December 7, 2011
As the round-robin section of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 reaches its conclusion in Moscow, the tension grows for every team.
In the women’s eighth round-robin session, the game between Sweden and Russia was high-stakes indeed. The Swedes were trying to maintain their unblemished record, which would give them the hammer for the Play-off games, while Russia felt they had to win to keep their medal hopes alive. Sweden had a 3-1 halfway lead but, in the sixth end, Russian skip Anna Sidorova hit for two points to level the game at 3-3. However Sweden responded straightaway, with fourth player Maria Prytz hitting for two in the seventh end. Sweden eventually won by 8-4 to ensure their top-spot, while Russia must now beat Norway in the last round-robin game and hope that Denmark beat Germany.
Afterwards, a less than happy Russian coach Olga Andrianova, said: “I don’t know what happened today – two players played very bad and a third player was not so good – I want change. Usually they play a lot better, but they made so many mistakes. It was an 8 o’clock game, so maybe that affected us a little but I will be expecting more from my team when we play Norway later today.”
Meanwhile, Denmark made sure of their place in the top play-off game with a 6-5 win over Switzerland. They opened their scoring in the second end when Danish skip Lene Nielsen was looking for her stone to roll after it hit a Swiss stone to score two, but it stayed put. Despite this she scored the one point that started her journey to victory. Switzerland had to win to have any chance of reaching the play-offs, and their fourth player Manuela Siegrist bravely drew for one point against three Danish counters in the eighth end. Despite all her attempts, her team lost and, with only three wins with one round-robin game to play, the Swiss will be sitting out the medal games.
Scotland’s 6-9 victory over Latvia assured them of a third-placed ranking and a slot in the play-offs. Their win was helped by Latvian skip Ineta Maca missing a take-out in the third end, gifting Scotland a steal of three, and was wrapped up when Scottish skip scored one point with a double take-out in the tenth. Afterwards, Scottish skip Eve Muirhead said, “our first task was to qualify for the worlds, which we’ve done, and now we’ve got our second target, which is to qualify for the play-offs, so that’s both done, and we’ve played better and better as the week’s gone on”. Speaking specifically about the game against Latvia, she said, “they played a lot of nice draws, but we were in control for the whole game”.
Germany are also striving to stay in the medal hunt, and they did their play-off chances no harm at all with a 5-3 win over the Czech Republic. They now face Denmark in their concluding round-robin game and, win or lose, will qualify in fourth place if Russia do not win their match-up with Norway.
Norway have struggled all week and look destined for next year’s B Group. Despite skip Linn Githmark successfully drawing for two points in the fifth end, their fortunes did not improve when they came up against Italy, who recorded their third victory of the week with a 9-5 win, a win that ensures Italy will be playing in this season’s world championship.
Afterwards, a delighted Diana Gaspari spoke about ensuring worlds qualification. “that was our first goal. We’re a new team, and winning more games is our next step. We are not one of the top teams, and the main goal is the Olympic Games, but we know that we start from here. The ice here is perfect, and this feels more like a worlds than a European Championships”.
GROUP A WOMEN: Standings after 8 sessions:
Czech Republic 2-6
Later, the results of the men’s second-last session – with both table-toppers losing unexpectedly – showed clearly how the pressure builds on the teams as the medal stages approach.
High-flying Sweden were brought back to earth with a bump by the battling Czechs, who grabbed a lifeline with a 6-4 win over. Czech skip Jiri Snitil lay down the gauntlet early, drawing for three points in the second end. But Swedish skip Niklas Edin is a fighter too, and he levelled the game in the ninth with a brave raised take-out for one, only to later see the Czechs score the one point needed for victory in the tenth.
Afterwards, Snitil said, “if we can keep that level we hope still to be in. If there is a team at a good level playing well against us, then we rise to that, but if not, we drop down, and that’s our team’s problem. Italy are down in “B”, so that might be to our advantage when we play them tonight...or our disadvantage. We just need to play good”.
The match between table-toppers Denmark and Switzerland also was tense, and went to an extra end. Swiss skip Sven Michel gave himself a confidence boost with a good take-out in the third end, and with his shooter hanging on in the rings, he scored two. He produced another raised take-out in the sixth end, with the same result – two points. After this, the Swiss kept their nerve and ran out 7-6 winners. After their triumph, Swiss skip Michel said, “it was a very important win for us because it means that we still have a chance of playing in the play-offs. This win gives us a lot of self-confidence for the match tonight, which we have to win. We kept our best performance for our game against one of the best teams here so we are very happy with the win”.
Early tournament leaders Germany have struggled to stay in a qualifying position and were given a tough game by Latvia, but their fourth player Felix Schulze kept his nerve to draw for a single point in the sixth end. Later, in the ninth, Schulze delivered again to score the two points that would seal the German victory, a 6-4 win that keeps their hopes alive. Afterwards German Skip John Jahr, said, “two days ago was our last win, so it’s good to get this one under our belt. I think we are definitely in the play-offs and for us it’s special because when we reach the play-offs we automatically qualify for the worlds, which was one of our key goals at the start of this competition”.
Defending champions Norway also remain in the mix, following their 9-4 win over Italy. Their skip Thomas Ulsrud set up this win early in the game with a draw for two points in the third end, and this result means the worst that can happen to Norway after the round-robin is that they become involved in tie-breakers. Asked afterwards how important this win was, Ulsrud, said, “They’re all important wins at the end of the week. We still have a shot at the play-offs, so, after a bad start, I’m happier with the level we’re playing at”. He added, “I’m not afraid when the guys have to play the big shots, they’ve been there before and they know what it’s all about. But the most important thing is – don’t feel the pressure, feel the fun of playing curling. This is why we play – to be able to play in a big arena like this on really good ice”.
In yet another tense encounter, Scotland clawed their way back against France in the regulation ten ends after giving up a score of four in the eighth to push the game into an extra end. But eventually, with the last stone of the game, French fourth player Tony Angiboust got round a front guard to knock out a Scottish counter, and score two for a 6-4 win. Afterwards, French skip Thomas Dufour said “we are looking for the spots at the World’s and with this win it helps a little. I believe that we still have a chance but there’s still a long way to go. Latvia are playing good curling, it’s a five million dollar game, so we need to be ready for them tonight.”
At this stage, only Denmark and Sweden are assured of play-off qualification, with, depending on last round-robin session results, up to five teams possible involved in tie-breakers.
GROUP A MEN: Standings after 8 sessions:
Czech Republic 4-4
Extensive televised coverage of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships 2011 can be seen by viewers in Europe on Eurosport. Additional live and on demand coverage will be available via the internet on the Eurosport Player. www.worldcurling.org/ecc2011-tv-and-web-coverage
Highlights of televised games can be seen here: www.youtube.com/user/WorldCurlingTV
Information about the event can be viewed here www.ecc2011.curlingrussia.com