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Russia win  2012 World Championships
Chuncheon, South Korea - February 18-25, 2011
   
Marat Romanov, Svetlana Pakhomova, Aleksandr Shevchenko,
Oxana Slesarenko
, Andrey Smirnov, Coach  Margarita Nesterova

Photo: KOSAD / Young Bok Kim

    There a great many wonderful photos by Young Bok Kim available on the WCF's 2012 Championship website.
     
   

Final Standings
(click on team for team photo and members)

 
Team

 

Won

 

Lost

 

Points
+
Points
-
Steals
+
Steals
-
  Gold Russia - RUS  9 3 70 52 21 11
Silver Korea - KOR  8 3 84 59 15 13
 Bronze China - CHN 9 3 75 40 19 9
 4* Slovakia - SLO  7 5 62 75 18 9
 5* USA - USA  6 4 55 45 19 8
6 Sweden - SWE 3 6 45 48 12 10
 7 Canada - CAN  3 6 38  51 8  19
 8 Scotland - SCO  3 6 43 49 13 15
 9 Norway - NOR 2 7 46 60 9 17
 10 Italy - ITA 1 8 32 68 6  21

*Slovakia beat 7-5 USA in a tie-break for 4th

     
     
   

Medal round results

Feb 25 - 14.00 Gold     Korea 1 - 9 Russia
Feb 25 - 10.00 Bronze    Slovakia 4 - 7 China
Feb 24 - 15.30 Semi-final     China 2 - 3 Russia
Feb 24 - 9.30 Play-Off     China 7 - 1 Slovakia  //  Russia 4 - 5 Korea
     
    Scroll down for round robin results, tables and teams
   
   

Saturday February 25 - Gold medal game

Hosts Korea's dream of winning a gold medal before their home supporters was crushed in a 9-1 loss to Russia (Skip Andrey Smirnov, 3rd Marat Romanov, 2nd Aleksandr Shevchenko and lead Svetlana Pakhomova). The scoreline reversed the result of their matchup in round robin play.

Russia had seen a possible win in the Page 1 vs 2 game against Korea slip away in an extra end, but stamped their authority on the final early, allowing Korea (Skip Hak Sung Kim, 3rd Seoung Won Jung, 2nd Mi-Suk Kang and lead Byeong Il Noh) just a single opening end point. After tying the score in the 2nd, Russia stole in the next 5 ends for the victory.

It was a victory won on Korean misses. In the 3rd, a last rock hit rolled out of the rings, gifting Russia a game-breaking steal of 3. In the 4th end, Korea's last rock could not get past a guard, allowing a steal of 2.

Down 6-1 at the break, Korea would have been reminded that they almost recovered a larger deficit, down 8-1 playing Canada in the 2010 Paralympic final before losing 8-7. There would be no comeback today as Russia stole singles in 5,6 and 7.

Korean skip Kim, who won the Sportsmanship Award voted by the players, admitted after the game: "My team were all a little tight, they couldn’t loosen up. Nervousness made our shots go wrong and we didn’t make the shots we thought we would make, and we really struggled."

In addition to improving their ice reading, the skip made the refreshing observation: "Our players need to learn how to enjoy themselves more. If you concentrate too much on winning, then your body tightens up so we need to learn how to relax. As a skip, I want to try and make an environment where the players can relax a little more.”

It was Korea's third silver medal in World competition. (2008 Worlds, 2010 Paralympics)

It was the first medal win for Russia who lost lost the bronze medal game last year, their first trip back to the Worlds final after being relegated in 2008.

Saturday February 25 - Bronze medal game

China and Slovakia, 3rd and 4th teams after round robin play, met for the third time this week on the final day of the 2012 World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Chuncheon, Korea. China gave up a rare final end 3 in round robin play, losing 6-5 to Slovakia, but handled the qualifiers comfortably in a 7-2 playoff victory.

The rubber match was for the bronze medal, and Slovakia started promisingly, stealing 1 in the 1st. After China (Skip Haitao Wang, 3rd Wei Liu, 2nd Guangqin Xu and lead Qiang Zhang) took 2 in the 2nd, Slovakia (Skip Radoslav Duris, third Branislav Jakubec, second Dusan Pitonak and lead Monika Kunkelova) tied the score at 2-2 after 3.

China then asserted themselves, posting a 2 with hammer, and stealing 3 after the break for a 7-2 lead. Slovakia posted a consolation deuce in the 7th but China took the bronze medal 7-4.

China, with an average age of 23, have showed  a steady improvement since entering their 4-5 initiation into World competition in 2009. Last year the were 5-4, and this year 7-2 missing the 1 vs 2 game by just 5cms on a tie-break draw to the button.

Slovakia have had a remarkable run, coming through qualification last November to finish round robin play with a 6-3 record. They throw up-weight shots, run-backs and have not been afraid of rocks in play. They have the skills, and with some seasoning will develop their strategic understanding, building on the confidence gained from this year's sterling performance.

Friday February 24 - Semi-final

Russia faced China in the Page playoff semi-final this afternoon in a game that was likely to be low scoring with plenty of blanks as both teams throw up weight and keep the house clean.

The teams blanked the first end, with Russia happy to blank and keep hammer while China tried to force them to 1, which they accomplished in the 2nd. The 3rd end turned out to be decisive, as Russia stole a point to go ahead 2-0, a score that held until China got on the board with a single in the 6th.

Russia elected to hit and stick for a single in the 7th to go 2 up with an end to play. China's penultimate rock of the final end was light, and Russia could have sealed the win with a draw into the rings, but were also light with the last rock. China attempted a complcated runback raise but could only score 1, losing 3-2.

The medal round matchups reflect the round robin rankings, with Korea facing Russia for gold, and China replaying Slovakia for bronze.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Friday February 24 - Play-off

There were plenty of spectators watching hosts Korea facing Russia in the 1 vs 2 Page play-off game this morning at the 2012 World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Chuncheon, Korea. Top of the table Korea by rule had hammer and opened with a single, gave up 2 and then edged ahead with 2 of their own to lead 3-2 at the break.

The game was expected to be low scoring with both teams favouring keeping the sheet clear, accepting blanks while waiting to capitalise on an opponent's miss. Ends 4 and 5 were blanked before Russia was forced to take 1 to tie at 3-3 after 6. Russia then stole a point to nose ahead.

Korea's skip Hak Sung Kim threw left his first stone in the 8th wide open, but Andre Smirnov's takeout was wide. That left Kim with a draw into the house for the win, but it came up a foot short, forcing the extra.

With his last stone of the extra end, Kim made a run-back double with his shooter rolling to the edge of the rings.  Russia had a draw into the paint for the win but it was heavy. After a measurement, the Korean stone was found to be touching the 12 foot, and Korea advanced to the final amid noisy celebrations from the home fans.

Russia have a second chance to reach the final as they will play China in the semi-final later today.

In the 3 vs4 game, China did not let Slovakia settle, going out to an 3-0 lead, holding Slovakia to a single, then posting a game-killing 4 at the break. China are too strong hitters to allow a 7-1 lead to slip, and though they played through 7 ends, Slovakia managed just one more point in a 7-2 loss.

Slovakia were playing in their first World Championship, having shocked a far more experienced field to win the qualifying round last November in Finland. Though they still have a chance of a bronze medal, playing the loser of tonight's China/Russia semi-final, they can already be proud of their 6-3 round robin record which included defeats of both 2011 finalists.

China have an average age of 23 and are serving notice that they are just beginning their careers. They face a more experienced Russian team almost twice their average age in tonight's semi-final. The winner plays Korea for gold. The loser plays for bronze.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Thursday February 23 - Tie-break

USA had given up the fewest steal in round robin play, so it was an additionally bitter pill to concede an extra end steal of 2 to Canada when Patrick MacDonald, who had played so well the whole week, missed his final shot. For Sonja Gaudet, Canada's lead, the relief of escaping relegation on a missed shot must have brought back memories of Frank Duffy's miss with the last stone of the Torino Olympics. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

But wheelchair curling, despite the often brilliant shot-making, remains a game of misses: Results are far more often lost on a miss, than won on a successful shot.

USA's loss tied them with Slovakia at 6-3, but even though they had bested the qualifiers 8-2 in round robin play, WCF rules mandated a tie-break (Rule C9 a).

Slovakia went out to an early lead, stealing the first 3 points before USA clawed their way back with steals in the 4th and 5th. Singles went with hammer through 8 ends. USA thought they had won when  Radoslav Duris, Slovakia's Skip's last stone in regulation, a draw to the 4ft, looked short. But it kept on coming, forcing an extra with USA holding hammer.

It was an end with missed opportunities by both sides. Fatigue was a factor, with 3 hogged shots. Slovakia's last rock, a hit of USA's counter, looked very wide and heavy, but the shot was made and Patrick MacDonald faced a choice with his last stone: a hit in the 12 ft. with a small roll towards centre, or a draw to the 8 ft. on the other of the rings for the win.

He chose the hit on the side they were familiar, but missed, giving up they day's second extra end steal of 2, and seeing the chance of a medal disappear.  In 2009 USA saw their medal ambitions thwarted by a last rock circus shot by Germany's Jens Jager. This year it was theirs to win, but they just came up short.

USA coach Steve Brown was very proud of the way his team worked together, and thought that they have the potential to get better with experience. ""Obviously, it’s going to be extremely frustrating (to play) so well and then lose. All four games (were) lost on the last shot. (But) with their shot making and execution, this is a team that is just going to continue and improve because they are so inexperienced."

Slovakia's coach Frantisek Pitonak was equally proud of his team.

“I can’t describe how I feel, I am so proud of my team. We came here to show everyone what we can do, what we know about curling and how we can play. Last night we all had dinner together and tried to forget all about curling, laughing and joking. This helped us relax and I think that worked in our favour today.”

Slovakia move on to play China in the 3 vs 4 Page playoff. The loser of that game is eliminated, the winner plays the loser of the 1 vs 2 game between Russia and Korea, the winner going straight to the final.

Because head to head records could not determine the order of the first 3 teams, there was a draw to the button for final rankings. Korea's stone was 57 cm off  the pin, Russia's 94 and China's 98 cm.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Thursday February 23 - Draw 9

At the start of the final round-robin draw of the 2012 World Wheelchair Curling Championships, the top 5 teams had 6-2 records. Only Slovakia and Korea were scheduled to play head to head, which meant the winner would advance, and the loser would need help.

Korea's skip Hak Sung Kim celebrated his 44th birthday by stamping on the Qualifiers, posting 4s and 3s while holding Slovakia to singles. The final was 14-3, leaving Slovakia to hope one of the other 6-2 teams also lost.

China dispatched Norway 6-3. A steal of 3 after the break was the winning margin.

Sweden beat Scotland 8-4, stealing 6 of the 8 points. With Norway losing the result meant safety for each of them, though neither will be happy with their performance. Scotland fell from last year's silver medal, and Sweden avoided a second successive relegation tie-break battle by the narrowest of margins.

Canada, down 3-0 after 3 held USA to singles before stealing 2 in an extra end to win 7-5 and escape relegation.

Russia saw off early resistance by Italy finishing their 7-4 win with steals in 6 and 7.

There will be a playoff game this afternoon between USA and Slovakia. WCF rules state: If two teams are tied, the team that won their round robin game will be ranked higher. That puts USA above Slovakia. There is also a rule (C9 a) saying:  A team tied for a place in the play-offs is not eliminated in any way other than by losing an extra game.

Wednesday February 22 - Draw 8

Scotland, grouped in a 4 way tie for the second relegation spot at this year's World Championships, showed no mercy to bottom of the table Italy in the penultimate draw. They stole all 10 points as they kept Italy off the board, dooming this year's Qualifier to once again seek inclusion at next year's Worlds through the November Qualifying tournament.

Canada, another team desperate to escape relegation, continued to unravel, managing to score in just one end of a 7-2 loss to China. Canada brought back Darryl Neighbour, this time to skip from 3rd, but they were unable to prevent China stealing 3 ends. Canada face USA in the final draw and can only hope that Sweden and Norway share their fate, creating relegation tie-breaks for a second chance to avoid the drop.

Though relegation would be deeply embarrassing for both Canada and Scotland, last year's finalists, they have already amassed more points than they will need to qualify for Sochi 2014.

Top of the table Slovakia surrendered their one game advantage, losing 7-4 to Russia. Slovakia went out to an early 2-0 lead after 3 ends, but gave that back at the break, and then saw Russia steal the next 5 points.

USA kept apace of the lead group, overcoming a rocky start that saw them 3--0 down in the 3rd to Norway. That was all the scoring they allowed as they piled on 7 points including four steals, for a 7-3 win to join the 5-way tie for Ist place. 

Sweden, fighting relegation, at least put up some resistance against hosts Korea. They stole 3 in the 1st, but gave up 3's in the 4th and 6th and a killer steal of 2 in the 7th, falling 10-7.

Korea join the leaders and their match against Slovakia tomorrow may determine the fourth and final playoff spot.

China, Russia and USA all play bottom table teams Norway, Italy and Canada, while Scotland face Sweden knowing that even if they lose, Scotland will do no worse than face a relegation tie-break.

It's all to play for tomorrow, with only Italy knowing what's in store come Friday.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website. It also has wonderful photos by Young Bok Kim including a Gallery "Behind The Scenes"

Wednesday February 22 - Draw 7

Slovakia (6-1) sit alone atop the table with just two more draws in round robin play at the 2012 Worlds in Chuncheon, Korea. They will be challenged by a group of four teams with 5-2 records, while last year's finalists fight to avoid relegation.

Slovakia faced a Scotland team needing to win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. Slovakia went out to an early 3-0 lead before the Scots posted 2 at the break. Jim Gault replaced Angie Malone for the second half, but were unable to post a much needed crooked number. Though Scotland stole 1 in the 8th, they lost 5-4, sending Slovakia to the top of the table, and now face the real prospect of relegation.

The good news for Scotland is they face Italy with an even worse record, and Sweden who are in the same relegation situation. The bad news is Sweden crushed Canada 8-1 this morning, despite Darryl Neighbour's return to the ice at 3rd.

Canada took 1 with hammer in the first and held Sweden to 1 in the 2nd. They then conceded steals in the next four ends to lose 8-1. Canada are clearly demoralised, despite whatever happytalk emanates from their dressing room. If Canada win the last two games, against contenders China and USA, they avoid relegation as there are certain to be at least two teams with six losses. Canada already have enough points to qualify for Sochi, as do Scotland, but the embarrassment factor of having to play in the Qualifiers in Finland next November, will be high.

USA slipped out of top spot, beaten 3-2 by Russia in a game with 4 blanks; the difference, Russia's 2 before the break. When USA took 1 to tie the score in the 5th, Russia held the hammer before scoring the winning point in the 8th.

Norway were hoping for a late run of wins to edge back into contention, but were not strong enough to get past Korea, who stole 2's in the 5th and 6th for their winning 6-2 margin.

Italy almost certainly face another November trip back to Finland when the lost 8-3 to China. Who will join them? Either Norway, Sweden or Canada.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Tuesday February 21 - Draw 6

While a 5-4 record had been good enough to claim a playoff spot from 2007-2010, last year 4 losses was too many. Teams facing a 4th loss tonight had to be nervous, and Scotland's nerves do not seem to be holding up to the pressure.

Korea took 1 with hammer in the opening end, then stole in ends 2 and 3 for a 4-0 lead before Scotland clawed 2 back at the break. It was all Korea, however in the second half as they added a further 5 points while keeping the Scots off the board, running out 9-2 winners and improving their record to 4-2.

Canada played Russia and nosed ahead 3-2 in the 5th, after Darryl Neighbour replaced Jack Smart at 3rd at  the break. The effect did not last as Canada then surrendered a 3 in the 6th to fall behind by 2. A blank end in the 7th did not auger well for the defending champions who, forced to play with rocks in the house behind 2 in the 8th, gave up a steal of 2, losing 7-3 and joining Scotland on 4 losses.

Unbeaten USA faced China and swapped singles for the first 6 ends, gaining a 3-2 lead. China broke through with a 3 in the 7th, and finished off the leaders with a steal of 2 in the 8th for a 7-3 win. It was only the second steal USA had given up this week.

Norway have played better than their record suggests, but had been giving away games in the final two ends. This afternoon they grabbed their second win of the day, keeping their hopes of a playoff alive despite a 0-4 start. They beat fellow strugglers Italy 8-5, this time going ahead in the 7th, and holding on for the win.

Sweden looked to have their match against Slovakia in hand with a 5-1 lead after 5 ends. But they gave up the next 5 points to lose 6-5. Slovakia's win brings them back to a tie at the top of the table, while Sweden's loss will now mean they must concentrate on avoiding relegation.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Tuesday February 21 - Draw 5

USA can no longer be accused of winning a soft opening schedule as they beat last year's silver medallists Scotland 6-4. Scotland had their nose in front 4-3 at the break, but though they held USA to 1 in the 5th they were unable to add to their score. USA's steal of 2 in the 7th were the deciding points in their 6-4 win.

An experienced neutral spectator commented that skip Patrick MacDonald was looking very assured, calling a good game and making a lot of shots. The team looks balanced, are on a roll and making both takeouts and draws.

USA 2nd Jimmy Joseph, a survivor from Team USA's beginnings, said: "The new team is so different. It’s all about staying together, being happy and focusing on every shot, every end and taking each game one at a time. We want to rise to the top and be a gold medallist – that’s our goal.

"I knew this team, the way we’ve been shooting together, we glue together so good. I’m so proud of this team, I just get choked up some times, they’re awesome."

Slovakia bounced back to second place after from their first defeat in Draw 4, coming from two back to post a 3 in the final end in a 6-5 defeat of China. China took 2 with hammer in the 1st and controlled much of the game until a miss and roll out in the final end allowed Slovakia a come from behind win without having to throw their final rock.

Defending champions Canada arrived in Korea with 6 players. Jim Armstrong returned home before play began, and now Darryl Neighbour is unavailable for selection because of a medical situation. His status is day to day.

Canada's confidence should have been high, however, with their revamped line-up of Sonja Gaudet skipping from lead, and Ina Forrest throwing last rocks, comfortably beating Scotland in Draw 4.

This morning they faced winless Norway who had surrendered a 7-0 lead yesterday. Norway stole 3 in the 1st after a Canada miss and despite giving up steals in the 4th and 7th end, hung on for a 6-5 victory.

In the final end time trouble may have cost Canada. With 3 stones to play they had just over 3 minutes. They called a time out, and were left with just 40 seconds to decide on and throw their last rock. The decision was to try and outdraw Norway's counter in the 8 foot rather than hit and roll, but it over-curled and Norway did not have to throw their last rock.

A relieved Norway skip Rune Lorentsen said after the win:  "“Getting this win feels like a burden of my shoulders. All our matches have been tight. With a little more we could have won every game and we would be sitting on 5-0 but it has not gone our way.

“We hope we can continue like the way we are playing now. We have lost almost every game by one or two points in the last end or two, so we just have to fight until the end."

Sweden, Scandinavia's other representative at this year's Championships, have struggled nearly as much as Norway, who they beat for their only win so far. The return of Tomas Nordin, who coached them to a bronze medal at the Vancouver Paralympics, has failed to re-ignite their form and facing winless Italy, Sweden were 5-0 down at the break. They could manage only 3 singles in the second half, falling 6-3. 

Russia's coach may have reminded his team, down 7-1 at the break playing Korea, that yesterday they recovered an even larger deficit. Lightning did not strike twice, as Korea continued to steal after the break, winning 9-1.

Hak Sung Kim, Korea Skip, said: “If we want to make it to the finals we have to win these two games today. We’ve already won one so we’re feeling relieved. The players are now feeling a little more relaxed and getting warmed up so I think we will do well in the next game [against Scotland]."

A prescient opinion as it turned out.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Monday February 20 - Draw 4

With the two unbeaten teams facing off in Draw 4 of the World Wheelchair Curling Championships there could only be one team at the top of the table at the end of the second day. USA faced Slovakia and stamped on the rookie team's ambitions from the opening end, scoring 3 then adding a steal for an early 4-0 lead. A steal of 2 more after the break put them ahead 8-1. The final score was 8-2 in 6 ends.

Canada once again proved too tough for Scotland, posting an 8-2 victory. Darryl Neighbour was rested and Sonja Gaudet skipped from lead, with Ina Forrest throwing last rocks. This was Gaudet's first international experience as skip. "It was an opportunity I was looking at doing a few years down the road, but it came up now, and that’s ok," she said.

It was also the first time a Worlds team featured three females.

Canada began with a steal, stole 2 more in the 4th, and though Scotland brought on Jim Gault for lead Angie Malone after the break, finished Scotland's hopes for an end to Canada's dominance over them, by scoring 4 in the 6th and final end. Scotland have not beaten Canada in World competition since the bronze medal game in 2008 and will have had high hopes of breaking that streak today. Canada's emphatic win may calm the fears of their supporters that without Armstrong, the magic has gone. You can watch video of this game HERE

Norway, last year's bronze medallists, were still looking for their first win as the faced Russia. They raced out to a 7-0 lead at the break, only to give up a 3 and then surrender 4 stolen points that tied the score at 7-7 after 7 ends. Russia completed an improbable come-back with yet another steal in the 8th to win 8-7. Russian skip Andrey Smirnov said: “The substitution (at lead) that the coaches made after the fourth end played a very important role in our comeback."

Sweden managed their first steal in the opening end of the match with China, but it was China with steals of 2 in the 4th and 1 more in the 7th that claimed a 5-2 win.

Italy stole 2 in the 7th to edge ahead of Korea, the latest they have held a lead so far. It didn't hold though as the host team had an open takeout to score 2 with hammer in the 8th for a 7-6 win.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Monday February 20 - Draw 3

Unbeaten USA continued to glide through the field: this morning's victims Italy who were handed their 3rd consecutive loss 8-3.

Norway faced Sweden, both teams looknig for their first win. Sweden's ability to post a couple of 2's made the difference in their 6-3 win as they ran Norway out of rocks in the 8th. A relieved Jalle Jungnell said: "“It’s nice to win and still be in the tournament. A loss now would have meant a long uphill struggle. Now we’re in the tournament I think."

Scotland were down 1-0 to Russia after 5 ends, but tied the score in 6 and then stole in 7 and 8 to win 4-1, handing Russia their first loss. Skip Aileen Neilson said: "That was a very defensive game. We knew the Russian’s like to have stones out at the front and tap them in so we just made sure that we didn’t let them do that. We went in with a game plan and stuck to it and it paid off in the end."

Canada faced the unbeaten Qualifiers Slovakia who proved they could also win a game with singles.  Single point steals in 2 and 5 gave Slovakia a 5 - 2 lead and though Canada took 2 in the 8th, they fell one point short of avoiding a 5-4 upset. How will this second defeat affect Canada's prospects when they play Scotland later today?

With Korea up 3-1 after 3 in their game against China the teams blanked four consecutive ends equalling the record set by Germany and Norway in Draw 9 of the 2009 Worlds. China posted 2 to force an extra end and ran out 5-3 winners with a steal of 2 more. China's skip Haitao Wang Wang made a spectacular angle-raise to the four foot rings to lie two with his last shot. "For my last stone, I couldn’t think about the result we needed," he said. "I just had to think about that one stone and make the shot and do it well.”

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Sunday February 19 - Draw 2

A Canada team playing a World event for the first time in three years without the experience of Jim Armstrong at skip, faced their first serious challenge of the 2012 Worlds when they met Korea in Draw 2. It was not pretty for the defending champions as the hosts held them to a single point in their 7 - 1 victory.

Slovakia proved their morning defeat of Korea was no fluke by pounding fellow Qualifiers Italy 10-1 in 7 ends.

Russia and China, both morning winners, played a cagey game of singles. Russia took 1 in the first and added single steals the next two ends before China got on the board. Russia added just 1 more point in the second half but it was all they needed as they ran China out of rocks for a 4-1 win. You can watch video of this game HERE

USA posted a second win and Sweden a second loss 4-3, all singles. The game`s only steal in the 7th was the decider.

Scotland stole the opening point against Norway and were 5-2 ahead at the break. Norway fought back to lead 6-5 before Scotland stopped the bleeding, tying the score at 6 and forcing the tournament's first extra end, where they stole 2 for an 8-6 win. Rune Lorentsen's final stone came up short leaving Norway joining Sweden without a win.

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Sunday February 19 - Draw 1

Qualifying team Slovakia must've been wondering what all the fuss was about as they raced out to a 7-1 mid-break lead over Norway in the opening draw of the 2012 world wheelchair curling Championships in Chuncheon, South Korea. Two ends later, with the score tied at 7 they had their answer. Slovakia regrouped however, holding Norway to a single in the final end for a 9-8 win.

Canada had the opportunity to show there was life without Armstrong when they faced Italy, the other qualifying team. It was a tight game in the early ends, but a steal of one in the seventh gave Canada a three-point lead and they ran the Italians out of rocks for its 7-4 win.

Sweden gave up a steal of 5 in the 6th to Russia and shook hands on a 9-3 loss one end later. USA seemed to have the measure of hosts Korea, opening their game with a three steal of 3 and then stealing single points in 5 and 6. However a 4 by Korea in the 7th tied the score and USA needed their single with a hammer in the final end for their 7-6 win.

Scotland have what looks like the toughest opening schedule of all the favoured teams, facing China in the opening round before Norway, Russia and Canada. They opened with a steal in the first but gave up three in the second and were never able to regain tempo, losing 6-5. Aileen Neilson, the only female skip in Chuncheon, said "“we need to give the Chinese their due (we) managed to set it up well. My last stone came in too deep, (but their skip0 still had to play the shot but made it to win.”

Click HERE for line-scores on the event website.

Thursday February 16th - Championship Preview

The World Wheelchair Curling Championships begin in Chuncheon, South Korea next Sunday morning, 9.30 local time. Ten nations are competing, not only for a world title, but also for points towards qualification for the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.

For those unfamiliar with the wheelchair version of the sport, it is played on the same ice and with the same rocks as regular curling, but stones are delivered from a stationary wheelchair and there is no sweeping.

For this overview I have divided the teams into groups: Canada and Scotland, last year's finalists, are favourites. Norway, Sweden, and China are genuine contenders. Russia, Korea and Italy will be hopeful. Which leaves newcomers Slovakia and a rebuilding USA working to avoid having to re-qualify in Finland next November.

Canada have won the last three major international tournaments; the World Championships in 2009 and 2011, and Paralympics on home ice in 2010. Much of their success can be attributed to their grafting Jim Armstrong, a renowned able-bodied curler with 40+ years of experience, onto a sport that began in North America a mere decade ago.

Canada will again begin as clear favourites though Armstrong left Korea as play was about to begin to return home for personal reasons. Luckily, percipiently, Canada flew to Korea with 6 players so had Albertan Anne Hibberd available to play in a revamped line-up that sees Darryl Neighbour at skip, Ina Forrest 3rd, Jack Smart 2nd and Sonja Gaudet at lead.

Darryl and Jim practiced and played together constantly before Jim relocated to Ontario last year and though Canada do not always produce the best individual statistical performances, under Jim's guidance they play the game as a sport in its own right, rather than as a subset of able-bodied curling.

Canada do not beat themselves. They call shots that can be made from a wheelchair without sweeping, rather than the shots they would like to see made. That discipline will now be Darryl's responsibility.

Team Canada have played very few matches together this season. Their past record, however, is hard to refute, and the addition this year of high-energy Jack Smart at 2nd will provide a boost if spirits flag.

The biggest consequence of Jim's absence will be the boost it gives to other teams' confidence that Canada can be beaten.

Scotland, the other traditional powerhouse of curling, showed signs last year of a return to form that saw them heartbreakingly close to a Paralympic gold medal in 2006. Their Canadian coach, Tony Zummack, feels his team are getting their swagger back.

Skip Aileen Neilson has taken a three-year leave of absence from her teaching job to concentrate on bringing her country back to the top of the world rankings. Her confidence will have been boosted by a silver medal at last year's World's, and team mates Angie Malone and Tom Killin more than match Canada in experience.

"The team throws straight," says Zummack, who as a full time coach has had the opportunity to spend regular extended practice and coaching sessions with the team throughout the season. "Until you can do that nothing else really matters."

Zummack thinks his players can achieve 70% throwing accuracy, a comment that I have heard from many of the top teams over many years. We'll see. A strong hitting team may well be able to challenge Canada's hitherto successful tactic of placing an early stone into the rings and waiting for an opponent's miss.

Can Canada's front end match Scotland's in a hitting game? The world title may depend upon it.

2011 bronze medallists Norway's prospects may depend on how quickly their skip Rune Lorentsen recovers from the journey. Rune did not accompany his team to a spiel in Scotland because of the discomforts of flying. Norway are an experienced side led by a coach with an impressive record at world championships. They have never been a good statistical team, but their coach has always claimed that they play wheelchair curling, not able-bodied curling adjusted for wheelchairs, advice other teams could usefully follow.

Sweden are another very experienced side who have prepared far more diligently this year than last. Jalle Jungnell returns to skip after trying his hand at coaching last year, and long time lead Anette Wilhelm has also come out of retirement. Glenn Ikonen had been scheduled to play 3rd but is not on the opening day roster. With Patrik Burman already unavailable, Gerd Erlandsson, who had originally been penciled in at Alternate, will now play 3rd on a 4 person squad. Sweden medalled in 2009 and 2010 and if everyone stays healthy will again mount a serious podium challenge.

I pick China as a serious contender because they are technically very good, and throw very hard. They're not having to travel to the other side of the world to play, and will benefit from having three of their team having played together from their entry to world curling at the qualification tournament in 2008.

China have completely different delivery style to any other team, getting very low to the stone as they deliver it; a style that comes closest to a regular culling delivery. If their tactical understanding comes anywhere close to matching their technique they have a very good chance of winning a medal.

I place Korea in the hopefuls group because even though they scared Canada into importing a non-wheelchair user to skip their side after the 2008 World's, and almost claimed a dramatic come from behind victory at the 2010 Paralympics, they have not shown the consistency and discipline of a settled side.

The advantages of being host nation bring with it the disadvantages of enormously high expectations. This year's team has experience at skip and lead but I doubt that will be enough to break into the top three.

Russia came through qualification at the same time as China and last year beat out China for the last play-off spot. They have travelled widely in Europe but with only occasional success; a team building towards 2014 and home ice at the Paralympics. This tournament may be most important for the opportunities to practice against top opposition, as they do not need the Sochi qualification points.

Italy can claim to be the Rodney Dangerfield team, not getting the respect that 5-5 records in 2008 and 2010 deserve. They come to this year's championships via last November's qualification tournament, but with a team that is not lacking in experience. This is the reason I place them a notch above my two candidates for relegation, USA and newcomers Slovakia.

Team USA appeared to be on the cusp of a World's final, with a talented shotmaker at skip and a fourth place finish at the 2010 Paralympics. Collapse at the 2011 World's lead to three players resigning, and though I do not doubt new skip Patrick McDonnell's steely eyed determination, they are to all intents and purposes an untried and very inexperienced team with very few opportunities to practice together. USA has never shown any great sophistication in calling the game and it's hard to see how with the same coaches, new players will do any better than the old ones. I hope I'm wrong.

That leaves Slovakia who came from nowhere to win last year's qualification tournament, placing higher than teams like Italy, Germany and Denmark with far more experience. Who's to say they can't do it again? Only it's hard to see just who they're going to beat beyond possibly Italy and USA. I say this not having seen them play and I certainly wish them well.

I have a dreadful record picking winners. My head says that it's silly to bet against Canada, but my gut feeling is that perhaps this year things will not go their way. My vote would go to Scotland if I could be sure that Aileen will conquer her nerves if she gets to the final.

I know that Norway has what it takes to win, but don't know how healthy they are, nor how their new lead, a vital and underestimated position, will play on the big stage. Sweden are a known quantity, very experienced and with a world-class player in Thomas Nordin back as their coach. In the past their problem has been failing to believe they can beat Canada. Will this year be any different?

So my podium picks are China, Norway and Scotland, because you can't write this many words and chicken out at the end.

The event website can be found HERE.

(The opening paragraphs, but not the conclusion, of this preview were amended Saturday February 18 to reflect Jim Armstrong's absence.)
.

   

Standings at end of Round Robin
(click on team for team photo and members)

 
Team

 

Won

 

Lost

 

Points
+
Points
-
Steals
+
Steals
-
1 Korea - KOR  7 2 72 33 14 7
 2 Russia - RUS  7 2 47 37 13 11
 3 China - CHN  7 2 50 31 12 7
 4* Slovakia - SLO  7 3 57 61 18 9
 5* USA - USA  6 4 55 45 19 8
6 Sweden - SWE 3 6 45 48 12 10
 7 Canada - CAN  3 6 38  51 8  19
 8 Scotland - SCO  3 6 43 49 13 15
 9 Norway - NOR 2 7 46 60 9 17
 10 Italy - ITA 1 8 32 68 6  21

*Slovakia beat 7-5 USA in a tie-break for 4th

   
   
Results and draws
(times are local - for GMT subtract 9 hours)
Date
 
Sheet A
Sheet B
Sheet C
Sheet D
Sheet E
19  9.30  ITA - CAN
4 - 7
CHN - SCO
6 - 5
KOR - USA
6 - 7
SVK - NOR
9 - 8
RUS - SWE
9 - 3
  15.30 RUS - CHN
4 - 1
USA - SWE
4 - 3
ITA - SVK
1 - 10
KOR - CAN
7 - 1
SCO - NOR
8 - 6
20 9.30 NOR - SWE
3 - 6
CAN - SVK
5 - 4
SCO - RUS
4 - 1
USA - ITA
8 - 3
KOR - CHN
3 - 5
  15.30 CAN - SCO
8 - 2
KOR - ITA
7  - 6
CHN - SWE
5 - 2
NOR - RUS
7 - 8
SVK - USA
2 - 8
21 9.30 KOR - RUS
9 - 1
SCO - USA
4 - 6
CAN - NOR
5 - 6
CHN - SVK
5 - 6
SWE - ITA
3 - 6
 
 
15.30 SWE-SVK
5 - 6
ITA - NOR
5 - 8
USA - CHN
3 - 7
SCO - KOR
2 - 9
CAN - RUS
3 - 7
22  9.30 CHN - ITA
8 - 3
SWE - CAN
8 - 1
SVK - SCO
5 - 4
RUS - USA
3 - 2
NOR - KOR
2 - 6
15.30 USA - NOR
7 - 3
SVK - RUS
4 - 7
SWE - KOR
7 - 10
CAN - CHN
2 - 7
ITA - SCO
0 - 10
23 9.00 SVK - KOR
3 - 14
NOR - CHN
3 - 6
RUS - ITA
7 - 4
SWE - SCO
8 - 4
USA - CAN
5 - 7
14.30 Tie-break - USA 5 - 7 Slovakia
24 9.30 Russia 4 - 5 Korea China 7 - 2 Slovakia  
15.30 Russia 3 - 2 China
25 10.00 Bronze  China 7 - 4 Slovakia
14.00 Gold  Korea 1 - 9 Russia
   

 

Team Canada

Skip Darryl Neighbour
Third Ina Forrest
Second Jack Smart
Lead Sonja Gaudet
Alternate  Anne Hibberd

Coach Joe Rea

Team Canada 2012

Team China 2012 Team China

Skip Wang Haitao,
Third Liu Wei,
Lead He Jun
Second Xu Guangquin
Alternate Zhang Qiang

Coach  Jianrui Li

Team Italy

Skip Andrea Tabanelli 
Third Egidio Marchese
Second Emanuele Spelorzi
Lead Angela Menardi
Alternate Rosanna Menazzi

Coach Giulio Regli

Team Italy 2012
Team Korea 2012 Team Korea

Skip Hak Sung Kim
Third Seoung Won Jung
Second Byeong Il Noh
Lead Mi-Suk Kang
Alternate Min Ja Bang


Coach Woo Jin KimKwon Il Park

 

Team Norway

Skip Rune Lorentsen
Third Jostein Stordahl
Second Terge Rafdal
Lead Sissel Løchen
Alternate  Per Fagerhøi

Coach Thoralf Hognestad

Team Norway 2012
Team Russia 2012

Team Russia

4th Andrey Smirnov
Alternate Oxana Slesarenko
Lead Svetlana Pakhomova 
Second Alexander Shevchenko
Skip Marat Romanov

Coach  Margarita Nesterova

Team Scotland

Alternate Jim Gault
Lead Angie Malone
Second Gregor Ewan
Third Tom Killin
Skip Aileen Neilson

Coach Tony Zummack

Team Scotland 2012

Team Slovakia 2012  Team Slovakia

Skip Radoslav Duris 
Third Branislav Jakubec
Second Dusan Pitonak
Lead Monika Kunkelova
Alternate Alena Kanova

Coach Margarita Nesterova

Team Sweden

Skip Jalle Jungnell
Third  Gert Erlandsson
Second Patrik Kallin
Lead Anette Willhelm

Coach Tomas Nordin
 

Team Sweden 2012

Team USA 2012

Team USA

Skip Patrick MacDonald
Third David Palmer
Second Jim Joseph
Lead Penny Greely
Alternate Timothy Kelly

Coach Steve Brown


 

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