EDMONTON, ALBERTA – SC Karuizawa, looking to get a Japanese men’s curling team in the Olympics for the first time since 1998, opened its world championship with a 9-5 win over Italy on Saturday.
So far, only host South Korea has qualified for next February’s Pyeongchang Olympics, but seven berths are up for grabs in Edmonton, and will be handed out to the teams with the best combined finish from this tournament and last year’s worlds. Japan was fourth last year and needs to finish in the top seven here to secure its Olympic spot.
Trailing 2-1 in the third end, skip Yusuke Morozumi delivered two big shots. With his penultimate stone, Morozumi managed a double takeout. Italy’s Joel Retornaz’s final shot, however, left Italy with the only stone in the house, leaving Morozumi with a decision.
With Italy’s stone on the edge of the house, a simple draw shot would have earned Japan a point and tied the game 2-2, but Morozumi’s tricky shot bumped a Japan stone that displaced Italy’s and left two of his in the house.
“Getting two points in the third end gave us momentum,” said the normally reserved skip, who pumped his fist in a display of emotion after the shot. “It takes a load off our shoulders getting above .500.
“Still, we had ends where our curls and our reading of the ice didn’t match, and that is an issue we need to address.”
SC Karuizawa will take on the Netherlands on Sunday morning before taking on Scotland in the evening.