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U.S. Curling Men Finish Fourth

Associated Press
Saturday, February 14, 1998; 10:54 p.m. EST

KARUIZAWA, Japan — No more miracles for the United States men in Olympic curling. No medal, either.

The Americans fell well behind early for the second match in a row and lost 9-4 to Norway on Sunday (Saturday night EST) in the bronze-medal match of the inaugural Olympic curling tournament.

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

Canada was to meet Switzerland, an 8-7 semifinal winner over Norway, later Sunday for the gold medal.

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

The Canadians are curling's dominant team, having won four of the last five world championships. They cruised through their round-robin schedule in a sport that many compare to shuffleboard on ice with only a meaningless defeat to Norway, beating Switzerland 8-3 along the way.

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 win 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.

The first Olympic curling tournament also will produce Denmark's first Winter Games medal in any sport.

Denmark assured itself of a medal by defeating Sweden 7-5 in the women's semifinals and will meet defending world champion Canada in the championship game Sunday.

Sweden beat Britain 10-6 Sunday for bronze medal.

Denmark lacks the winter sports facilities of Scandinavian rivals Norway and Sweden and never has been a factor in the Winter Olympics.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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