SOCHI, Russia (AP) — If there’s to be a changing of the guard in men’s curling, it will have to wait a little while longer.
Canada maintained its grip on the Olympic title by reaching the gold-medal game with a 10-6 win over China on Wednesday, ending the breakthrough campaign of a team that is threatening to emerge as the sport’s new power.
“To keep Canada at the forefront of curling and keep us in the medals really means the world,” Canada curler Ryan Fry said.
After the Chinese conceded midway through the last end, Canada’s players bumped fists to the backdrop of cow bells and skip Brad Jacobs roared: “One more, guys. Right till the end.”
In the way of Canada and a third straight gold medal is Britain, which scored two points with the last shot of a tense semifinal against Sweden to win 6-5. It assures Britain’s men a first medal in curling since the sport returned to the Olympic program in 1998.
Britain skip David Murdoch charged down the ice, repeatedly pumping his right fist, after making the game-clinching deuce to end years of personal woe on the Olympic stage. He lost the bronze-medal game against the United States in 2006 and a tiebreaker for the semi-finals in 2010 when Britain was the world champion.
“It’s by far the best thing that’s happened to me in my career,” said Murdoch, who wore the broadest smile in the Ice Cube Curling Center. “We’ve had such close Olympic campaigns over the years, and it’s never quite happened.
“We’ve always been that millimeter the other side of the millimeter. Now we are on the right side.”
Britain now is guaranteed to capture three medals overall at a Winter Olympics for the first time since 1936.
Under the temporary guidance of Canadian curling great Marcel Rocque, China’s players – known for their great technique but lack of tactical savvy – finally fulfilled their rich potential by reaching the playoffs in Sochi. Rivals acknowledged this could be the year China got in the medals but the team was put in its place by Jacobs’ rink, which delivered its best performance of a mixed 10 days in Sochi.
While the Canadians were largely error-free, China skip Liu Rui couldn’t reproduce his form from the round-robin stage. He made a mistake in the seventh end that let in Jacobs for three points and a 7-4 lead. Another three for Canada in the ninth meant there was no way back for China.
“We have played a ton of big games together in the last two years,” Jacobs said, “and I really think our experience in those big, nerve-wracking important games helped us out today.”
The final will be played Friday. It will be preceded by Sweden vs. China in the bronze-medal game.
Just like against Norway in Tuesday’s tiebreaker, Murdoch clinched victory by scoring two points with the last rock, his stone curling through a small gap for a hack-weight takeout.
“Dave’s a good buddy of mine,” Fry said, “he’s been a phenomenal curler for a long time and he deserves this.”
Sweden skip Niklas Edin will regret the key moment in the sixth end when he allowed Britain to steal a point by failing to bump a British stone out of the house. If he’d succeeded, Sweden would have picked up three points and made it 5-2.
Edin also missed a run-back with the next-to-last shot of the game, presenting Murdoch with the opportunity for the game-deciding two.
“Pretty much all of it,” Edin said, when asked what went wrong. “We had the worst game of the tournament.”