Canada falls to South Korea in world curling playoff

The Canadian Press

3/24/2012 8:05:18 PM

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. -- An upstart South Korean squad beat Canada with defence and ended Heather Nedohin's chances for a gold medal at the women's world curling championship.

Skip Ji-Sun Kim made a tap for two points and a 4-3 win in Saturday's game between the third and fourth playoff seeds. The surprising South Koreans advanced to the semifinal against Switzerland later Saturday.

Canada plays for the bronze medal Sunday, making it the second time in as many world championship appearances Nedohin will play for the lesser medal.

"There's no way we're losing that bronze game," Nedohin said as her voice shook and the tears came. "I did the damn same thing in 1998. I'm going to win the bronze."

Canada last won gold at the women's world championship in 2008 when Jennifer Jones team prevailed in Vernon, B.C. Kelly Scott in 2007 and Colleen Jones in 2004 were the other two victorious Canadian teams in the last decade.

The semifinal winner between South Korea and Switzerland's Mirjam Ott meets Sweden's Margaretha Sigfriddson for this year's gold medal Sunday. The semifinal loser meets Canada for bronze Sunday morning.

No one predicted the South Korean run at this year's tournament. The country has appeared in just four women's world championships since 2005.

Kim went 2-9 skipping South Korea last year in Denmark, but the country has begun intensively preparing their athletes to excel in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Saturday's playoff game was the first at the women's world championship for South Korea. Kim had a clear strategy of a conservative, hitting game to keep the score low and close.

"It was on purpose that the strategies were very simple," Kim said through an interpreter. "In order to be able to beat Canada, the way would be not to make too big of a score difference."

With last-rock advantage to start the game, they blanked the first two ends, the fifth when they got the hammer back and again in the ninth to be down a point coming home with hammer.

"I thought the Koreans came out not to play against us," Nedohin said. "They were extremely defensive from the get-go. The only entertaining end was the last one and she did make a pistol. It was a great shot to win.

"I was ready to play the game. Maybe that's a good tactic against us, to play extremely boring. Congratulations to them. They got a 'W' out of it. I just don't think it was an entertaining game whatsoever."

Boring or not, Canada was unable to draw the South Koreans into trouble with the exception of the sixth end when the hosts stole a point.

The Canadians didn't play badly, shooting 87 per cent as a team, but their shooters on hits rolled out of the rings a few times to take the pressure off the opposition.

"We had a couple of opportunities where we could have pressed the issue a little bit," third Beth Iskiw said. "Not that we played poorly, but we could have made it a little bit harder for them."

When there were rocks in play in the 10th, South Korean third Seul-Bee Lee executed a couple of key hit and rolls to position rocks advantageously.

Iskiw missed a runback double and a subsequent corner-freeze attempt bounced out in the open. Nedohin also wasn't precise enough with her corner freezes.

Kim's hand was visibly shaking on her penultimate throw of the end, but she still made a double hit to lie two. Nedohin's attempted corner freeze on her final throw was just short of being shot rock, leaving Kim a raise on the top of the four-foot rings for two points and the victory.

"I thought I would win," the petite skip said. "I thought it in my mind before the game started that I would win and that's why I was able to not be too scared or afraid of this game."

A small, but vocal band of supporters for South Korea engaged in a cheer battle with the pro-Canada Enmax Centre, which made for a lively atmosphere.

Canadian women have finished out of the medals just five times in the 33-year history of the tournament. Nedohin, Iskiw and front end Jessica Mair and Laine Peters had to emotionally recover from their loss in order to not be the sixth.

"I think it's devastating," Peters said. "I'm not happy at all. We came here to win gold. We're not going to do that now.

"We have to now regroup and come out and win bronze. We will do that. It's certainly our new goal. I don't think we're quite there yet, but we will get there."