SOCHI, Russia (AP) — So much for this supposedly being the most open women’s Olympic curling tournament yet.
Canada is turning it into a procession.
With skip Jennifer Jones retaining her brilliant form, the Canadians beat both Denmark and Switzerland 8-5 on Thursday to stay undefeated after five games and move to the brink of the semifinals.
“I don’t know if we are making it look easy,” Jones said, “but we are coming out, playing well and making the big shots when we have to.”
Canada now has beaten all its big rivals — Sweden, Britain and the Swiss — in the opening four days as the curling-mad country goes for its first Olympic gold medal in the women’s event since 1998.
In Jones, Canada has probably the best women’s player in Sochi and she opened up a close game against Denmark by picking up three points in the ninth end to give her team an 8-5 cushion.
She made the difference in the ninth end against the Swiss as well, playing a draw that just slid by an opposition stone to settle in the 4-foot ring for three points.
“There’s a reason why I’ve been playing with her for more than 20 years,” Canada second Jill Officer said. “She is a great shooter, a great leader, a great skip. It’s great she is on top of her game.”
Jones said she thinks Canada still needs two more wins to secure a top-four place, but six victories has been enough to reach the medal round in the three previous Olympic tournaments where there have been 10 teams.
Sweden (4-1) is pulling out all the stops just to stay in touch with the Canadians.
The two-time defending champion won both of its games on Thursday on the final shot, earning a point with the hammer to beat Switzerland 9-8 in the morning session and by stealing a point to defeat Denmark 7-6.
“We had a really good team spirit today,” said Sweden skip Margaretha Sigfridsson, who acknowledged that Canada was the team to beat. “At this point, yes. But we aren’t in the playoffs yet. Then it can change.”
World champion Britain was under pressure after losing two of its first three games but beat China 8-7 in the morning session to revive its chances of qualifying for the semifinals.
A day after making a mistake with her game-deciding final shot in a 9-6 loss to the Canadians, British skip Eve Muirhead was left with a routine draw into the 4-foot to seal victory against the Chinese.
Switzerland started the day unbeaten and top of the standings, but dropped to third place.
The United States stayed alive in the tournament by picking up an 8-6 win over Japan in the evening session. Erika Brown’s rink is 1-4 and still could qualify by winning its final four games.
The U.S. team features Glenbrook North graduate Ann Swisshelm, who has trained in Highland Park and is finishing up her curling career in Sochi.
“Just in the nick of time. We were hoping for that three or four days ago,” Brown said. “There’s still an outside chance we can make the tie-breaker.”
Japan curler Kaho Onodera was in tears as she walked past reporters after the game. She returned to the team after missing its first three games because of the flu.
South Korea beat Russia 8-4 in the other evening game.
Denmark (0-5) is the only team without a win after four days of the tournament.
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