Omaha opens with dramatic Japanese victory
Swedes beaten by final-end measure but wins for Canada, United States and Scots
Japan handed Olympic champions Sweden a surprise defeat in the opening women’s session of the Curling World Cup second leg, but United States, Canada and Scotland suffered no such dramas.
Team Hasselborg have won five competitions in a row, including the recent European Championship, since they finished runners-up in the first leg of the series in Suzhou in September.
Their bid to win a place in the Curling World Cup Grand Final in Beijing, however, suffered an early setback here as they lost after a final-end measure to Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa.
In a tight game, the Swedes led 5-3 heading into the final end, but the measure had to come out after the last stone and the outcome was three for Japan, giving them a dramatic 6-5 victory. They were also the only rink to beat Team Hasselborg in the group stage in Suzhou.
“I’m really so happy because it’s a big game and Sweden is a very good team,“ said Japan’s vice skip Chinami Yoshida. “We have many games against them so we know their plans and are comfortable. We are confident about the ice and happy about the result.”
Hosts United States only really stamped their authority against Korea when they put four on the board in the sixth end to set up a 9-5 victory. Up until that point it had been a rollercoaster with three conceded in the third end, and their 5-3 halfway lead reduced to 5-4 in the fifth.
Lead Monica Walker said: “We started off a little bit all over the place but we were able to come together and get a couple of big ends which gave us the confidence we needed to win the game.
"We were a little bit rushed coming into the game with the new time format, I think we felt the pressure, but once we settled in with how that felt we were able to feel out the ice and play better.”
Canada’s Team Tracy Fleury recovered from a small wobble in the fifth and sixth ends to secure a 7-5 win over Russia. Fleury notched three in the second end with a soft-weight raise take-out and a further two with the hammer before the fourth-end break turned the screw and lead 5-1.
However, then came that mini revival by Team Kovaleva with two in the fifth and a steal of one in the sixth to reduce arrears to 5-4, before Canada a two in the seventh settled any Maple Leaf nerves.
“We had a good start, but then we lost control for a couple of the ends there,” reflected skip Fleury. “Thankfully we pulled it off in the end. We weren’t nervous [when Russia reduced the lead from 5-1 to 5-4] because I felt we were in control.”
Team Fleury were nominated to represent Canada here this week while many of their compatriot compete in the Canada Cup back home. She said: “We’ve played the Canada Cup before so we know what that’s all about but this was an opportunity for us to do something new and represent our country and those chances don’t really come very often.”
Scotland’s Team Muirhead established an early advantage against China which they never looked like relinquishing. One to Team Yang Ying in the fourth end was the only dropped stitch in the Scots’ 7-1 victory, with handshakes exchanged after seven ends.
"It's always really good to get off to a fast start,” said Eve Muirhead afterwards. “It's my first World Cup and I absolutely love it. The four-minute ends are great.
“Stealing a two in the sixth to get that jump was a big moment. We put pressure on them the whole game and forced them to make errors, and as soon as we got an error we capitalised on it.
Summing up what’s been a modest season for her rink, the skip added: “It’s not been great, I'll be honest, but you've got to put it in perspective. I've just come back from surgery, we're a new team together, so all we can do is build and get better.
“We know what we need to work on and this was a great performance to prove we can play well. I'm just back from surgery and am still in the middle of my rehab. I'm lucky to be here."