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Canadian Women Take Curling Gold
Associated Press
Sunday, February 15, 1998; 3:01 a.m. EST

KARUIZAWA, Japan (AP) -- No more miracles for the United States men in Olympic curling. No medal, either.

But Canada's women will leave the Winter Games just as they started them -- as the best team in the world.

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 first Olympic curling tournament.

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 Denmark 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 on Sunday 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.

Canada was to meet Switzerland, an 8-7 semifinal winner over Norway, later Sunday for the men's 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, 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,'' U.S. skip Tim 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.

Like the Canadian women's team, the Canadian men dominate their sport, also winning four of the last five world titles. 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 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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