Pressure rises at the Ice Cube
SOCHI, Russia — Canada has its focus back and is beginning to roll at the men's Olympic curling tournament. And that spells trouble for its rivals.
After a sticky start, the overwhelming pre-tournament favorites have won three straight games and a fourth — over Britain on Saturday — will put them on the brink of the semifinals.
"It just wasn't there, it wasn't who we were," Canada curler Ryan Harnden said of his team's opening games in Sochi. "I think we were just trying to enjoy the experience (of the Olympics) too much instead of focusing on winning.
"That's back now."
In Friday's 10-4 victory over Norway, there was fist-pumping, high-fives and roars of celebration by the Canadians, evoking memories of their Olympic qualifying campaign when they became the first team in Canada's storied curling history to go through the field unbeaten.
That energy had been missing in the early days of competition in Sochi.
"I told myself before the (Norway) game, 'This is going to be the most we've ever given probably of our lives,'" Canada skip Brad Jacobs said. "Each game is going to have to be like that now."
Embedded video_content_type: Canada dominates Norway, 10-4
Britain is one of the three teams ahead of Canada with three round-robin games left. The British, Sweden and China are 5-1 and the Canadians are 4-2.
On Saturday, Sweden plays Germany and China takes on Russia.
In women's play, Canada can seal a place in the top-four playoffs by beating Japan and Russia to extend its undefeated run to seven games. On current form, that shouldn't be a problem.
The real intrigue is what is happening behind the Canadians.
Sweden (4-1) is playing solidly in second place and will surely reach the semifinals but then there are four teams with three wins apiece — China, Britain, Russia and Switzerland
Every game matters from here on in and, as Friday's evening games proved, the pressure and tension levels are rising in the Ice Cube Curling Center.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Meet the 2014 Swedish men's Olympic curling team
Britain (3-2) has just won back-to-back games for the first time this tournament but the world champions still can't afford a slip-up against South Korea and Switzerland on Saturday.
"We feel we are going in the right direction," Britain curler Anna Sloan said. "We had two tough games and two losses (against Sweden and Canada) but we took the feedback from our debriefs and we are starting to build now with the good performances."