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South Korea, Sweden claim playoff berths at women's worlds

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Associated Press
3/22/2012 8:12:51 PM
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LETHBRIDGE, Alta. -- South Korea's Ji-Sun Kim made history at the women's world curling championship by making the playoffs for the first time in her country's history.

South Korea and Sweden's Margaretha Sigfriddson were the first countries to claim playoff berths Thursday with 8-3 records.

The remaining two playoff berths and a possible tie-breaker scenario were to be determined in the final round-robin draw.

Canada's Heather Nedohin and Switzerland's Miriam Ott had the inside track on the remaining two berths at 7-3, but Allison Pottinger of the U.S. was still in contention for a tiebreaker at 6-4.

South Korean women have appeared in four world championships and their debut was in 2005. Kim is skipping her country a third time.

After going 3-8 in 2009 and 2-9 last year, she and her teammates took a monumental step forward in international curling.

"First time. Very exciting. Unbelievable," Kim said. "It's very difficult to make playoffs. Korea sees we are a team and now is very good."

The curling team's performance here indicates the South Koreans are already ramping up for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. But the 25-year-old Kim is plotting Olympic success before that.

"I want 2014," the petite skip declared. "I want to go to the Sochi Olympics."

Their coach Min Suk Choi says Kim is gaining confidence as she plays more international games. Kim's team also faced North American competition in two World Curling Tour events in both Calgary and Medicine Hat, Alta., last October.

Kim is as intense and animated as Canadian skip Heather Nedohin, which would make any playoff game between the two entertaining.

Sweden's Sigfriddson could finish no worse than second, which means they'll play in the Page playoff between the top two seeds.

The winner advances to Sunday's final. The loser falls to Saturday's semifinal to face the winner of the Page playoff between the third and fourth seeds.

The Page playoff games are scheduled for Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. The order depended on the outcome of Canada's final game.

The Canadians missed a chance to sew up a playoff berth early Thursday when they lost 6-5 to Italy's Diana Gaspari, a team well out of contention.

"We just want to make it to the playoffs, whatever that is, whether it's a one-two game or three-four," Nedohin said. "We control our own destiny and that's the most important factor."

Nedohin's team out of the Saville Curling Centre in Edmonton has been a second-half team throughout the round robin.

The skip, third Beth Iskiw, second Jessica Mair and lead Laine Peters habitually scored more points and played stronger defence in the back half of their games.

"Today was probably the only game we didn't do that," Iskiw observed. "We need to go back to our other games and see what we did right at the end of the game when we really came through.

"These teams are all really good so we need to play a full, strong 10 ends for sure. You can't have any hills and valleys."

Sweden is a high-scoring team and led the field in ends scoring multiple points with last-rock advantage. Sigfriddson isn't afraid to give up two points to score three the next end with hammer.

"You have to give up two sometimes, especially at the worlds," Sigfriddson said. "The ice is really made for being easy to score two on, so you have to accept that. That's according to play sometimes."

Her lineup is unusual in that Sigfriddson throws lead stones, but holds the broom and calls the play in the house for her teammates. Maria Prytz throws fourth stones.

"It's what I like and that lineup is fast as well," Sigfriddson pointed out. "If I was second or third, we would play slower."

The Swedes eliminated Denmark's Lene Nielson from contention with a 7-2 win, while the South Koreans capped their round-robin with a 7-3 victory against Russia. Teams with five losses or more fell short of the playoffs.

Sigfriddson defeated two-time Olympic and four-time world championship Anette Norberg to win the Swedish women's title and book their trip to the world championship. Sigfriddson downplayed the significance of it.

"I think that Anette is a little bit bigger all around the world and not in Sweden," Sigfriddson said. "Of course she's done a tremendous job for curling, but we've played her so many times and we know we can beat her."

Ji-Sun Kim (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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