Sweden finishes up strong with win over U.S.
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Sweden and Canada became the first two men's teams to qualify for the Olympic curling semifinals on Sunday, leaving a three-way fight between Norway, China and Britain for the two remaining spots.
Britain and China lost their games on the next-to-last day of round-robin play, squandering a chance to complete the lineup for the playoffs. Norway stayed alive in the tournament by winning two games — one against the British, 7-6.
The Swedes were watched by the country's king and queen in an 8-4 win over Russia in the morning and then beat United States 6-4 to finish the round robin at 8-1, guaranteeing that the world champions will be the top seed in the playoffs.
"You feel more important when you play for your country and that the king is there watching as well," Sweden skip Niklas Edin said. "It is great he came out to support us playing for the nation."
Canada also won both its games, stealing a point in the 10th to beat the U.S. 8-6 then being taken to an extra end by China before winning 9-8. The Canadians (7-2) have also completed their round-robin campaign, which started rockily at 1-2 but steadily improved, and will be No. 2 seed.
"When you come to an Olympics, there is so much hype about gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, especially with the Canadian men's curling team because it is so successful," Canada skip Brad Jacobs said.
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"We kind of let that get to us a little bit so we had to refocus, regroup ... and stay in the present. Forget about the gold medal. It was all mental. It's character-building."
It leaves open the possibility of Sweden meeting Canada in the gold-medal match, which would be a repeat of last year's world championship final.
China plays Britain on Monday in their last game. The Chinese will advance with a win whereas a victory for the British — combined with Norway beating Denmark — would result in a three-way tie-breaker.
"To be honest, I fancy our chances, I really do," British skip David Murdoch said. "We have a good record against the Chinese team. Obviously they are playing well but so are we. We have only lost a couple of games by a few inches and we need to take the positives from that."
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Britain and Norway have more big-tournament experience than the Chinese, which is in uncharted territory having showing great improvement under temporary coach Marcel Rocque, the Canadian curling great.
"I knew it would come to the end, it always does," Rocque said.
Norway, the 2010 silver medalist, needed to win its last three games and followed up the morning win against Britain by beating Switzerland 5-3 in the evening.
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"We are pretty used to playing under pressure," Norway curler Christoffer Svae said. "It's not our first barbeque. And we win more games than we lose against Denmark."
Denmark beat Germany 6-3 in the evening session's other game, keeping the Germans in last place at 1-7.