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Three lead race for World women’s playoff berths

The Korean national curling team refuses to be counted out at the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship.

Skipped by 24-year-old Ji-Sun Kim, the amazing Koreans pulled even with Canada and Sweden at the top of the pack again Wednesday, heading into the last day of round-robin matches at the Enmax Centre.

Ji-Sun Kim signals to her teammates during Draw 14 of the 2012 Ford World Women's Curling Championship. (CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Korea’s 9-4 win over Germany on Wednesday’s late shift left Korea, Canada and Sweden with 7-and-
-2 records.

The Swedes, skipped by Margaretha Sigfridsson with Maria Prytz throwing the last rocks, remained with the leaders by stealing a 3-2 victory from Scotland’s Eve Muirhead in a rematch of the Euro championship final last December in Moscow won by the Scots.

Canada won its seventh earlier in the day, dumping the Germans skipped by Melanie Robillard by a narrow 5-4 count.(Continued Below…)

Draw 14 Photos


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The Koreans — third Seul-Bee Lee, second Mi-Sung Shin, lead Un-Chi Gim — are playing in only their fourth World women’s championship ever and already have recorded four wins more than their previous best record. The team is a self-made squad that has practised on and off at the Calgary Curling Club twice-a-year and, according to Korean officials, picked up the strategy of the game by watching TSN.

“I shot pretty good but I’m pretty tired,” said Kim later. “Tomorrow I will settle for one win and one loss. Yeah, I was really wanting to make the playoffs and I’m very happy with that. Now we are very happy.”

The Swedes were relatively ecstatic after Scotland controlled a defensive struggle through to the 10th end and owned the hammer there.

Prytz was slightly deep and slightly open with her last rock trying to bury behind a guard in the four-foot but Muirhead’s last draw ground to a halt at the top of the centre ring, enabling the Swedish heist.

“It was quite defensive and not really the game we wanted to play,” said Sigfridsson, “but we decided to wait for them to make a move. Maybe we waited a little too long but we ended up winning the game so that’s just fine.

“We still have two more games to play but, yes, we are expecting to make the playoffs.

The Swedish skip said she expected Muirhead to make her last shot.

“She didn’t throw many draws this game and that spot was a little bit heavier, but we wanted to be a little less deep with a little more curl. I was surprised, yes.”

The tilt tied the record for most blank ends (five) in a world women’s championship match. The record was set in the 1998 championship, tied in the same event and then matched in 2009 and 2010.

Muirhead, who suffered her fifth loss, was in the process of writing off the tournament.

“I thought it was good weight and we called them (sweepers) on and the line was fine and then it comes up short,” she said.

“I mean, we controlled the whole game and then it comes down to my missed shot and that’s (bleep). I think we’re down and out now. I think we’re just playing for rank.

“Everything was set for us with the last rock and it’s a shot I have to make and should be making and I have to take full responsibility for not making that. When it ends like that, though, it’s pretty sad.”

Here’s how today’s final round-robin rundown for playoff positions will play out:

Canada (7-2) — 9 a.m. Italy (2-7), 7 p.m. Scotland (4-5).
Korea (7-2) — 9 a.m. Switzerland (6-3), 2 p.m. Russia (4-5).
Sweden (7-2) — 9 a.m. U.S.A. (5-4), 2 p.m. Denmark (5-4).
Switzerland (6-3) — 9 a.m. Korea (7-2), 7 p.m. Russia (4-5).
U.S.A. (5-4) — 9 a.m. Sweden (7-2), 7 p.m. Denmark (5-4).
Denmark (5-4) — 2 p.m. Sweden (7-2), 7 p.m. U.S.A. (5-4).

In other late-shift action, Denmark clung by their fingernails to the hunt when Italy’s Diana Gaspari flashed a double takeout with her last rock of the 10th end and the Danes scored a deuce without requiring the hammer for a 5-4 win. And Russia routinely pranced past the Czech Republic 9-6.

“It was a very difficult game,” said hoarse-voiced Danish skip Lene Nielsen who said she had lost it with excessive sweeping calls. (Continued below…)

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“We had a couple of picks along the way and she (Gaspari) played very well. We didn’t really get ours going so I’m just happy we won. But we have to beat Sweden and the U.S. today. We have to win two games.”

After a clutch 7-5 win over Korea in the morning draw, Canada bounced back in the afternoon to defeat the Germans (3-6).

In both Wednesday contests, Heather Nedohin’s Edmonton charges kept the issues close in the early-going, then turned on the pressure shotmaking and wilted the opposition.

“I thought we played well as a team, I thought we controlled the first few ends, we were just unfortunate to give them that deuce in the fifth end,” said Nedohin.

“But we bounced back with a big three in the sixth,” she added.

“We were battling the clock all game, so it was important for us to just keep throwing and making shots.”

The Canucks made more than enough to win.

Switzerland gassed a chance to share the penthouse with the Canadians when they fell 7-4 to Lene Nielsen of Denmark. Despite jumping out to a 2-0 lead, they faded as the Danes stole a big deuce in the eighth which led to a 7-4 victory.

Muirhead’s Scottish crew temporarily remained in contention during the afternoon draw, needing an extra end to beat China’s Bingyu Wang 9-7. Wang finished the day with a 2-7 record, tied with the Czechs and Italy.

The Americans, meanwhile, continued their Lazarus act, following up an 0-4 start with their fourth and fifth straight wins. Allison Pottinger’s St. Paul, Minn., crew rolled off a 7-2 decision over Russia after earlier downing the Czechs 6-4.

“We didn’t mix it up a lot,” said Pottinger, who drew the four-foot to solidify her victory over Linda Klimova’s outfit in the 10th end.

“We had a good solid game. I think we have stopped worrying about everybody else, decided this is how we play our game, we’ve got the broom figured out a little better and we’re just a little more staying within ourselves.

“We work really hard on focusing on process. All that matters now is the first end of the next game. We can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves. It’s always too soon for that.”

The Canadians delivered an immaculate performance capped by skip Nedohin’s 89-per-cent shooting effort in handing the astonishing Koreans their second setback of the piece in the morning.

Canada fashioned three deuces, overcame a 3-2 disadvantage after three ends and turned up the juice to limit its foe to a pair singles with last rock over the remainder.

“That wasn’t necessarily our best game yet,” said Nedohin, “but we knew we were playing the first-place team and most of the time when we needed a shot it was made.

“And there’s nothing like having the core unit back together,” she added, referring to her team welcoming flu-ridden second player Jessica Mair back to the lineup.

“It’s nice to have an alternate like Amy (Nixon) ready to go but it takes years to establish your routines and your unity and everything and it just felt really good out there this morning.”

Korean skip Kim was facing difficult situations in most of the latter ends after scoring three in the third. She kept her team in it with a precise takeout shot looking at five enemy stones in the fifth end but never was able to build an offence thereafter.

Sweden kept pace with a 7-5 win over China’s Bingyu Wang, mainly on the strength of a five-count in the first end and a solid defensive display for most of the remainder. And Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott doubled up on Italy 8-4 with deuces in the eighth and ninth ends.

Swedish skip Sigfridsson admitted a big first-end lead isn’t always easy to protect.

“It seems like a long game after that because you think you should keep the lead all the way through but you are always in danger of giving up points,” she said.

“You need to keep on focusing when you give some of those points back. We expected China would play better after the first end. They are really good at playing their game and stealing points.”

Ott scored two in second, added back-to-back singles in the fourth and fifth frames for a 4-1 lead, then withstood a tying challenge from Italy’s Gaspari and closed it out at the finish with the deuces.

“We curled quite well,” she said. “It was a close game. We had to perform at our best. They made some mistakes at the end of the game and that help us get another win. We were in control but never could score a high end and could not afford any misses to let the back in it.”