Day 10 at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will be headlined by a number of critical events, including the free dance portion of the ice dancing competition and the men’s two-man bobsled, but it all kicks off on the curling ice.
Both the men and the women are battling for position in the round-robin portion of the Games, and three matches in Session 11 of the women’s side kicked off Day 10. The United States faced off with South Korea, Japan battled with China and Russia squared off against Great Britain.
Heading into Session 11, Canada has been the dominant squad in the women’s tournament.
The Canadians have yet to lose and are pacing a field that is very tightly contested from positions three through seven, with Sweden chasing Canada in second. Both Canada and Sweden have already qualified for the semifinals.
Here is a look at the early results:
|South Korea||11-2||United States|
Women's Round-Robin Session 11
It has been an incredibly disappointing Olympics for the American women.
The United States entered this match with South Korea with a 1-7 record and appeared destined to finish in last place for a second-consecutive Olympics.
Debbie McCormick commented on her team’s perseverance as the Games quickly draw to a close for her squad to Steve Douglas of the Associated Press (via ABC News): “We're not giving up. We finally got our mojo back, but unfortunately it was just a little too late.”
South Korea has also had a disappointing Olympics and entered the match at 2-5. However, the Koreans showed no early signs of trouble and jumped out to a commanding lead right from the get-go.
Terry Kolesar, the Director of Communications for USA curling, commented on the rough start for the Americans:
Tough start for the U.S. ladies. Brown's final stone slips past the tee-line and KOR steals a point to go ahead 5-0 after 2 ends. #curling— Terry Kolesar (@terry_usacurl) February 17, 2014
The United States finally got on the scoreboard in the third end after trailing 5-0 almost immediately, which caused a momentary sigh of relief:
It was only a temporary sigh though, as South Korea made quick work of the Americans in what amounted to an absolute blowout. At one point, South Korea extended its lead to 9-1 with two-point ends in the fifth and the sixth.
The teams did not even play the eighth, ninth or 10th ends.
The United States, in a match that could serve as a metaphor for the entire Olympics for the team, lost 11-2.
China and Japan were both part of the logjam in the middle of the women’s curling standings heading into their match with a 4-3 and 3-4 record respectively.
The two teams appeared as evenly matched as their positions in the round-robin standings would indicate in the early going.
Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first end, but China had an answer with two points of its own in the second end. The squads once again mirrored each other in the third and fourth ends, with Japan picking up a point in the third and China drawing even with one in the fourth.
It was a back-and-forth affair throughout the middle ends after Japan picked up two points in the fifth. After trading single points for multiple ends, Japan held a 6-5 lead heading into the final two ends.
That's when Japan finally established some breathing room with a two-point ninth end.
With an 8-5 lead and control of the hammer, there was no way Japan was losing in the final end. Japan knocked out China for a critical win to the tune of 8-5.
The 4-3 Great Britain team needed a win over Russia to keep its semifinals hopes alive, but knocking off the host country in front of a partial crowd is always easier said than done.
The entire Great Britain team’s Twitter account was behind the team before the critical match even began:
Jumping off to a quick start is often important in pressure-packed games (just ask the Seattle Seahawks), and that’s exactly what Great Britain did with the first point in the second end. From there it was back-and-forth, which clearly set the stage for a close match:
The tension was palpable by the eighth end after a scoreless fifth, one point for Russia in the sixth and a scoreless seventh. The match was tied at three, and Olympic fortunes were hanging in the balance.
Great Britain held the hammer in the critical eighth end and completely took advantage with four points. It was an incredible end considering the pressure and the fact that Great Britain was virtually a road team in this match:
Not to be outdone, Russia answered with three points of its own in the ninth end to cut the lead to 7-6. The good news for skip Eve Muirhead and the British was that they held the hammer heading into the deciding 10th end.
That is all Great Britain needed, as it was able to hold on for a thrilling 9-6 win that came down to the last throw which earned the final two points.
Men's Round-Robin Session 12
On a day where only two results ultimately mattered, the on-ice action made sure we're in store for some extra curling in Sochi. Heading into Monday, the trio of Great Britain, China and Norway were playing for their tournament lives to a certain extent. In certain scenarios, all three countries could have been tied. In others, the round-robin standings would conclude without a tie.
In the end, Great Britain and Norway will have to break out the brooms in Tuesday's tiebreaking round.
The British and Norwegians both blew their opportunity to advance without incident with disappointing performances in Session 11. Great Britain allowed China to become the third country to advance to the semifinals, as skipper Rui Liu scored a point in the 10th end to give the Chinese a 6-5 victory.
China, with a surprising 7-2 record, finishes as the third seed by virtue of its round-robin loss to Canada. The upstart country will have an opportunity to atone for its loss against Canada in the elimination round. Still, it would be a mild surprise for the Canadians, arguably the world's best at curling, to go down in defeat before the gold-medal round.
The loss for Great Britain left it scoreboard watching, so to speak. And a shockingly disappointing performance from Norway kept the tie-breaking hopes alive. Norway managed only three points in a 5-3 loss to Denmark, failing to score in the 10th end in its comeback effort.
Rasmus Stjerne Hansen of Denmark skipped a scintillating match, hitting a 98 percent conversion rate to lead all curlers. Stjerne Hansen and Troels Harry helped carry Denmark despite a sterling 91 percent accuracy rate from the Norwegians. Although Denmark had no chance of advancing to the elimination round, its surprising victory earns a sixth-place finish and helps create intrigue.
Tuesday's tiebreaker will be a rematch of a thrilling 7-6 victory for Norway in Session 10, but these countries have quite the history.
"We beat them in the round robin, we lost to them in the Europeans a couple of months ago," Norway curler Haavard Vad Petersson told the Associated Press (via Boston Herald), "so it's going to be a close one."
The day's other results were ultimately inconsequential. Russia scored a 8-7 victory over Germany to earn a seventh-place finish, while consigning the Germans to being the only country with just one win. The United States' disappointing showing in Sochi concluded with a 6-3 loss to Switzerland. The Swiss finished in seventh place and the U.S. in ninth.
Women's Round-Robin Session 12
Just hours after the men wrapped up their round-robin proceedings in Sochi, the women's side opened with far more countries possibly getting involved in the semifinals. In the end, five different countries were within one match victory of possible advancement but no tiebreakers proved necessary.
Canada and Sweden, the two monoliths of this event thus far, were joined Monday by Switzerland and Great Britain to round out the semifinal field. The top-seeded Canadians, who went 9-0 in round-robin play, will face Great Britain. Sweden faces Switzerland, as the Swiss get the good fortune of the No. 3 spot thanks to their head-to-head victory.
Of course, getting to the final four meant closing the door on other competitors. Sweden helped out its fellow finalists with an 8-4 dispatching of Japan, scoring three points over the final two ends to stretch out an otherwise competitive match.
Swedish vice skip Maria Prytz struggled with her accuracy throughout the match, hitting only 67 percent for the game. But she was matched every step of the way in her inaccuracy by Ayumi Ogasawara (56 percent), leaving both sides feeling as if they blew opportunities. The Japanese are especially heartbroken, as they finish 4-5 with multiple tiebreakers. They are awarded a fifth-place finish overall.
Meanwhile, Denmark had all but been eliminated heading into Session 12 but still tried keeping whatever slim hopes it had alive. A torrid, three-point 10th end forced extra play between the Danes and Great Britain, which could have clinched a semifinal spot outright with a win. Instead, a one-point 11th end for Denmark had the British staring immediately at scores and hoping they would not have to participate in a tiebreak.
"I'd rather lose that game there than the last game of the championship," skip Eve Muirhead told BBC Sport. "At this stage of the competition, everyone is there for the taking. The rest will do us good [on Tuesday]. The guys have got a play-off so we'll watch a bit of that, chill out and look forward to the semi-final."
Switzerland's journey to the semifinals was paved through one of its best performances in Sochi thus far. With China continually unable to knock out scoring opportunities, Switzerland pulled ahead early and held a lead throughout in its 10-6 victory to advance.
The overall scoring was not due to a spectacular individual performance. No Swiss curler had an accuracy rate better than 82 percent, and the overall team accuracy was just 76 percent. But the timing of the accurate rocks were just enough to sneak them into the semis.
In other action, Canada finished off its undefeated run through group play with a 9-4 win over Korea. The Koreans pulled ahead early 4-1 through the first three ends, but Canada shut the door the rest of the way for a typically dominant performance.