April 24, 2010
Curling history was made on Sunday when the Russian Mixed Doubles Curling team secured the first world championship title ever for the Russian Federation.
In front of a crowd of over 1,500 gathered in the Ural Lightning Ice Palace, Yana Nekrasova and teammate Petr Dron beat the New Zealand pair, Sean and Bridget Becker, 9-7 in the final.
Afterwards Nekrasova said she was overwhelmed by the win and the amount of interest their performance at the world championship had raised in Russia. She said the New Zealanders played extremely well and that they were a tough team to beat and that it was not an easy win.
“We let the Russian’s runaway with it a bit from the start,” said New Zealand’s Bridget Becker after the game. “But it’s unbelievable to have made it this far, so we’re very happy with silver.”
It is the first World Curling Championship medal for New Zealand.
Russia had a four point lead by the second end but New Zealand came charging back to take one point in the fourth end, steal three in the fourth and steal a further point in the fifth end to lead 5-4. The teams traded twos in the sixth and seventh ends. Russia managed to tie the game up 7-7 in the eighth end and force an extra end where they stole two points for the win when New Zealand missed their last shot.
The bronze medal game was just as full of suspense. With China’s Yue Sun and Zhipeng Zhang, taking on the Spanish duo, 15 year old Sergio Vez and teammate Irantzu García. The game also went all the way into an extra end of play, with the Chinese stealing the final point to win 8-7.
“We encouraged each other all the way and are very excited that we won,” said Zhipeng Zhang afterwards. “We really had to believe in each other.”
This was the third World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship. The game of mixed doubles differs from traditional curling as it is for teams of two players – one male and one female - instead of four. Playing time is also shorter and each team has six stones to play (instead of eight) with one of the six stones being prepositioned on the centre line before each end of play starts.
Eighteen teams managed to make it to Chelyabinsk to compete. Teams from Canada, Korea, Norway, Scotland and Sweden eventually had to forfeit their participation in the event due to the travel disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano eruption.
The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2011 will take place in St Paul, Minnesota, USA (16-23 April)