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Japan keeps on rolling at 2016 Ford Worlds

SWIFT CURRENT, Sask. — Their coach, Calgary’s J.D. Lind, was a believer in Team Japan long before they arrived in Saskatchewan for the 2016 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, presented by Meridian Manufacturing.

Now, Lind has plenty of company, as the Japanese team, skipped by Satsuki Fujisawa, continues to roll at the Credit Union iplex — the latest compelling evidence coming via an 8-1 victory over Germany’s Daniela Driendl (3-5) to give Japan a 6-2 record, firmly in contention for one of the four playoff berths.

But, cautioned Fujisawa, there’s still plenty of work to do — a tilt Wednesday night against Erika Brown of the United States (3-4), and then wrapping up round-robin play on Thursday against a pair of toughies: Scotland’s Eve Muirhead (7-1) and Canada’s Chelsea Carey (6-1).

“If we start thinking about the playoffs, we’ll get a little panicked, a little bit more nervous,” said Fujisawa through an interpreter. “So we’re just focusing on one game at a time, game by game.”

Japan is looking for its first medal at the women’s worlds, having competed on 20 previous occasions, and also looking for just its third trip to the playoffs — the most recent being in 2008 at Vernon, B.C., where Moe Meguro’s team, with current Japanese alternate Mari Motohashi throwing third rocks, lost the semifinal to eventual champion Jennifer Jones (who, in true Jones style, won 9-8 thanks to a score of two in the ninth end, a steal of one in the 10th and another stolen point in the extra end).

The current lineup of Fujisawa, third Chinami Yoshida, second Yumi Suzuki, lead Yurika Yoshida, Motohashi and Lind is doing all the right things, besides just throwing the rock well, said Fujisawa.

“There’s a lot of team talk — things like the changes in the ice, changes in the weight,” she said. “Everyone is noticing, everybody is watching, everybody is communicating that well. So, there’s that.

“And,” she added with a laugh, “Everybody’s smiling, and that really helps.”

Also helping is the contribution of Lind, who, interestingly, coached Canadian team coach Charley Thomas when he won the 2007 World Junior Men’s Championship.

“J.D. started coaching our team this season, and he’s really helped us focus on communication and our preparation before coming to the event — the things besides just the technical part of curling,” said Fujisawa. “I think that’s been the biggest difference for us.”

South Korean skip Ji Sun Kim, right, celebrates with a teammate after Wednesday's win over Finland. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

South Korean skip Ji Sun Kim, right, celebrates with a teammate after Wednesday’s win over Finland. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Scotland, meanwhile, took over sole possession of first place in the 12-team round-robin standings with a 7-1 thrashing of Russia’s Anna Sidorova (5-3). The Scots took control with a steal of three in the second end and never looked back.

In other action, Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson (2-6) snapped a six-game losing streak by beating Italy’s Federica Apollonio (1-7) 11-5.

In the other morning game, South Korea’s Ji Sun Kim (3-5) came back from giving up a stolen three in the third end to beat Finland’s Oona Kauste (1-7) 9-6 thanks to three-enders in the eighth and ninth ends.

Canada, Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher (6-1), Denmark’s Lene Nielsen (3-4) and the U.S. all had byes on Wednesday morning.

The Ford Worlds continue on Wednesday with draws at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Team Canada will be featured in both draws — against South Korea at 2 p.m. and then against the Finns at 7 p.m.

For ticket and other event information, visit http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/tickets/

For the complete results, standings, the schedule and much more, visit to http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/

This story will be posted in French as soon as possible at http://www.curling.ca/2016worldwomen/?lang=fr

TSN (RDS2 in French), the exclusive television network for Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide complete coverage of the 2016 Ford Worlds.