What to know heading into the women’s curling semifinals
Canada will not earn a women’s Olympic curling medal for the first time in history.
A Canadian women’s team had finished every tournament on the podium since the event debuted as an Olympic sport in 1998. But, Canada concluded round robin play with a 4-5 record and failed to advance in PyeongChang.
The four teams that did reach the playoffs will return to competition in the semifinal round Feb. 23 and the winners will meet in the gold medal game one day later. The losers will play for bronze Feb. 24.
Here’s everything you need to know heading into the medal round.
South Korea vs. Japan
South Korea was not expected to compete for a semifinal spot in PyeongChang. But the host country proved to be a medal contender early in round-robin action.
The South Korean team opened play with a shocking 8-6 upset of Canada, the pre-tournament favorite. From there, they continued to rack up victories, winning seven of their next eight games.
Overall, South Korea finished round robin play with an 8-1 record and earned the top overall seed in the playoff round. They outscored opponents by 31 total points and stole 15 ends, both tops in the tournament field.
“They’re very resilient,” U.S. skip Nina Roth said to reporters following her team’s loss to South Korea. “They've got the home-court advantage. They like a lot of rocks in play so they put pressure on teams and I think that's great.”
Expectations were also low for Japan entering the tournament in PyeongChang. The Japanese, however, opened with victories in four of their first five games.
Japan headed into the final session of round robin action needing a win or a loss by the United States to advance. The team fell to Switzerland, but the U.S. was topped by Sweden, clinching the fourth and final playoff spot for Japan.
“It’s a tough way to get in with the way we played against the Swiss,” Japan coach J.D. Lind told reporters following the loss to Switzerland (via Reuters) “But we can’t worry about that one game we had a good performance all week and that got us to that point.”
Japan handed South Korea its only loss in round robin play when the teams met Feb. 15. In that game, South Korea led by two through seven frames before Japan scored four points over the last three ends to secure a come from behind win.
South Korea will play Japan on Feb. 23 at 6:05 a.m. ET.
Sweden vs. Great Britain
Sweden found immediate success in PyeongChang, beginning round robin play with five straight victories, including wins over Canada and the OAR.
After two straight losses, the Swedish team closed preliminary action with two more wins.
"We keep focusing on every shot in every game,” Sweden team member Anna Hasselborg said to reporters about the team’s strong start to Olympic competition. “Just be in the moment and just have a lot of fun.”
Meanwhile, Great Britain is the only team in either semifinal that was expected to be in medal contention entering the 2018 Winter Games.
Led by skip Eve Muirhead, who won bronze at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Great Britain has registered a 6-3 record so far in Olympic play, including victories over Canada and Japan.
“Whoever we're up against, we know that when it comes to playoffs, we are a strong team,” Muirhead said to reporters Wednesday. “We always step it up for playoffs and whoever we're up against, we'll definitely be doing that."
Sweden tallied two points in the 11th end to defeat Great Britain in their round robin matchup Feb. 18.
“It was an intense game,” Sweden team member Agnes Knochenhauer said to reporters after the win over Great Britain. “We played a good game all the way through. We kept our patience and got it to an extra end with the hammer so that's why we won.”
Sweden will face Great Britain on Feb. 23 at 6:05 a.m. ET.
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