Your cheat sheet to Friday’s men’s curling medal rounds


Ryan Fry of Canada yells to his sweepers during a round-robin session against the United States on Feb. 16 in Sochi, Russia. (Morry Gash / AP)

As sad as it may be that Olympic curling is coming to an end in Sochi, at least the gold medal match, which is set to take place Friday at 8:30 a.m. EST, will take it out with what’s likely to be a close game. Here’s a look at who’s made it to the top:

Canada

Canadian skip Brad Jacobs and his team look like they do more curling in the weight room than on the rink. And, in fact, that might be true.

“Our team’s known for the tight shirts,” Jacobs told a Globe and Mail reporter.

It’s not that their shirts are small, it’s that their muscles are big. Known as the “Buff Boys,” Jacobs describes his team as a bunch of “gym rats,” and this dedication to fitness seems to be paying off. The Canadian men won seven out of their nine round-robin games, including scoring a 7-5 win over their gold-medal opponents, Britain, to earn a second-seed spot in the semifinals, where they easily beat China, 10-6.

But, the Canadians have had some hiccups during this Olympics, too. For example, they had a tougher-than-it-should’ve-been time beating the U.S. men, the second-worst team this year, in their round-robin match-up (8-6). And they lost to Switerland (4-5) and Sweden (6-7). This proved that, unlike their female counterparts who went undefeated through the entire Games to win the gold medal against Sweden (6-3), they are not invincible.

As a fun side note, viewers should look out for Ryan Fry, not only because the 35-year-old is easy on the eyes, but also because of the unique way in which he slides out of the hack to throw the stone. He’s crouched about as low as he can go without actually Slip ‘n Sliding down the rink on his belly. It’s a sight.

Britain 

Led by veteran Scottish skip David Murdoch, the team from Britain is hungry to win. Murdoch has won two world championships, but never an Olympic medal, let alone a gold. He’s coming to these games with a new team, and so far, so-so. They’ve had a tougher time getting to the finals than Canada, emerging from the round-robin games with a record of five wins and four losses. They were forced to play a tie-breaker against Norway and their pants to earn their semifinal spot.

But that may have been the best thing for them. Murdoch won the tiebreaker for his team with a bold, spectacular shot, which gave him the confidence needed to scoot past No. 1 seed Sweden 6-5 in the semis.

Prediction: Britain is on a roll right now, and I think they’re going to eke out a win.

And for the bronze?

This match, which will take place at 3:30 a.m. EST, is between Sweden and China, which is a double surprise. Most people thought Sweden would be contending for the gold, while China wouldn’t make the semifinals.

The poor placement of the Swedes might make for chippy match, especially when Swedish skip Niklas Edin’s hot temper is thrown into the mix. If he makes the kind of mistakes during this match that he did in his last match against Britain in the semis, there’s a very good chance he will burn down Sochi’s Ice Cube Curling Center.  Maybe that’s a little dramatic. But one mistake could rattle him and lead to more.

China, on the other hand, is stoic, cool and calm. And also surprisingly good, considering how young and relatively inexperienced they are. Skip Rui Lui has yet to make much of an impact in international competition, but that could change Friday with an upset win, although Sweden will have to make some errors for that to happen.

Prediction: Edin’s rink has just got too much to prove to not win this medal. Sweden will pull it off in the end.

More Olympics news

D.C. barista scores go-ahead goal, helps Switzerland to bronze medal

Some Ukrainian athletes leave Sochi because of deadly protests at home

Switzerland wins first ice-hockey medal since 1948

If you love curling, shout it from the rooftops!

Jenkins: A burden too large to bear for 15-year-old Lipnitskaia

Wise: For the hosts, it’s over and out in men’s hockey

Alex Ovechkin, Russia eliminated from Sochi Olympics by Finland

Analyzing why Russia went out with a whimper

Photos from Day 13 | Daily TV schedule | U.S. medal winners

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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