What to know about the men’s curling gold medal game

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Team USA upset Canada on Thursday morning to earn a spot in the Olympic men’s curling championship game, where they will face Sweden.

Here’s everything you need to know heading into Saturday’s matchup (live stream here at 1:35 a.m. ET / 10:35 p.m. PT).

How the U.S. reached the title game

The United States had finished back-to-back Olympic tournaments completely out of medal contention with a 2-7 record. They appeared to be heading for a similar result in PyeongChang.

Team USA began tournament competition with a win against South Korea but followed with losses in four of their next five games, dropping their record to 2-4.

But, the United States rebounded when skip John Shuster delivered a perfect final shot to give his team a 9-7 victory over pre-tournament favorite Canada.

“It was fun to go out there and be the team and the player that got us here and that we’ve worked so hard to be,” Shuster said after that game.

The United States followed with wins over Switzerland and Great Britain to advance to the Olympic semifinals for the first time since 2006.

“It’s a little surreal right now still, just coming off of where we were to where we are now,” U.S. vice skip Tyler George said after his team clinched a playoff spot. “It feels like two different tournaments. One’s a dream and one’s a reality. Fortunately for us the winning streak is the reality, but we’re trying not to get too excited.”

The third-seeded United States faced second-seeded Canada in the semifinal round and captured another upset win. Shuster again delivered a game-winning shot, this time to move the United States into the gold medal game.

“We always want more,” U.S. team member John Landsteiner said about the championship game. “We’re going to play our hearts out.”

How Sweden reached the title game

Sweden, skipped by Niklas Edin, proved it was one of the top teams in the Olympic field early in round robin play.

Edin’s team opened competition with six straight wins, including victories over Great Britain and Canada, before falling to Switzerland.

“If we play at our best, I know we can beat every team in here,” Edin said after an 11-4 win over Japan moved his team’s record to 6-0. “We have been lucky in a couple of games, played terrifically well in a couple of the games… We are collecting facts and making sure of every shot before we play it. It’s made for a solid performance so far”

Sweden earned the playoff’s top seed after finishing round robin play with a win over Italy and a loss to Norway.

Sweden then cruised to a 9-3 win over Switzerland in the semifinals.

“Being in the Olympic final is the chance of a lifetime and we’re going to try to grab it,” Edin said to reporters following the victory.

Last time the teams met

Sweden registered a convincing 10-4 win over Team USA in round robin play.

In that game, the Swedish team scored four times in the first end and added a pair of points in two others, forcing the United States to concede following the eighth frame.

“We played really, really focused from the start,” Edin said after the win. “We made pretty much all our shots from the beginning, and the (U.S.) had a rough start…We just talked about focusing really hard on making the shots and not looking at the scoreboard too much, and trying to keep that lead.”

Numbers to know

Edin will earn his second Olympic medal regardless of the championship game’s outcome. He captured a bronze in Sochi after just missing the podium in 2010.

Shuster will become the first American to win multiple Olympic curling medals Saturday. He was a lead on the U.S. team that won bronze in 2010.

Shuster had struggled throughout the Olympics but made a game-clinching shot to lead the U.S. to an upset victory over Canada.
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Canada had won the last three Olympic gold medals entering PyeongChang and had played in the championship game at every winter games since 1998.

Sweden has scored 25 more points than its opponents in Olympic play, tops in the field. The United States has outscored opponents by six.

The United States registered an 80 percent shot success rate in round robin competition. Sweden finished at 87 percent in that category.

World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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