Curling-Swedes edge Canadians in battle of heavyweights

BEIJING, Feb 12 (Reuters) – Sweden’s Niklas Edin and Anna Hasselborg led their sides over Canadians helmed by Brad Gushue and Jennifer Jones as curling royalty took centre stage during the men’s and women’s round-robin contests at the National Aquatics Centre on Saturday.

Edin, the three-times reigning world champion, is missing an Olympic crown from his glittering collection of medals but is in prime position to change that in Beijing with Sweden storming to a perfect start after four games.

Canada’s men fell just short in their 7-4 defeat after Gushue, gold medallist in Turin in 2006, was unable to pick a Swedish stone out of the button in the final end.

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“We felt going into that game that it was the first real test towards going all the way in this event,” said Edin, who has a silver and bronze medal from the 2018 and 2014 Games after placing fourth at Vancouver 2010.

“They are of the few teams in the world that has won the Olympics already and are coming back so it was a very tough game on paper and out there but it felt like we had the upper hand most of the way.

“I don’t think we’re going to be too confident. We’ve had three tries, and done really well, but we still need to go all the way.”

Hasselborg’s team, who won gold four years ago in Pyeonchang, also hung on to edge Jones’ rink 7-6 on a measurement in the final end and hand the Sochi 2014 winners their second straight group stage defeat.

“I think about Jennifer as one of the greatest of all time,” Hasselborg said after facing Jones on the Olympic stage for the first time.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry, I have so much respect for Jennifer. I love playing against her. It’s always a great battle. We knew it would come down to the last rock, and it did.”

Japan pulled off a stunning comeback to beat Denmark 8-7 in a thrilling contest with skip Satsuki Fujisawa delivering an audacious double-takeout with the final stone for three points to seal victory.

South Korea’s “Garlic Girls” breezed past the Russian Olympic Committee after a flurry of points in the middle of the game secured a score of 9-5, with the 10th end cut short after the Russians ran out of stones to overcome the deficit.

Teams play nine matches in the round-robin stage, which continues later on Saturday, with the top four advancing to the semi-finals next week.

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Reporting by Hritika Sharma; Editing by Ken Ferris and Christian Schmollinger

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