SOCHI, RUSSIA – Canada virtually sealed its place in the semifinals of the women’s Olympic curling tournament by beating Japan 8-6 on Saturday for a sixth straight win.
No team — men’s or women’s — has failed to advance after winning six round-robin games since the Olympic tournament expanded to 10 teams in 2002.
The Canadians will be assured a semifinal spot by beating Russia in Saturday’s evening session.
The race to join Canada in the playoffs heated up with Britain beating South Korea 10-8 and China defeating Sweden 7-6 in two more tight games at the Ice Cube Curling Center, where the atmosphere was unusually serene with host nation Russia not in action.
China, Britain and two-time defending champion Sweden are in a three-way tie for second with 4-2 records. The only other teams likely to stop that trio from qualifying are Russia and Switzerland, both 3-3.
Canada, which is guaranteed at least to be in a tiebreaker for the playoffs, has been excellent in this tournament but had to show another side in a close game against Japan.
At 5-4 down after five ends, Canada blanked the sixth and then scored two points in the seventh. In the eighth end, Japan skip Ayumi Ogasawara was heavy with her draw to the button and the Canadians stole a crucial point.
“That was big turning point,” said Jones, who sustained her high level of play in Sochi with 83 percent shot accuracy.
“The goal at the start of the week was to make the playoffs,” Jones added. “Now we just need to make sure we are as sharp as we can be for the end of the week.”
Kaho Onodera, whose 68 percent score with the stones was the lowest on either team, admitted to being a weak link.
“The sweepers had to work hard because my shots weren’t that good,” Onodera said.
“They’re a team we could’ve beaten. We kept our cool and made a game of it, and now I want to do more to pick the team up.”
Britain won its third straight game after a fight with the South Koreans, who stole two points to go up 8-7 in ninth end. However, the world champions played the perfect rink in the 10th to let Eve Muirhead draw up to the house for three points.
“We could really have got disheartened and heads down after that ninth end,” Muirhead said, “but we didn’t, we came back strong and managed to see off the game.”
Sweden was never ahead against China, which clinched victory with a point in the 10th end.
The qualification picture should be clearer after the evening games. Britain takes on Switzerland, China plays Denmark and Sweden plays the United States, which is tied for last place at 1-5.