December 3, 2011
Latvia, making their A Group debut at this year’s Le Gruyère European Curling Championships in Moscow’s Megasport Arena, produced the shock result of the opening round-robin men’s games when they beat defending champions Norway, led by Olympic silver medallist Thomas Ulsrud, by 8-5.
Latvia opened with a score of two and followed that up with a single steal for a 3-0 lead. In the fifth end, Ulsrud was heavy with his draw to let Latvia steal two points and move onto a 5-2 lead. The Latvians had another single steal for 6-2 in the sixth end, but Norway then showed their fighting qualities to claw back to just 5-7 down. However the Latvians held their nerve to score one in the tenth end for an 8-5 win – the dream start to their campaign.
Afterwards elated Latvian skip Ritvars Gulbis said, “on the ice, we don’t think about who they are, because then we would be destroyed mentally. We were going on the ice to win the game. We didn’t feel those guys were unbeatable. We started well and they didn’t get the ice to begin with their draw weight and line. I had a feeling we were going to win this game”.
By contrast, Norwegian skip Ulsrud said, “we didn’t look like European Champions out there. We got off to a bad start and the only good thing I can say is that in the last couple of ends we played the way I think we should play. A real bad start, but hopefully things will be better tomorrow”.
In their opening game against the Czech Republic, Switzerland took an early lead with a good hit and stay shot by skip Sven Michel in the second end to score three and never looked back. They built on this lead with a further two points in the fourth end to move 5-1 up, thanks to a nice draw shot by Michel. Another two in the sixth completed the Swiss scoring and the Czech conceded after eight ends, with a final score of 7-3 to Switzerland. Afterwards, Michel said, “we are very happy about that first game. It was important for us to get a good start, we needed that. We’re very impressed by the arena and the ice is very good.”
The Sweden–Germany match-up was a close affair with Sweden’s Niklas Edin taking an early lead, only for Germany to recover in the middle section of the game to claw their way to a 5-3 lead after the eighth end. Sweden’s Edin hit for two in the ninth end to level the score but, in the final end, Germany’s fourth player Felix Schulze held his nerve to hit for two and win the game 7-5.
The game between France and Denmark was close for the first five ends until Denmark’s bold tactics built up their stones in the sixth end to let skip Rasmus Stjerne score four. It was all one-way traffic after this break-through, and a further score of four in the eighth end gave Denmark an 11-3 lead, after which France conceded. Afterwards Stjerne, who won silver at this event last year, said, “I was a bit nervous at the beginning, but came out pretty strong after the break – that was a good win for us. I didn’t see the second four (in the eighth end) but we played a pretty good end in the first one, took a gamble and it paid off”.
Although the final score was tight, Scotland, skipped by three-times European champion David Murdoch, always controlled the game against Italy, and finally Murdoch had a precision hit on an Italian counter in the tenth end to win by 6-5. Afterwards, Murdoch said,
“I’m always a slow starter at Championships so the fact we’ve got a win already is good. The Italians are a good team and they’ll take some scalps this week.”
In the women’s event, Sweden had two wins. In their opener, they came out on top by 9-6 in a battle against Denmark, but things were much more straightforward for them in their evening game, beating the Czech Republic by 12-0. With new skip Margaretha Sigfridsson onboard, the defending champions are pleased with their start. After the six-end win over the Czechs, a pleased Sigfridsson said, “It’s really good that we had two wins today, we struggled a little bit in our first game in the first five ends. In this game we played very well and they struggled.”
Joining Sweden on two wins out of two are Germany, who followed up an opening 7-5 over Latvia with an extra end 7-5 over Switzerland, who have lost both of their opening games, having gone down to Italy by 4-8. German skip Andrea Schöpp is making a record 25th appearance in these Championships, and she said, “these games have been really close, but at least it’s two wins to keep us out of 8th to 10th places, that’s the first goal”.
Denmark’s win over Scotland in their second game was almost as one-sided as the second Swedish victory. The Danes bounced back from their opening loss to Sweden with a 12-2 six-end demolition of Scotland. Danish skip Lene Nielsen was happy with her team’s recovery, saying, “we lost a really tight game against Sweden this morning, so this was a good win. I didn’t expect that – usually we play close games. We had a better feeling for the ice this evening and they struggled a bit, so that was the difference”.
Scottish skip Eve Muirhead, who earlier had come from behind to beat Norway’s Linn Githmark by 8-6 with a steal of three in the tenth end, was at a loss to explain what had happened. “That was a nightmare” she said, “I didn’t have a clue where to put the brush and none of us had our weight, it was just all over the place. We’re just going to have to forget about that”.
After suffering an extra end 10-12 loss to the Czech Republic’s Linda Klimova in her opening game, Russia’s Anna Sidorova controlled her evening game against Italy to win by 10-5 in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. Sidorova appreciates the support her team is receiving, saying, “we are a little nervous playing in front of our home crowd but they help spur us on, cheering us throughout the games and I hope they come back to support us throughout the week. I think once we concentrate we will play well and I have no doubt that we will finish one of the top four teams”.
Earlier, Italy’s Diana Gaspari had beaten Switzerland by 8-4, and this means that the Swiss and Norway, who lost to Latvia by 6-8 in their second game, have yet to record a win.
MEN (after 1 session):
Denmark, won 1, lost 0
Czech Republic 0-1
WOMEN (after 2 sessions):
Germany won 2, lost 0
Czech Republic 1-1
Extensive televised coverage of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships can be seen by viewers in Europe on Eurosport. Additional live and on demand coverage will be available via the internet on the Eurosport Player. www.worldcurling.org/ecc2011-tv-and-web-coverage
Highlights of televised games can be seen here: www.youtube.com/user/WorldCurlingTV
Information about the event can be viewed here www.ecc2011.curlingrussia.com