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Swiss Men Win Curling Gold

Associated Press
Sunday, February 15, 1998; 5:40 a.m. EST

KARUIZAWA, Japan — For Canada, only one of the two gold medals they expected in curling will actually go home with them.

The Canadian men, winners of four of the last five world championships, were surprised 9-3 by Switzerland on Sunday in the gold-medal match — a near reversal of Canada's 8-3 victory in round-robin play.

Apparently, the Olympics bring out the best in the Swiss, who haven't won the world championship since 1992 — the same year they also won the Olympics when curling was only a demonstration sport.

The Americans fell well behind early for the second match in a row and lost 9-4 to Norway in the men's bronze-medal match.

The Swiss opened up a 9-1 lead by scoring seven points in the fourth, fifth and sixth ends and the Canadians conceded after the eighth end, partly because Switzerland owned the all-important hammer — the final shot — in the 10th and often decisive end.

The Canadian women, aided by a point in the eighth end that was so close a measurement was required, defeated Denmark 7-5 for the gold medal. It was the first Winter Olympics medal for the Danes in any sport, but it wasn't the color they wanted.

Canada, winner of the past two and four of the previous five women's world championships, got off to a 3-0 start in the first end and led 6-2 after the sixth.

"The team is totally ecstatic,'' Canada skip Sandra Schmirler said. "We played a strong game throughout and got off to a great start ... [but] they really put the pressure on us and made us make good shots.''

Sweden beat Britain 10-6 for the women's bronze medal.

Denmark has never been a factor before in the Winter Olympics because it lacks the sports facilities of Scandinavian rivals Norway and Sweden. Even its curling team often must take a ferry to Sweden to train.

Led by team captain Tim Somerville, the American men rallied by winning three consecutive matches, two in tiebreakers, before losing to Canada 7-1 in the semifinals.

Just as they did in falling behind Canada 4-0 after only three ends, the Americans trailed almost from the start against Norway, which led 6-0 after five. Most matches last 10 ends, or innings, but the Americans conceded after nine.

"In the last two games we did not play well at all,'' Somerville said. "We had too many ups and downs, and that's why we ended up in fourth place.''

Norway captain Eigil Ramsfjell said the bronze medal helped ease the frustration of the close loss to Switzerland.

"I am happy about the medal but also a little bit sentimental about finishing,'' said Ramsfjell, a three-time individual world champion who is retiring from competition.

Canada opened a 2-0 lead after the first end against the United States on Saturday, then increased it to 3-0 when Somerville missed knocking out two Canadian stones with the final throw of the second end. The United States wasted a chance to get back into the game as Somerville missed a tap-out on the final shot of the sixth end, allowing the Canadians to score twice more.

"The first three ends we played really, really well,'' said Canadian skip Mike Harris, who shot nearly flawlessly. "The second end was a bit of a surprise with them missing the open hit, but other than that, we were all over them the whole game. I think it was more us playing well rather than them playing poorly.''

It was Somerville's perfectly placed game-winning tap on the final shot that gave the Americans the 5-4 tiebreaker victory earlier Saturday over the Japanese, who were so anguished at losing they cried on the ice.

The United States was a longshot just to get into medal competition after placing no higher than fourth in any world championship since 1993.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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