing out its string in Sochi, had little hope of overcoming the typically elite Canadians to most observers.
Canada got out to a 3-0 lead in the first two ends as well, seemingly putting itself well on its way to an easy win. But the U.S. roared back. Consecutive two-point ends in the third and fourth gave the Americans a lead, and they continually came back against the Canadian push. A two-point fifth put Canada back ahead 5-4—right before the United States tied it in the sixth and took a one-point advantage in the eighth to put Canada's back against the wall.
As they have throughout most of these Olympic Games, however, Brad Jacobs and Co. thrived in the clutch. They scored two points in the eighth to move back into the lead and held on to steal another point in the tenth to finalize the scoring. The victory was Canada's sixth in eight matches, keeping it one match ahead of Great Britain and Norway. It will take a near-miracle to keep the Canadians out the semifinals now.
Sweden, meanwhile, became the first country to lock itself into the semis with an easy 8-4 win over Russia. The Swedes locked up the victory in only nine ends, continuing the trajectory of both countries' curling runs thus far.
With a win over the United States in Session 11, Sweden would put itself in good position for a top overall seed. China still has just one loss, but with sessions against Great Britain and Canada upcoming, it stands to reason the loss total will at least double.
Russia has only two curling victories and is officially eliminated from possible advancement. This is mostly not a surprise, despite a home-ice advantage.
In Session 10's final clash, Norway kept the uncertainty rolling at the top of the standings. Its point in the 10th end gave the Norwegians a 7-6 victory over Great Britain, dropping both countries to three losses apiece. Great Britain holds an advantage having played eight matches already, but this was an absolutely vital triumph for Norway.
Women's Round-Robin Session 10
Two qualifiers down, two to go on the women's side following Sunday's 10th session. Where on the men's side only four countries have played eight matches, the women have only four sides that haven't.
Canada continued its undefeated rampage through the field against the United States, but the battle of North American countries was far closer than anyone expected. Heading into Sunday's session with only one victory, it stood to reason the U.S. would just be waltzed over by the high-powered Canadians. And taking a 3-0 lead through the first two ends, it was starting to look that way.
Much like their male counterparts, however, the Americans showed some pride to battle back. They scored three points in the third end and kept trading off one-point runs to keep the match close. When Canada pulled ahead 6-4 going into the eighth end, the United States could packed it in. Instead, one-point ends in the eighth and 10th sent the match to an extra period.
While Canada prevailed with the hammer, it was one of the United States' best efforts of these Games. As noted by Debbie McCormick, the U.S. has been building to figure out what it's been doing wrong.
“It’s not that we can’t pinpoint what happened,” McCormick said, per the State Journal. “We know it was a lot of rock placements, lost opportunities, but we haven’t lost the fire. We’re not giving up; we still want to play our best.”
In one of the higher-scoring matches of the event thus far, Japan and Switzerland also found themselves heading to an extra end. The two countries were evenly matched coming in, both hanging around the middle of the pack and hoping to sneak into the semifinals.
The Swiss started out with a 2-0 lead in the first two ends, but Japan went on a 5-0 run in the next three. Which was followed by three points from Switzerland in the sixth. And two points by Japan in the seventh. It was an at-times sloppy but still thrilling match that saw points aplenty down to the final ends, which saw Switzerland send the match to an extra end to figure everything out.
Much like Canada, though, the Japanese survived. Each of the two countries now have four losses and will watch intently to see how Great Britain and China do going forward.
Having to watch a whole lot of the field following Sunday's session is the home country Russia, which has to be heartbroken following its 5-4 loss to Sweden. The Russians played a sterling, conservative match to keep the Swedes off the scoreboard as much as possible, taking a one-point lead going into the 10th and final end.
But finally given the opportunity to flash their patented aggression, Sweden struck with two points. With a 6-2 record, Sweden has now locked itself into the semifinals. A little help from Great Britain and China would help the Swedes capture the No. 2 seed.
In less stressful action, Denmark scored a 7-4 victory over South Korea. While there is a slight chance Denmark has a chance to move forward, it's likely that both countries are just playing out their string.
Men's Round-Robin Session 11
Suffice it to say Monday will be an awfully important day on the ice for Great Britain, Norway and China. Those are the three countries competing for just two spots in the semifinals after Session 11 in Sochi, as Canada became the second locked-in qualifier following its extra-end victory against China.
The Canadians, typically favored in all forms of curling, found an upstart Chinese team as difficult if not more than they have been throughout their time in Sochi. After Canada pulled ahead 2-0 in the second end, China went on a 6-1 run that put the favorites into desperation time going into the seventh inning.
For the second straight time on Sunday, Jacobs helped lead his country back amid a close finish. Canada answered the Chinese with a 5-0 jaunt in the seventh through ninth ends, giving it a 8-6 lead and putting China's chances of locking itself into the semis in danger. Rui Liu and Co. managed a two-point 10th end to send Canada to its second extra-end match of the day, with the Canadians pulling it out with a one-point victory.
Scott Russell of CBC Sport noted a beautiful draw played by Jacobs to help give Canada the victory:
With seven victories, Canada is locked into the semifinals. No matter what happens Monday, it will not meet first-place Sweden until a potential gold-medal match.
China, meanwhile, goes from on the precipice of a clinch to possibly playing for its life. Though the Chinese have only two losses (equal to Canada), a loss to Great Britain combined with a Norway victory over Denmark would create a three-way tie for third and fourth. There are tiebreakers added into the slate, China would certainly prefer to avoid that fate altogether.
Norway kept its hopes alive with a mostly uneventful 5-3 victory over Switzerland. Neither side scored more than one point in a single end, and Norway never trailed against the Swiss, who are just 2-6 thus far.
Despite the lack of eventfulness, the Norwegians probably want to make sure they're at the top of their game for their final round-robin contest. Denmark is only 3-5, but it had no trouble scoring a 6-3 win over Germany.
Similarly breezy was Sweden's 6-4 win over the United States. The Swedes finish round-robin play with the best record at 8-1 and have to be considered prohibitive favorites. The United States, on the other hand, will try to avoid a bottom-two finish against Switzerland on Monday.
Full Olympic curling schedule can be found at NBCOlympics.com