Norway men qualify for play-offs at the OQE

Team Norway qualify for play-offs © WCF / Céline Stucki

An extra-end 5-4 win over Italy in Tuesday evening’s sixth session of men’s round-robin play in the Olympic Qualification Event made Norway the first team to qualify for the weekend play-off games.

Not only that, because they remain the only unbeaten team (on six wins and no losses), one more win in either of their two remaining games will give them top slot and a direct place in the Beijing Olympic line-up.

This was a tense game, with Italy blanking the first three ends.

Then in the fourth, Italy’s skip Joel Retornaz played a draw with his last stone. After a measure for second shot, it turned out that Italy scored two points to take a 2-0 lead.

The game remained tight and went into an extra end when Italy were forced to draw for one point in the tenth to level the game at 4-4.

Norway had last-stone advantage in the extra end and their skip Steffen Walstad was left with a draw inside two Italian stones for the win.

His stone drifted but came to rest just inside the Italian stones to score one, claim a 5-4 win, and maintain his team’s flawless record.

Afterwards, Walstad said, “That was a really good win. We got off to a bad start. We had some easy mistakes in the beginning, and they played really well. We then went all out for the win.”

Speaking about his winning shot, he said, “In the extra end, I thought it was safe when it left my hand, but then it kept spinning and I was sure it was too long, but luckily it stopped just in time.”

Czech Republic moved into third place on the table, behind Norway and Italy with an 11-6 win over Japan.

The Czechs scored two points in the first end and then, in the second, Japan’s Matsumura Yuta drew for one point to reduce the Czech lead to 2-1.

In the third end, it was Czech skip Lukas Klima who was successful with a draw, to score one and restore a two-point lead, at 3-1.

In the seventh end, the Czechs scored four to take an 8-4 lead, on the way to their eventual 11-6 victory.

After the game, Czech skip Klima said, “It was a good game. We struggled yesterday but today we started to make some nice shots. We were putting pressure on them, and he played some beauties to save them a couple of times. And we finally scored a big end in the seventh.”

With his team’s qualification campaign still on track, he added, “Getting to the Olympics is the greatest achievement in curling. It’s our goal, we’re trying really hard for it, and it’s still on. I believe we will make it!”

Korea played Denmark in this session. The teams were tied at 3-3 in the fifth end when Danish skip Mikkel Krause played a draw to score one point and take a 4-3 lead.

But Korea responded with a score of three in the sixth end for a 6-4 lead.

The teams were then tied at 7-7 going into the tenth end, and in this end Korea’s skip Kim Chang-Min played a hit-and-stay to score one point for  an8-7 victory. It was his team’s first win of the event so far.

Afterwards, Korea coach Armin Harder spoke about his team’s first victory, saying, “We finally got the monkey off our back. This is still a new team and there are a lot of things that still need to be worked on. It’s mathematically possible still to qualify, but it’s a long shot.”

Team Korea © WCF / Céline Stucki

Finland faced host Netherlands in this session and like Korea, they had yet to win.

The Finns opened the game with a score of two in the first end and then Dutch skip Wouter Goesgens drew his last stone of the second end, to score one point and reduce Finland’s lead to 2-1.

Netherlands then levelled the game with a single steal in the third end. However, in the fourth, Finnish skip Kalle Kiiskinen played a double take-out to score two points and restore his team’s lead, at 4-2.

Helped by a score of two more points in the ninth end, Finland went on to win by 7-5, for their first victory at the event.

Afterwards, Kiiskinen said, “We keep on finding new ways to get in trouble all the time. But it was a nice game to win. I think we were a little bit more consistent this time than before. Now, there is no pressure on us.”

Germany sat out this session.

Men Session Six results: Czech Republic 11-6 Japan; Denmark 7-8 Korea; Italy 4-5 Norway; Netherlands 5-7 Finland.

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Leeuwarden, Netherlands

14 December 2021
Olympic Qualification Event 2021