Japan 8, Switzerland 6
Japan’s women’s curling team took home bronze at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
This year, they’re guaranteed to do better.
A 4-point end by the Japanese team gave them a lead, and they played nearly perfectly from there on the way to an 8-6 win over Switzerland in the 2022 Olympic semifinals.
Switzerland was the No. 1 seed going into the semifinals after going 8-1 in round-robin play.
On the other side, Japan nearly didn’t even make the medal round after falling to Switzerland in the final game of round-robin play, dropping to 5-4 overall. It came down to a tiebreaker between Japan, Great Britain, and Canada, and the Japanese team bested Canada in draw shot challenge for the last spot in the final four.
The No. 4 seed meant a rematch with Switzerland in the semis.
Leading by one in Friday's game, Switzerland made a crucial mistake on its final throw of the fifth, sending the stone to the back of the house. Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa, who has never beaten the Swiss team, didn’t miss her opportunity for a big end, getting the hit-and-roll double takeout for four points and a 5-2 lead at the halfway break.
To that point, the biggest end Switzerland had given up during these Olympics was three points, and it had only been done once.
Japan stole another point in the sixth, but the Swiss team began chipping away at the lead from there. In the seventh, Swiss fourth shooter Alina Paetz got the easy tap takeout for three points to cut Japan’s lead to one, 6-5.
The teams traded single point ends in the eighth and ninth.
In the tenth, Japan kept the house empty, leaving Switzerland with just a draw for a single unguarded stone on Paetz's last throw. Fujikawa again didn’t miss her shot. Her draw shot stopped in time for a single point and the win.
Japan will be playing for its first Olympic curling gold medal.
Great Britain 12, Sweden 11 (11 ends)
After Sweden scored four points in the first end of Friday’s semifinal, Great Britain’s team knew right off the bat they’d have to play a high-scoring game if they wanted to keep their hopes of reaching the Olympic gold medal game alive.
Team GBR put up the points with just as much ease as Sweden, scoring three in the second, one in the fourth, and stealing one in the fifth to tie the score at 5-5 at the half.
It was the highest scoring game of the Games so far, but in the end Great Britain got one more point in the 11th end on the way to a 12-11 victory.
In the first, Great Britain skip Eve Muirhead had a disastrous throw on her team’s final stone, coming up well short of the house that was already sitting three Swedish stones. It was an unbelievable opportunity for Sweden, and skip Anna Hasselborg took advantage, playing a draw into the 8-foot circle for a quick 4-point lead.
If GBR was going to give up a big end, it was best to do it in the first. Muirhead’s team began chipping at the lead right away. Hasselborg’s final throw in the second only took out one of three Great Britain stones, allowing a hit-and-stick by Muirhead to score three and cut Sweden’s lead to one.
Each team traded single point ends, and in the fifth Great Britain finally got the tie. GBR was sitting three stones in the back of the house, and Hasselborg tried for a hit-and-roll to clear, but her throw came up light, allowing for a steal of one to make the score 5-5 at the break.
The teams traded 2-point ends in the sixth and seventh to keep the score tied going into the final three ends.
Both teams packed the house in the ninth. Great Britain had three on one side of the button, and Sweden had one on the other. Muirhead threw her hammer with the most precision, getting a hit-and-roll off a Swedish stone that knocked out the one opposing rock and left GBR with four for an 11-8 lead into the final end.
Sweden had one more big end in them at the right time. Hasselborg had the shot of the game in the tenth, throwing a tap into the 4-foot that wiped out two Great Britain stones and left Sweden lying three to tie the score at 11-11 and force an extra end.
Hasselborg couldn’t repeat the magic in the 11th. The 4-foot and 8-foot circles were both open, with just a Great Britain stone biting the edge of the eight. All Hasselborg needed to do was throw a stone that was in scoring position, but her throw overcurled and went inches beyond GBR’s closest rock.
Sweden conceded from there, and Great Britain celebrated instead of throwing its final stone.
Muirhead, playing in her fourth Olympics, will play in her first gold medal game. The GBR skip has only played in the bronze medal game twice, and won bronze once.
Sweden was the defending Olympic gold medalists coming into these Games.
Japan and Great Britain will face off for the women's curling gold medal at 8:05 p.m. ET Saturday.
Switzerland and Sweden will play for the bronze at 7:05 a.m. ET Saturday.