Olympics / Winter Olympics / Curling

Japan men, women curling squads stumble

Kyodo

The Japan men’s and women’s curling teams struggled on Tuesday, going down to powerhouses Canada and Great Britain, respectively, at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

In the day’s mid-session at the Gangneung Curling Centre, the women pushed the experienced British team but were outmaneuvered in the latter ends to fall 8-6.

The men could not match the three-time reigning Olympic champion Canada, losing 8-4.

Women’s team skip Satsuki Fujisawa and company took an early lead but a series of steals by the 2014 Sochi Games bronze medalists sealed the deal. On the upside, a win against world No. 2 Switzerland on Wednesday will ensure a final-four place regardless of other results.

“I messed up a little on some crucial shots,” Fujisawa said. “I don’t want to worry about winning or losing (the Switzerland match), and focus on playing our game.”

Japan looked to be in form from the outset, playing an effective defensive game to make Great Britain skip Eve Muirhead and her team settle for one point in the first end while running away with three of its own in the second.

The tide turned in the fourth end, when Fujisawa’s double take-out attempt just missed the mark to allow Great Britain to steal a point to equalize at 3-3.

Japan’s decision to forgo a point for the chance at more by blanking the fifth end backfired when the opposition defended the target and stole three points in the sixth.

Any hopes of a comeback were dashed in the ninth end when Fujisawa’s hammer kissed a Great Britain guard stone, giving up another stolen point and Japan’s third loss of the match.

“We couldn’t make those important shots, while our opponents made their shots when they were in a pinch or had an opportunity. That was the difference,” said Japan second Yumi Suzuki.

In the day’s other women’s round-robin games, home-team South Korea was the first to earn its place in the semifinals with a 9-6 win against the United States, while China notched an upset win against Sochi gold medalist Canada 7-5.

Earlier in the day, the men’s team conceded in the ninth end and dropped to a 3-4 record with two games to play in the round-robin phase.

Japan scored two points in the second end thanks to a key triple takeout by second Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi for a 2-1 lead but the Canadians quickly reclaimed a lead they would not relinquish.

Canada improved to 5-3, back in position to make the playoffs in its bid for a fourth straight Olympic gold. The defending gold medalist got off to a 4-0 start here, but lost the next three to Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Japan was to face Denmark later Tuesday evening.

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