14 December 2018

Six of the best moments from the Ralston Arena

Celine Stucki / WCF

Curling World Cup leg two provided us with some thrilling matches across all five days in Omaha. The eight-end, one-stone shoot-out formula, as well as the innovative timing rule changes, made for some nerve-jangling finishes, providing drama loved by fans and athletes alike. Here are six of the best moments.

The tension was palpable as a gripping women’s final went right down to the wire. Korea’s Team Minji Kim had seemed in control, firstly at 6-3 up in the sixth, then 6-5 up with the hammer heading into the final end.

But Kim soon found herself facing a clutch shot with the final stone. Japan were lying three, but they were dotted around the house and an accurate draw to the four-foot would have earned Korea the win and a place in the Grand Final.

It was too heavy, Japan celebrated a steal of two, a sensational win, tickets to Beijing in May and revenge for a painful defeat to Team Kim at the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships just weeks earlier.

Another game that went right down to the final stone was Norway’s concluding mixed doubles group game against China.

Just minutes earlier, United States’ Tabitha Peterson and Joe Polo had amazingly hit back from 5-0 down to force an 8-6 win over Russia with three in the final end. That meant Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten had to beat Russia to make the final.

At 5-5 in the final end, China’s Dexin Ba delicately drew up to a cluster of stones just behind the button to give them hope. Skaslien then needed nerves of steel to find the precise weight on her final shot, and she made it! Her punch of the air said it all.

Celine Stucki / WCF

Switzerland’s Jenny Perret and Martin Rios may have ultimately lost to Norway in the mixed doubles final, but their unbeaten group campaign began in stunning fashion.

Facing old foe John Morris – who, with Kaitlyn Lawes, beat them in the Olympic final in February – they stole one in the final end to snatch a 5-5 tie and force the week’s first one-stone shoot-out.

Canada’s initial shot was measured at 18.5cm from the button, but when Martin Rios’ was visibly closer (measured at 8.7cm) the huge roar and raised fist from coach Sebastian Stock told onlookers everything they needed to know about the result.

Celine Stucki / WCF

Japan’s march to the women’s title began by instigating one of the biggest shocks of the week – namely, the unexpected early exit of Team Anna Hasselborg.

Arriving almost directly from a trip to Japan where they received an ANOC award for ‘Best Female Athlete Team of PyeongChang 2018’, and having won five tournaments in a row since Curling World Cup leg one in Suzhou, the Swedes confessed they were fatigued after losing two of their opening three group games to Japan and Scotland.

The loss to Japan saw Team Hasselborg go into the last end leading 5-3. A glance at the house after the last stone showed Japan certainly sitting two, but the measure had to be fetched to check on a third. Japan were given the nod and had snatched a stunning 6-5 victory.

Team John Shuster’s triumph in the final over Sweden may never have happened if it were not for a typical piece of big-shot brilliance in their pivotal group game against China’s Team Zou Qiang.

Down 4-1 at halfway and still 5-3 in arrears going into the last end, sharp-shooting Shuster was deadly accurate with his final-stone take-out which earned three and a rapturous reception from the patriotic home crowd.

In the same session across the ice, Scotland’s Team Mouat and Canada’s Team Jason Gunnlaugson were exchanging big shots throughout an enthralling, high-quality encounter.

Mouat’s inch-perfect freeze into a packed house gave the Canadian skip one shot, at 6-5 down, to rescue the game. A power-packed raise take-out caused a splash of stones, but failed to dislodge the crucial Scottish shot rock. Gunnlaugson bent over in despair, but was able to reflect later: “It was a really, really good game.” "Tense is one way of describing it!” was Mouat’s reaction.

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