/

Japan secures first-ever curling medal

Kyodo

Japan beat Russia 7-5 in a semifinal game at the World Women’s Curling Championship on Saturday, securing the country’s first medal in the history of the sport.

Japan will face two-time defending champion Switzerland in the final at Credit Union iPlex on Sunday, and whether they win silver or gold it will be Japan’s first medal in curling in either the Olympics or world championships.

Japan’s LS Kitami team of Satsuki Fujisawa, Chinami Yoshida, Yurika Yoshida and Yumi Suzuki was defeated by Switzerland in the 1-2 Page playoff earlier in the week, but set themselves up for a rematch on the final day of the March 19-27 competition by topping the Russians in the semifinal.

Skipper Fujisawa said her team played much better on Saturday after wilting under the pressure in their previous Page playoff against Switzerland.

“Yesterday we had trouble reading the ice and weren’t able to get our confidence. We had to throw without being confident in the shots we were calling,” she told the world championships official website. “Today, we felt a lot better on every shot, we communicated more and really believed in what each other was saying. It all worked out better.”

The Japanese team’s Canadian coach, J.D. Lind, said the team has performed well above expectations.

“I knew this team had skills, but you never expect the first time at the world championship to show such poise and consistency throughout the week,” he said. “They definitely played great today and I think they definitely deserve to be in the final tomorrow.

“They were way less nervous, much more comfortable with the ice. We had a really good meeting last night to go through a lot of things, and tonight they played like they did all week.”

Despite being well beaten by Switzerland (8-4) in the Page playoff, Lind believes his team has a shot at an unlikely victory in the tournament final.

“The Swiss have been great all week. They have been so successful because they don’t make mistakes,” he said. “They don’t give you much so when we get our chance we really have to capitalize. If we can put a little pressure on them and play like we did tonight, hopefully it will be another close game.”