SOCHI, Russia – The U.S. women’s curling team is finally playing like a medal contender, like it expected to at the beginning of the Olympic tournament.
Erika Brown’s rink put undefeated Canada under more pressure than any of its seven previous opponents, forcing an extra end before falling 7-6 in its next-to-last game Sunday.
It would have been a shocking upset based solely on the nations’ form in the Black Sea resort.
The U.S. entered in last place, 1-6, and Canada was 7-0 and two games away from becoming the first women’s team to go undefeated through round-robin play at an Olympics. The U.S. had already been mathematically eliminated from advancing to medal-round play. The pressure was off, but it still had desire.
“This team is so talented that it’s obviously been hard to not perform in the moment we’ve been preparing for,” said lead Ann Swisshelm, 45, who will retire after Sochi.
Canadian skip Jennifer Jones missed a final shot (hammer) that would have clinched a victory in regulation – 10 ends – but came through in her second chance in the 11th. Canada moved to 8-0 and will likely wrap up round-robin play an unprecedented 9-0 with a game against lowly South Korea on Monday.
The U.S., too, will play South Korea on Monday. Its tournament began in dreadful fashion, with four straight losses. It gave up an Olympic record seven points in one end in a 12-3 defeat to world champion Great Britain on Tuesday.
Brown and Co., nicknamed the All-Star team of U.S. curling for its championship experience, bounced back in the last two games. The U.S. lost to world silver medalist Sweden 7-6 on Saturday, leading 6-5 going into the final end.
“I think it says a lot about this team,” said Brown, 41, who made her Olympic debut in 1988 at age 15 when curling was a demonstration sport. “This team has a lot of tenacity.”
The U.S. was thinking medal going into Sochi after finishing fourth at the 2013 World Championships. It would have been the first U.S. women’s curling medal ever, to join the men’s bronze in 2006.
Instead, the Americans will finish in last place or tied for last for a third straight Olympics. It might have the same record as 2006 and 2010, too, if it beats South Korea to finish 2-7.
“I’m proud of us for hanging in there,” vice skip Debbie McCormick said. “We’re going to keep fighting. We’ve got one left, and we want to end on a good note.”