Canada knocked off perch at World women’s test

Heather Nedohin said so herself. “Nobody is going to go through this without a loss so it doesn’t surprise me that we aren’t going to do it, either.” The Team Canada skip was talking, of course, about the latest rendition of the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship, an event in which nobody ever has emerged with an undefeated record.

Heather Nedohin calls to her teammates at the 2012 Ford World Women's Curling Championship. (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

No ever. Not since the event was invented back in 1979 at Perth, Scotland. Canada was the last unbeaten team to bite the dust on Monday night and it was no surprise that Lene Nielsen’s Denmark team was the one to stop the Canadian onslaught. The same Nielsen gave Canada fits a year ago on Nielsen’s home turf, taking Canada to the last gasp in back-to-back draws including a playoff game in which Amber Holland’s gang had to steal three in an extra end to escape elimination. The Danes toppled Nedohin’s Edmonton troops 9-7 with an extra-end deuce Monday night at the Enmax Centre after Nedohin stole a pair in the 10th to force overtime. Denmark forged in front 3-0 with singles in the second, third and fourth ends and controlled proceedings until Canada succeeded in stashing away a tying two bricks in the four-foot in the 10th. Nielsen faced a clutch nose-hit raise in the 11th to spring a Canadian stone drawn into the four-foot by Nedohin and made the winning shot to perfection. “You always have butterflies,” said Nielsen afterward. “But I was pretty sure about the call and the weight and it was a good shot for me. “I like playing Canada. I like beating Canada.” Nedohin’s crew dropped to 4-and-1 alongside unsung Korea and Sweden’s champion team skipped by Margaretha Sigfridsson who throws lead rocks while Maria Prytz unleashes the last ones. Korea had the evening off after winning a pair earlier in the day as Ji-Sun Kim directed a tidy 8-3 win over American Allison Pottinger and earlier drilled favoured Scotland 7-2 with a sharpshooting display of the first water. Sweden also won twice earlier, beating Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott 7-4 and waxing Germany’s Melanie Robillard by a 10-4 count. In other late-shift decisions, the Swiss rebounded to climb to 3-and-2 with a 7-4 win over Germany (2-3), Pottinger of the U.S. finally got untracked for her first win in five starts, stunning Scotland’s Eve Muirhead 7-2 and Russia’s Anna Sidorova stopped China’s fading Bingyu Wang 7-5. (Continued Below…) Draw 8 Photos
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Denmark’s Nielsen climbed up beside Switzerland at 3-and-2 while Russia, Germany, Scotland, the Czech Republic and Italy’s Diana Gaspari, who won twice on Monday, all were 2-and-3. At 1-and-4 heading into today’s action were China and the U.S. Nielsen said the win over Canada gave the Danes “confidence”. “The team worked much better today and I’m proud of the girls.” Canada continued its snail’s-pace starts but Nedohin insisted she liked what she saw with her team after admitting, “We’ve got room for improvement”. “That (Denmark) is a great team and there’s a lot of great teams here and I’m anticipating the same type of shotmaking from a lot of opponents.” Nedohin said her team has to start “owning the top of the house” in order to get off to faster starts. The team has been slow out of the gate in all its races to date. “We have to make them come to us as opposed to having us chasing them early-on,” she said. Russia’s Sidorova moved two Chinese stones off the four-foot with a last-rock hit to ensure her team’s evening victory. “I’d rather play quieter shots,” she admitted. “I don’t like playing big-weight shots so I am nervous.” Pottinger said her team “finally started to play its own game” and the result was “quite a bit better”. “Finally, we decided to quit worrying about the other teams. We said, we don’t care what they throw, we don’t care what they do, we know what we can throw and what we can do, let’s go do it. And we did it tonight.” The Scottish skip appeared to be at a loss for an explanation after a pair of uncharacteristic performances Monday. “It’s difficult to say what’s wrong,” she said. “It’s one shot every end that’s catching us out. “I’m really struggling with the stones out there, they’re a really tricky set of stones and they’re getting on top of us a little bit. It’s not just us that are struggling out there. I think a few teams are, so we’re not the only ones. We’ve had a lot of pressure on our shoulders coming into here, pressure we didn’t need, so we’re just going to go out and play how we know we can play and just make the simple shots well. “We’ve only lost three games. We’re not out of the championship and we’re still right in the mix, so I don’t think it’s something to worry about.” Canada won its fourth in the afternoon with a rope-a-dope style effort against Linda Klimova of the Czech Republic. After a blanked first, Nedohin missed a hit-and-stick that would have forced the Czechs to do the same and score a deuce — something Nedohin was comfortable with, she said later. Instead, her shooter rolled out and left Klimova a half-rock raise takeout for five. Czech mate? Then, queue the comeback. That it happened so early ended up being a blessing for Nedohin’s crew. Methodically, it went to the attack mode in a change of strategy that Nedohin described as “getting meaner.” She scored two with hammer and actually had a hit-and-stick for three, but any regrets were soon washed away in the next end when Canada started a run of steals that quite simply was remarkable. A steal of three made it 5-5 and it was that way at the break. Then three straight steals of singles put the Czechs in a chase position for the rest of the tilt, and though she stole one in the last end to make the final 8-7, Klimova could never come back from the adversity of a blown five-nil lead. “I would say we’ve been pretty slow coming out of the gate, on what we call ‘moon Monday’ because it looked nasty the first five,” said Nedohin. “But we just pulled together at the break, it was tied, and we had a much better back five. I think we knew we had to be a lot meaner out there and really put the pressure on them. When I say meaner . . . not like mad, angry, just more aggressive.” Meanwhile, Korea’s Kim continue to direct the surprise of the competition. “Every day, it’s been five hours of extra practice,” Kim explained, struggling a tad with English, but not so much with draw weight. “We are liking the ice, it’s been very good for us to be making shots.” In a back-and-forth contest, the Swedes set up to come home up one with the hammer and scored a deuce for the win over the Swiss. “We played fantastic today,” said Sigfridsson. “We play her (Ott) a lot, and we like playing her, she’s good. I just think as a team we are a little bit sharper now.” Gaspari fought her way back into the competition after dropping the first troika. She beat China’s Bingyu Wang 7-5 in the afternoon. “We are very happy, of course, to still be alive,” said the Italian skip, who said at the midway mark of the game she didn’t think the team would win, but a big steal of three in the eighth was the difference as Wang sailed her last brick through the rings. “We ran out of energy a little, I think, but we are playing better now,” said Gaspari. Korean skip Kim, playing by far her best match of the week, scored two in the fourth end after three blanks, then stole two more on a Scottish miscue in the fifth and, following a couple of one-point strikes from the enemy, closed it out with a deuce and another theft of one in the ninth. “It was very exciting for us and very much fun,” said Kim, who mesmerized the Scots with a 90 per cent shooting percentage. “Today I felt very good. We have been getting better. Maybe tomorrow will be even better.” She said the Korean team “already is better than last year.” Kim was 2-9 at Esbjerg. The Koreans are playing in their fourth Worlds and previously logged 0-9 and 3-8 records. (Continued below…) httpvh:// “I think we are learning the game, throwing the rock better and we know the game better,” said Kim, who admitted that the team’s goal was “to make the playoffs”. By contrast, Muirhead was a mediocre 68 per cent on her last rocks. “I think that was a poor performance, but give them their due, they played great,” she said. “We’re going to have to step it up big-time. “We’re just missing shots that we don’t usually miss — the unit’s falling apart a little and we need to build it up. It’s in our hands. We can’t get panicked, it’s down to ourselves at the end of the day. If we step it up, then we’ll be around, and if we don’t we’re not going to be, so it’s in our own hands.” Denmark posted a tight 9-8 win over Klimova in one other morning scuffle while Gaspari got untracked after three losses and upended Russia 10-6, hammering a pair of three-enders on the board in the seventh and ninth ends. “Finally, we play every end as we like it,” said Gaspari, the Cortina d’Ampezzo veteran. “So we have to go on in this way, end-by-end. “I’m quite happy with my game. I have been away three years and I was quite worried that I would be able to come back in the big competition but with this team I am really comfortable.” Korean coach Min-Suk Choi allowed as how his team “is building every game”. “This is our best game yet. We are benefiting from the experience. The team is much more comfortable here. “We have really focused on training, throwing and mental preparation, the year ‘round. Three weeks of throwing at Calgary Curling Club. Every year we have trained two months at the Calgary Curling Club. “We have only two rinks in Korea. This is a national team.” He said the team will play the Korean championship next month, then play in cash bonspiels in Canada next fall in preparation for the Pacific championships in November.