Asia rivals to meet again in Omaha women's final
Japan and Korea set up re-match of their recent Pacific-Asia Championships final
Sunday’s women’s final of the Curling World Cup second leg in Omaha will be an all-Asian affair after Korea and Japan both secured top spot in their respective groups with a game to spare.
Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa led Group B by three points from Team Muirhead going into the day’s second session. Their 8-2 victory over China, secured thanks to two scores of three in the second and fourth ends, put them in a very strong position.
They then had to hope that Sweden would beat Scotland on Sheet A in the same session – and so it came to pass. Team Muirhead were behind from the very start as the Olympic and European champions made three successive steals of one. A further three for the Swedes in the sixth end put the result beyond doubt; 7-2 the final score.
After the game, Japanese third Chinami Yoshida said she was "so excited" about the prospect of competing for the $USD 20,000 winners' cheque as well as a place in May's Grand Final in Beijing.
Japan's joy was tempered slightly by losing their evening-session match 5-2 against Scotland, and with it their unbeaten record in the group stage.
The final with Korea is a repeat of the recent Pacific-Asia Curling Curling Championships final in Gangneung, in which Korea dramatically stole three in the final end to earn a 12-8 victory.
“Obviously we lost the Pacific-Asia final to the same team, so we are looking forward to playing against them again,” said Yoshida. "Everybody was looking forward to the Curling World Cup before the season and we wanted to show the great game of curling to our fans.”
Korea’s final berth was sealed while they weren’t even on the ice. They had beaten Canada’s Team Tracy Fleury in the day’s opening session to knock them out of the competition, but it was only when United States’ Team Jamie Sinclair lost 9-4 to Russia in the second session that Korea’s progress was confirmed.
With the pressure off, Korea later lost 7-4 to Russia in the evening session, so actually finished level with Canada on 12 points at the top of Group A. Their 2/0 head-to-head record ultimately sent them through.
Skip Kim was undeterred, saying: "We will monitor our mistakes in tonight's game and we will try not to repeat them and pay more attention in the final. Just joining the World Cup is really an honour for us but if we can finish first we will be very, very happy."
That earlier defeat for Team Sinclair rested on a shock six-ender for Russia just before the interval. Sinclair’s attempted draw, with five Russian shot stones in the house, was far too heavy, allowing Alina Kovaleva a simple draw to post six.
That was Russia’s first win of the week - and they later added another against Korea. Their third, Galina Arsenkina, expressed her relief: "It's really good, finally we've got it and we've got smiles on our faces!" she said. "This is a step back [in progress], the end of the Europeans and now, but we just keep trying to end this 'black line' and hope that [our form] will be better soon.
"Omaha has been really nice, especially compared to St Petersburg where it is always cloudy and rain. We enjoyed meeting the Russian fans here. We talked a lot and they are our biggest fans now!"
Those early results made the evening’s final group matches rather immaterial, but Team Hasselborg managed to finish with a 3/3 record by beating China 8-3 and Team Fleury also finished with something of a flourish by winning the North American duel with Team Sinclair 7-4.