CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy — Hungary shocked mighty Canada in a thrilling battle and Switzerland will attempt to defend its world title after the semifinals of the 2009 World Mixed Doubles Championship.
The husband and wife pairing of Gyoergy Nagy and Ildiko Szekeres of Hungary defeated Sean Grassie and Allison Nimik of Canada 7-5 in one of two semifinals at the 1956 Olympic Ice Stadium.
In the other semi, the defending champions from Switzerland, Toni Mueller and Irene Schori, ran their undefeated record to 18-0 over two years with an emphatic 10-2 victory over Zhipeng Zhang and Sun Yue of China.
Switzerland and Hungary will meet in the world championship finale and Canada and China will meet in the bronze medal game. Both games take place on Saturday, at 12 noon Central Europe Time.
Canada and Hungary swapped singles and deuces through the first four ends and the Canadians seemed to gain the upper hand after a steal of one in the fifth end.
However, Hungary responded with a huge three in the sixth, and added a steal of one in the seventh.
The dramatic eighth end saw Canada lying first, third and fourth in the four-foot rings with a pile of Hungarian guards out front. With the score 7-4 for Hungary, Canada needed three just to tie the game and force an extra end.
After lengthy deliberations Canada’s Grassie reared back and fired a brilliant runback double, and Canada lay three.
Hungary’s Szekeres tried a draw with her final attempt, slipped heavy and settled into the back eight-foot circle, half-frozen to a Canadian stone.
Camada’s Nimik then threw a soft takeout for a possible four points and the win, but her stone caught the curl and wrecked out front, for just a Canadian single.
The Hungarians leapt into the air with a mighty roar.
“We’re excited, we’re so happy,” said Szekeres.
“Our real dream was to win a medal,” said her husband Nagy. “I told Ildi we had to win the medal now, and not wait for a bronze chance tomorrow.”
Hungary is guaranteed a silver medal, the first-ever honour for the country in the sport of curling.
The Canadians could only shrug and marvel at the skill of the Hungarians.
“They’re a juggernaut,” declared Nimik.
“That was a game of anything you can do, I can do better. You can’t feel badly about (losing) a game like that, when you play well yourself. By far, that’s the best game I’ve had here.
“They could make the rocks do amazing things. We had a good battle, and they’re definitely on a roll.”
The Hungarians started the 27-team championship at 0-1 and are now at 10-2 after a myriad of pool matchups, tiebreakers, and qualifying playoff games.
“You’re first reaction is disappointment because you hate to lose,” said Grassie, who holds a masters degree in Philosophy.
“But they played really great. And we had a shot for the win, and that’s all you can ask for. It just took the curl.
“That’s the best team we’ve played all week.”
The Swiss held a comfortable 6-2 lead after stealing three straight ends up to the fifth frame. In the sixth, the wheels fell off for China when an attempted hit for two points somehow turned into a steal of four for the Swiss.
The Chinese conceded shortly thereafter.
“I think they were too heavy for that kind of shot,” observed Mueller. “That was crazy.”
“In the beginning we had some mistakes but then after the second end everything became better. And Irene makes every first shot, the freeze, and that’s so important.”
The Swiss are determined to repeat as champions for the second year running.
“We definitely want to win this championship,” said Mueller.
“Before we came here we said that if we can get a medal, that’s great. But now, with the chance to win again, we want it.”
The Olympic Ice Stadium, located in this ski resort area in northeast Italy, has been refurbished since hosting the 1956 Olympic Winter Games.
The venue will also play host to the 2010 Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship, less than one month after next year’s Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
Live scoring and other event information is available at: wmdcc2009.it with results mirrored at the WCF Results website at: results.worldcurling.org
Mixed Doubles features two players per team as opposed to traditional four-person curling teams. Each game consists of eight ends with variations from the usual discipline.
Each team delivers five stones per end with one player delivering the first and fifth stones and the other team member throwing the stones in between.
Prior to the start of each end, one team instructs the game umpire to place their team’s stationary stone and the opposing team’s stationary stone either as a guard outside the house bisecting the centre line or on the back half of the button. The positioned stones cannot be removed until the fourth stone.
Sweeping is allowed but with just two players that means either the thrower will sweep his or her own stone or the other team member will leave the house to sweep.
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