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Curling worlds canceled; one Winter Olympic sport world championship remains

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Curling world championships for men and mixed doubles were canceled due to the coronavirus on Saturday, leaving one Winter Olympic sport world championship remaining this season.

“It’s with great regret and disappointment that it has not been possible to run all of our flagship World Curling Championships in 2020,” World Curling Federation President Kate Caithness said, according to a press release announcing the mixed doubles cancellation, three hours after the men’s worlds announcement. “But, it’s vitally important to remember that we are not alone in doing so, with fellow sporting bodies around the globe also having to make these difficult decisions. Ultimately our first priority is always the health and well-being of our athletes, officials, fans and staff.”

Men’s worlds were scheduled for March 28-April 5 in Glasgow. Mixed doubles, which made its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, were scheduled for April 18-25 in British Columbia. Women’s worlds, originally scheduled to start Saturday in British Columbia, were canceled Thursday.

All of the other world championships scheduled to start in March were previously canceled or postponed: figure skating, women’s hockey and short track speed skating.

The U.S. women’s team that was entered for worlds included PyeongChang Olympians Tabitha PetersonBecca Hamilton and Aileen Geving.

PyeongChang Olympic champions John Shuster, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner were on the U.S. team entered for men’s worlds. Peterson and PyeongChang Olympic alternate Joe Polo were the U.S.’ mixed doubles team.

The last remaining Winter Olympic sport world championship is the men’s hockey tournament scheduled for May 8-24 in Switzerland.

The International Ice Hockey Federation Council planned a conference call on Tuesday to discuss the status of men’s worlds.

Other Winter Olympic sports held world championships in February — biathlon, bobsled, skeleton, luge and speed skating.

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U.S. men’s curling team’s dream run falls short at worlds

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The U.S. men’s curling team won five straight games, just like at the Olympics. But this time, at the world championship, they needed six straight to make the medal round.

A rink led by Greg Persinger finished sixth at worlds in Las Vegas over the weekend. The Americans overcame a 1-6 start to sneak into the playoffs, where they lost to eventual silver medalist Canada with a semifinal spot at stake on Saturday.

Sweden, skipped by Niklas Edin, took gold after being upset by the U.S. Olympic team skipped by John Shuster in the PyeongChang final. It marked Edin’s third world title to go with two Olympic medals.

Shuster’s team missed nationals last month as it promoted the sport nationwide following its Olympic stunner. In their absence, Persinger’s rink claimed the U.S. title to earn the world spot.

Persinger, a 40-year-old father of three, owns a Cold Stone Creamery franchise with his wife in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“We played every team that’s in the playoffs to the end. I mean you got your money’s worth with us. I think every game but against Edin, we went to the last rock,” team member Rich Ruohonen said, according to USA Curling. “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, and everyone knows we can play with the best in the world.”

Persinger’s team played just over 20 games together before worlds, according to USA Curling. Their five-game winning streak included a victory over Canada’s Brad Gushue, the defending world champion, but Gushue’s rink topped the Americans 6-4 in the playoffs.

Persinger and team members Colin Hufman and Philip Tilker played for skip Brady Clark at November’s Olympic Trials and finished in last place out of five teams, going 1-7 in round-robin play.

Ruohonen, 47, was an alternate for Heath McCormick‘s team that was runner-up to Shuster at trials.

Shuster’s team was fourth, third and fifth at the previous three worlds, the best string of U.S. men’s or women’s results at that level in a decade.

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VIDEO: U.S. men’s curling team fails with ceremonial first pitches

Jennifer Jones gets redemption with curling world title; U.S. heartbreak

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Jennifer Jones, arguably the most dominant athlete at the Sochi Olympics, insisted after failing to qualify for PyeongChang that her curling team was OK.

She was right.

Jones’ rink went 14-0 at the world championship in Ontario, beating the PyeongChang Olympic champions from Sweden 7-6 in an extra end in Sunday’s final.

That same Canadian quartet became the first women’s curling team go undefeated at an Olympics in Sochi.

Then, in perhaps the toughest Winter Olympic Trials in any sport in any country, they lost in the Roar of the Rings semifinals in December to Team Rachel Homan, which earlier in 2017 became the first to go undefeated at a worlds.

In PyeongChang, Homan’s team shockingly went 4-5, failing to qualify for the medal round. Neither Canadian men’s nor women’s team made the podium in PyeongChang after the nation had earned medals in every men’s, women’s and mixed Olympic event since the sport returned to the Winter Games in 1998.

This world title was even more emotional because it’s the last season this Jones team is playing together. Jill Officer, 42, is leaving.

Team Anna Hasselborg from Sweden nearly became the second women’s rink to claim Olympic and world titles in the same season after another Swede, Anette Norberg, in 2006.

“You’re going to make me cry when I think about it, I’m so proud,” the 28-year-old Hasselborg said. “We started this team 2 1/2 years ago, and now we have a medal at every single event we went to. … The best is yet to come. I’m young, you know.”

The U.S. had quite a tournament. Jamie Sinclair, who led the Olympic Trials final going into the final end but lost to Nina Roth, skipped a team that upset the Olympic silver medalists from South Korea by scoring seven in the ninth end to reach the semifinals.

Sinclair’s team would have brought home the first U.S. women’s medal from an Olympics or worlds since 2006 by winning either of its last two games. It was not to be.

The Americans scored three between the eighth and ninth ends to tie their semifinal with Jones but lost 9-7. In the bronze-medal game, Russia scored a pair in the 10th end to win 6-5.

“Proud of the team for coming this far,” said Sinclair, a 26-year-old at her first worlds. “We’ve come a long way in two years.”

The men’s world championship starts this weekend in Las Vegas. U.S. Olympic champion John Shuster‘s team is not competing as it did not contest the post-Olympic nationals while promoting the sport with off-ice opportunities.

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MORE: U.S. gold-medal curling team misses nationals to promote the sport