Italy beat Czech Republic by 6-5 in Friday afternoon’s first men’s Qualification Final of the Olympic Qualification Event, to book their place in the line-up of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in February.
This means they will join already-qualified round-robin winners Norway in Beijing while the Czechs have a second chance to join them, in the second Qualification Final against fourth-placed Denmark.
Italy opened the scoring with three points in the first end when their skip Joel Retornaz played a hit-and-roll on a Czech stone.
The teams swapped single points in the second and third ends. Then Czech skip Lukas Klima played a nose-hit in the fourth end to score two points and reduce Italy’s lead to 4-3.
After six ends, Italy led by 5-3. In the seventh end, the teams built up the play and there were seven stones around the four-foot ring when Czech skip Klima attempted an angled raise. But his angles were wrong, and he had to settle for a single point through one of his stones already sitting in scoring position.
This reduced Italy’s lead to 5-4.
In the ninth end, Italy led by 6-4 when Klima played a bump-out on an Italian stone to score one point again, meaning Italy now led by 6-5.
In the tenth end, Italy’s Retornaz cleared out two Czech stones as well as his own shooter to blank the end and claim the 6-5 victory that put him into his third Olympic Games.
Afterwards, Retornaz said, “We had a good break in the first end and took a three-point lead. Then we just had to control the scoreboard, and we did it well. They put pressure on us because every time we tried to score two, they were able to make a good shot and force us to one. There’s a reason they were third in the round-robin – they’re a good team and we knew it wasn’t an easy game, we knew we had to play until the end, and we’re happy we won.”
Asked about sealing a spot on the Olympic line-up, he added, “It means a lot. I know we deserve this one. It’s not out of the blue, we’ve had a good season, we were third in the Europeans, so we knew we belonged to the Olympics. I’m really proud of my team, they played very well and solid all week, so I’m happy to go to my third Olympics.”
The Italy team were: skip Joel Retornaz, third player Amos Mosaner, second player Sebastiano Arman, lead Simone Gonin and alternate Mattia Giovanella, coached by Claudio Pescia.
Men First Qualification Final result: Czech Republic 5-6 Italy
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