GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – The Japanese women’s curling team beat the Olympic Athletes from Russia 10-5 on Saturday, bouncing back after a 7-6 loss to China, their first defeat of the Pyeongchang Winter Games, earlier in the day.
The late win left Japan second in the standings with a 4-1 record after the halfway point of the round robin stage and kept the team on track for a semifinal berth.
With the lead seesawing through the first three ends, Japan took control in the fourth, when skip Satsuki Fujisawa set up the team for two points by nestling the penultimate draw against OAR’s only stone in the house, preventing a takeout.
Japan then took an unassailable advantage in the seventh when it stole three points against the hammer. Japan’s guard stone placement forced OAR skip Victoria Moiseeva into a risky takeout attempt with the hammer, but it sailed wide of the mark, leaving the score 8-4.
The OAR conceded the game following the ninth end after Japan added two points.
Fujisawa said taking a timeout in the seventh end proved crucial in giving Japan the opportunity to set up its three-point steal.
“It was a big moment,” she said. “During the timeout, we listened closely to the coach’s advice and decided our shot strategy. It worked out well.”
Against China, Japan held a 3-0 lead after the second end, but a heavy last throw in the sixth end proved to be the team’s undoing.
China blanked the seventh end, and it paid off with three points in the eighth and a 6-5 lead. Japan equalized in the 10th to force an extra end, but China skip Wang Bingyu clinched it with a simple, unimpeded draw to the button.
“There are nine matches in the prelims so I knew we would lose at some point. It was a good game so I want to stay optimistic,” Fujisawa said.
In the men’s competition, Japan capitalized on some missteps by Italy for a 6-5 win, the team’s second victory from four games in Pyeongchang.
Japan took the upper hand early in the game with several exceptional throws by skip Yusuke Morozumi, taking the team into the second half of the 10-end game with a 5-3 lead.
Italy failed to capitalize on a chance at two points in the seventh end when its fourth thrower, vice skip Amos Mosaner, put too much weight on his penultimate stone and sent it sailing past the house.
A steal by Italy in the ninth end brought the score to 5-all, but Morozumi used his last-throw advantage in the final end to seal the deal.
The win left the Japanese men tied with the United States for fourth in the standings after six round-robin sessions. Those two teams meet on Sunday.
“The ice was slicker than I expected at the start, but we were able to read it as it changed. The Americans are in the middle of the pack, same as us, so we need a win in the next game to move up in the standings,” Morozumi said.