CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, ITALY
April 25, 2009
As the stunning mountain sunshine streamed into the windows of the 1956 Olympic Ice Stadium, Switzerland won its second consecutive World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship with a 7-4 victory over Hungary.
Toni Mueller and Irene Schori won with a spotless 10-0 record, and have now won nineteen straight games in World Mixed Doubles competition dating back to the 2008 championship in Vierumaki, Finland.
“It’s amazing,” said Mueller, who grabbed Schori in a hug after the match.
“I’m speechless,” said Schori. This is better than the last one, to win two in a row is great. It’s unbelievable.”
Hungary’s Gyoergy Nagy and Ildiko Szekeres started well, stealing the very first end after a great shot by Szekeres. But after a Swiss deuce in the second end, the defending champions went on a run of steals, capturing four in a row through the sixth end, for a 6-1 lead.
But in the seventh end, the Hungarians found another gear and had the Swiss in trouble. Szekeres threw a down-weight hit and after frantic end-to-end sweeping, she just kept the shooter in play for a big three-ender. Hungary trailed 6-4.
In the eighth end, the Swiss pulled the switch, with Mueller throwing stones one and five, and Schori taking over the throwing of stones two, three and four.
In Mixed Doubles competition, Teams have the choice in each end to switch positions of play. The Swiss are one of the few Teams to actively switch roles according to last-stone advantage and other factors.
The move paid off as Hungary failed to build any steal momentum, and when Szekeres ticked a guard on her final come-around attempt, the title had returned to Switzerland.
“Switzerland played very well,” said Nagy, who had hoisted his wife and teammate into the air the previous evening following their stunning semifinal victory over Canada.
“We missed a few shots early in the game. We tried to refocus and we got the three points, but the fifth end was the turning point. We had a shot for two and they stole one.”
The silver medal marks the first podium finish for Hungary in world championship curling history.
Back in December, both Nagy and Szekeres led the Hungarian men’s and women’s Teams to the bronze medal at the European Championships.
“We need a few more hours to realize what it means,” Nagy continued.
“I think we have to be proud of what we have done here.”
In the bronze medal match, Canada came back from a 5-0 deficit to post a 6-5 victory over China.
Sean Grassie (Winnipeg) and Allison Nimik (Calgary) held last-stone advantage to start the game, but gave up five consecutive steals to start the game.
The Canadians could have blanked the third end but chose to draw for one, but Nimik came up short.
With just three ends left to play, Nimik made a last-ditch runback for three to cut the lead to 5-3.
“if Allie misses that one, we’re going home,” said Grassie.
“China was playing great, a lot like Hungary the night before.”
But the wheels fell off for the Chinese pair of Zhipeng Zhang and Sun Yue, who dropped a steal of two in the seventh end to tie the match, and then the fateful final steal in the eighth.
“I think (China) got nervous or something,” said Nimik.
“They started missing and we started playing better. We got the break when he missed his peel in the eighth and removed one of his own in the rings.”
The bronze marked Canada’s first medal in World Mixed Doubles play, following a fifth-place finish in 2008.
“Yeah, we’re happy,” said Nimik.
“It’s a great start. It’s great to get a taste of world play, to wear the maple leaf for the first time. I don’t know if I’ll be back here or in women’s, but I want to come back for more.”
Hungary finished ninth a year ago in Vierumaki while China’s fourth-place finish improved on a 10th place ranking that year.
Finland finished fifth after scoring silver in 2008, while former bronze medallists Sweden finished seventh this time.
Poland made the biggest improvement in Mixed Doubles play, finishing in eighth place, after ranking 18th a year ago.
The final standings are listed at the bottom.
The 2010 World Mixed Doubles Championship will be held in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Cortina D’Ampezzo will also play host to the 2010 Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship, less than one month after next year’s Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Live scoring and other event information is available at http://wmdcc2009.it
with results mirrored at the WCF Results website: http://results.worldcurling.org