Don’t cancel those Czechs! That was the main message delivered on Day One at the Ford World Curling Championships at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.
The upstart team from Prague, skipped by 23-year-old student Linda Klimova, won twice and moved atop the 12-team heap.
Klimova was recorded at 88 per cent on her skip rocks in an 8-5 Saturday evening victory over Italy after earlier setting down Korea 6-3 with an 84-per-cent shooting effort.
“It was good for us to win the first two matches,” said the young Czech skip whose nation has made only four visits to the world women’s rockfest and owns a dubious 4-29 record for its first three, never winning more than two in any one event. (Continued Below…)
Draw 2 Photos
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“This gives us some confidence,” said Klimova, “but we know we have a lot of tougher teams ahead of us.”
The Czech suffered a setback earlier in the day when regular second player Lenka Cernovska was sidelined with flu symptoms.
“We have played with our alternate (Sara Jahodova) for two games and she has played really good,” said Klimova. “But we were worried. She hasn’t played with us this season.”
Four other teams remained with winning records following single outings on Saturday.
Canada’s Heather Nedohin of Edmonton took advantage of a ghastly error from U.S. skip Allison Pottinger in the eighth end to steal three points in an 8-7 win on the nightshift.
Elsewhere, Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott bested 2009 world champion Bingyu Wang of China 7-5 and Korea’s Ji-Sun Kim scored three in the 10th end to stun Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson 9-8 in the day’s biggest upset.
Scotland’s Eve Muirhead and Germany’s Melanie Robillard posted afternoon wins before taking the night off.
Canada led 5-4 without the hammer in the eighth end in spite of twice missing opportunities for blank ends and taking unforced singles.
Looking at three Canadian stones with an open four-foot, Pottinger pitched her last draw through the rings.
She rebounded with a deuce in the ninth and stole a single in the 10th to finish with a close score.
“It was me,” the St. Paul skip admitted of her eighth-end gaffe afterward. “I didn’t set myself in the hack. I knew it the moment I let it go. Too heavy.”
Some observers criticized the Lethbridge crowd of 2,721 for seeming to cheer the American miscue.
“We like the crowds, we like the noise and everybody is cheering,” said Pottinger, a Canadian-born 36-year-old who moved to the U.S, when she was 18.
“I mean, it’s fun, right? More people excited about curling? I think it’s fantastic.
“But the result really boiled down to that error in the eighth. If we get our one there it’s 5-5 going into the ninth end and we’re more than happy with that. Still, she (Nedohin) had to throw her last rock. It wasn’t the hardest shot in the whole wide world but she had to throw it, we made her make it, and we’re not ashamed by any means.”
“When your heart is pounding from the first end to the 10th end and you get a W at the end . . . whew! We were so excited just to get to the ice and it finally arrived and we’re just thrilled to be playing now.
“I’m just overly excited. This has been a dream of ours since we were little girls and we’re here at the show right in our own province.
“We just had to be patient,” she said of the failures to blank the first and fourth ends. “We got a couple of opportunities and took advantage of them in the later ends.”
The Swiss skip, oldest in the field at 40 and a double Olympic medallist, was elated wih her team’s fast start.
“It went very well, we had a win, the team played well and we’re really happy about it,” she said.
“We knew China, we knew they are a very good team so we knew we would have to play good.”
Pre-tournament favourite Muirhead narrowly escaped with an 8-7 victory over Russia in the afternoon. (Continued below…)
Moscow skip Anna Sidorova was inches light with her last rock trying to nudge Scotland’s counter off the button in a 10th-end tie situation. If Sidorova had executed the shot perfectly, Muirhead may have had no shot with the hammer.
“We played great and that was our goal for our first game — to play strong,” said Muirhead. “Our other tournaments this year we’ve started out slowly and got better and better. We wanted to come out and play strong.”
Muirhead roared back from an early two-rock deficit and, after stealing a pair in the eighth end, went up 7-4. But a couple of Scottish miscues in the ninth allowed Sidorova to even the score with a three-count.
“Probably two or three slack shots cost us,” said Muirhead. “The Russians played great. As soon as we made those mistakes, they capitalized. Giving up three was not ideal. We were lucky to be three up that end.
“It feels great to beat a good team. We did well at the Europeans . . . so you have a huge target on your back.”
There was no question the 6-3 Germany win over Denmark’s Lene Nielsen was a relief for Canadian-born German skip Robillard, a last-minute replacement for injured veteran Andrea Schoepp, a two-time World winner.
“That’s an understatement,” said Robillard. “I’m really happy it’s over and I’m really happy we won. It’s been pretty stressful. I’m trying to keep calm but I was actually really nervous when I started that game.
“The fact I don’t have to throw last rocks helps a lot.”
Regular third Imogen Lehmann handled that department and scored 79 per cent on her shots.
Sweden bombed Italy 9-3, breaking up a tight battle with three in the seventh end and a crushing four in the ninth when last-rock thrower Maria Prytz executed a perfect raise takeout.
Prytz scored 87 per cent on last rocks in the afternoon but was a mediocre 63 per cent in the evening against the Koreans.
Czech skip Klimova said her team was quick to adapt to the quickness of the arena ice following her afternoon win.
“The ice is a little faster here than we’re used to,” she said. “But we were training a couple of days ago in Moncton so we had some opportunities to become accustomed to the faster ice.”
In an abridged draw today at 9 a.m., Russia tangles with Denmark while Scotland takes on Germany.