Five alive in World women’s playoff chase

Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott was more than ecstatic Thursday to find out she was ranked No. 2 behind Sweden for Ford World Women’s Curling Championship playoff purposes today. A double winner on the last day of round-robin qualifiers, Ott found herself in a familiar but, in this case, possibly unexpected position.

Mirjam Ott at the 2012 Ford World Women's Curling Championship. (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

The Davos skip knows all about being No. 2. She has two silver medals from sorties to the Olympic Games to prove that point. Now the Swiss and Swedes have the extra life for playoffs for this Worlds scuffle as Page One-Two combatants tonight (7 p.m.) at the Enmax Centre. “That’s great that we qualified for the playoffs,” Ott said following a last-draw 6-4 conquest of Russia on Thursday night. “We’ve never been in the Page One-Two at the Worlds. That gives us two playoff lives. We’d like to take the first one.” Earlier on Thursday the veteran Swiss unit — third Carmen Schaefer, second Carmen Kueng and lead Janine Greiner — forced a four-way tie going into the last games by defeated Korea’s surprising Ji-Sun Kim 6-5. Sweden — Margaretha Sigfridsson, Maria Prytz, Christina Bertrup, Maria Wennerstrom — lost a 6-5 extra-end morning tussle to the hottest team in the building skipped by Allison Pottinger of the U.S. but bounced back in the afternoon to clobber Lene Nielsen of Denmark 7-2 and qualify No. 1 for the playoff round. Korea, a 7-3 conqueror of Russia in the afternoon, matched the 8-3 records of Sweden and the Swiss and was slotted No. 3 in the playoffs. The U.S., winner of seven straight on the heels of an 0-and-4 start this week, will face Canada’s Heather Nedohin and her Edmonton team in a tiebreaker today at 2 p.m. Nedohin was twice tripped up on Thursday and finished 7-and-4, losing on last rock to Italy 6-5 in the afternoon, then bowing 9-3 to Scotland’s Eve Muirhead on the late draw. Pottinger defeated Denmark 8-5 at the finish. The tiebreaker survivor will be placed fourth for playoffs and take on Korea in a Page Three-Four match on Saturday at 1 p.m. “We have no concerns,” said a curt Nedohin after the evening spanking. (Continued Below…) Draw 17 Photos
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“Have you ever seen hungry Canadians? We’re feisty. We’ll be back. I’d say the skip didn’t show up today and I’ll be there tomorrow. I’m going to have a better day.” Asked what she learned from the day’s setbacks she cracked: “The skip has to make shots to win. I don’t play like this. I’ll be better tomorrow.” A win in the last game would have qualified Canada second for the playoffs. While the last-ditch firing was resounding around her, Ott said she was able to stay focused on her sheet of ice. “We tried hard and we had hammer in the last end,” she said. Her last shot was an open hit-and-roll. “This team is as good as I’ve ever had and going better than ever,” said Ott. “We are really strong at every position and that gives me confidence when I go down to throw the last rocks.” Muirhead, a pre-tournament favourite who struggled to a 6-5 record at the finish, said “it’s exciting to beat Canada in Canada”. “I’m totally gutted and I know we’ve just come off a win but I think we’re a team capable of medalling. We struggled and we just didn’t get on top of things that we have to get on top of. I think if I’d made that draw against Sweden (Wednesday night) we might still be in here.” Pottinger, playing with Nicole Joraanstad, Natalie Nicholson and Tabitha Peterson, said her team doesn’t want to stop performing. (Continued below…) httpvh:// “It has taken lot of games, a lot of rocks to be here but we’re pretty happy about it,” she said. “We’re thrilled to play another game. We want to play a whole bunch more games.” Queried about today’s tiebreaker, the slender Yank skip said she wasn’t going to worry about the team that defeated her 8-7 in the first draw last Saturday. “We’re not going to worry about what they do,” she said. “We’ll just be worried about us. I think we paid too much attention to playing Canada the first time. I’m kind of an over-analyzer to start with and my mind is always running. I told myself, ‘OK I’m not doing that any more’. We’re playing a lot better now.” Germany’s Melanie Robillard (5-6) finished the tournament on a high note, shading Bingyu Wang of China (3-8) by a 6-5 count. Sweden’s Sigfridsson said of her team’s No. 1 finish: “We played well all week, I think some games better, some games worse. We just really need to keep focused and keep playing our game so, consequently, at the moment, the girls are looking very good on the ice.” From the third end in the afternoon, the Koreans — third Seul-Bee Lee, second Mi-Sung Shin and lead Un-Chi Gim — controlled the contest with Russia, reeling off seven points in seven ends. Kim said qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in her country’s history is an honour. “It’s very exciting, unbelievable,” she said, smiling, and still trembling after coming off the ice. Muirhead needed an afternoon extra end to beat Italy’s Gaspari 9-8 after the Italian skip missed a chance for three in the 10th end. Down two, Gaspari faced a hit-and-stay in the back ring to score a winning three but rolled an inch too far to take the win in regulation time. In the only other afternoon tussle, the Germans downed the Linda Klimova’s Czechs 6-5. The Czechs finish the event with nine straight losses after winning their opening pair. Canada blew an opportunity to take control of its situation on the early shift when Italian skip Gaspari executed a perfect double-kill with her last rock. The Cortina curler was over-the-moon with her team’s third win in 10 starts and Italy’s first-ever win over Canada in 15 matches. Italy fought from behind twice before stealing a go-ahead point in the eighth, holding Canada to the tying point in the ninth and then producing Gaspari’s pressure last shot. “Honestly, I was shaking,” she said. “We lost so many games this week on the last rock. I really didn’t want to lose in this way. “The ice was curling a bit more today and harder to control. It is the first time I have beaten Canada. It is a proud moment.” Said Canada’s Nedohin: “We were set up very well to get a couple or three in the eighth, and honestly, the way the scoreboard was, they left too many rocks in play. But it’s not a big deal giving up one there. It was a risk and reward situation. That didn’t lose us the game.” In the end? “She made a pistol on her last rock,” assessed the Canadian skip. “I have to hand it to them, they played very well. I like it when all the countries here at the Worlds are playing extremely well, when they’re on TV and they’re showcasing their games and we’re showcasing ours. “I always say, when the skip makes her last shot against us, that’s a part of the game. I get more frustrated with myself when I miss my last shot to lose a game. She made a nice double, we forced that and made her throw a different turn. That’s the game. “We always see teams that play well against us,” she said. “I think that’s an opportunity for us to show our A-game.” Pottinger didn’t require the hammer in overtime against Sweden after she made her first effort perfectly. Last-rocker Maria Prytz threw narrow on an out-turn come-around attempt to dislodge a near-frozen American counter on the button. It was one of those shots that had to be precisely perfect. A smiling Ott professed excitement following her clutch morning win. “We are excited,” she said. “We were under pressure . . . it was an important game for us. But we have another important game, then we’ll look at the situation. We fought back and that’s important.” The Swiss got out to a 3-1 lead after three ends but Korea hit back with a deuce and a stolen single. Then the Swiss dominated the scoreboard 3-1 over the remainder with Ott drawing the four-foot on the game’s last shot. In one other morning confrontation, 2009 champion Wang of China defeated Linda Klimova’s Czechs 11-6. Trailing Germany and Denmark at 5-6 were Russia at 4-7, Italy and China at 3-8 and the Czechs at 2-9.