February 28 - Medal games
Russia, the only one of
the four teams that played for medals to have competed last year,
defended their title beating Norway 7-4 in the final. Norway had
previously beaten Korea 7-4 in the semi-final> Korea took bronze from
hosts Switzerland, who faded to four straight losses after opening the
tournament with seven successive wins.
Norway stole an early 3-1
lead against Korea in the semi-final and cemented their 7-4 win with a
steal in the final end. Korea then played Switzerland in the bronze
medal game. Despite giving up steals in the 4th, 5th and 6th Korea;s 3
in the 7th tied the score at 5 and the then stole a single in the 8th
end for a 6-5 win. It was Korea's first medal since their silver as
hosts of the 2012 Worlds.
In the gold medal game,
Russia opened with two steals against Norway then with the scores level
2-2, posted a crushing 5 after the break. Facing 4 Norwegian skip Rune
Lorentsen's attempted tap-up was heavy, allowing Andrey Smirnov a draw
into the house for a 5th point.
Rune said he regretted his
mistakes in the 5th end. "It's hard to pull back from a 5, but Russia
beat us three times, and they deserved their win."
February 27 - Page playoff
Defending champions Russia
took on 2015's bottom placed team Norway in the 1 vs 2 Page playoff
game. With scores tied at the break, Russia stole single points in 5 and
6, and faced 3 Norwegian stones in the 8 foot with his final rock.
Though heavy and wide for the attempted hit and roll, his shot caught
enough of the back Norwegian stone to score a point and a 5-3 win.
The other newly promoted team, Korea, played Switzerland. They blanked
their first 3 ends before the Swiss stole 2 before the break. Korea's 3
in the 7th put them ahead before Switzerland tied the game in the 8th.
Korea posted a 6-4 extra end win when Swiss skip Wagner's last rock
draw, facing 2, clipped a guard.
February 27 - Draw 12 & Tie-break
The stakes for Germany in
the last draw game were not quite as high as opponents Canada. While
Canada would have been relegated with a loss, Germany would still have
the chance to avoid relegation through a tie-break with Slovakia. In the
event single point steals in the 2nd, 7th and 8th ends saw Canada claw
their way to safety with a 6-3 win.
One can imagine the relief
of first time coach Wayne Kiel, appointed without a track record of
participation in wheelchair curling. Skip Jim Armstrong praised his team
for grinding out a 3-6 record, but domestic players might feel that
several provincial teams could have done as well at grinding.
Germany went on the beat
Slovakia 7-2 in the relegation tie-break. Canada, with the same round
robin record, had beaten both teams in head to head play.
USA fell one win short of
a challenge for a playoff place, twice giving up 4 enders in a 13-5 loss
February 26 - Draw 10 & 11
Russia bullied their way
past North America and into Friday's 1 vs playoff with a 7-2 win over
Canada and a 10-7 defeat of USA, earned with a steal of 3 in the 8th.
They will play Norway who gave Switzerland their first defeat 7-2 by
stealing single points in the last four ends. Switzerland, after leading
all week, dropped into 3rd place when they lost 7-4 to China in the
Korea lost an opportunity
to grab the final playoff spot after a 8-6 loss to Germany. Down
6-4 after 7 they tied the game with a steal of 2 in the 8th, but
surrendered a deuce in the extra. Germany lifted their record to 4-4 by
dealing Finland a relegation blow. A 5 in the 7th provided the 8-2
victory. If Germany beat Canada tomorrow, they'll face Korea in a
Depending on the results
of Friday's close-out two games, there could be as many as 4 teams on
3-6 desperate to avoid the final 2 relegation places. Canada, after
losing to Russia, gave themselves hope when they finally got away to a
strong start against Norway with an opening 3. They still found
themselves tied after 5 ends, but emerged with a vital 8-5 win. They
will be looking for a win over Germany to force a tie-break involving
Slovakia, Germany and possibly China depending on their result against
All to play for in Draw 12
tomorrow. A USA win over China earns them a tie-break for 4th, and
pushes China into a relegation battle. If Germany beat Canada, Canada
are relegated and they can ask Scotland how tough it is to regain your
place through Qualifying. If Germany lose, they join Canada, Slovakia
and possibly China in relegation tie-breaks.
February 25 - Draw 8 & 9
Hosts Switzerland remain the only unbeaten team, seeing off challengers
Korea 7 - 2, and Russia 9 - 6 in a game where they scored the last 6
points, 3 in an extra end.
Norway suffered their
first loss in a defensive duel with Russia. The first four ends were
blanked but Russia's 2 in the 7th was enough to secure a 3-1 win. Both
Norway and Switzerland have claimed playoff spots.
Previously winless Finland
finally found some form after being 5-1 down to morning opponent
Slovakia. They scored 7 unanswered points for an 8-5 victory and then
faced hapless Canada, sealing a 10-2 win with a 4 in the 7th. Canada's
loss left them adrift at the bottom of the table, now hoping their final
three games, all against contending teams, will enable them to avoid
USA have worked their way
into 5th, an early 6 point lead over Slovakia securing a 10-3 win. They
are competing with Russia, Korea, and Germany for the remaining playoff
spots after China continued their disappointing form with losses to
Germany and Korea.
February 24 - Draw 6 & 7
Norway and Switzerland remain unbeaten after 4 days of round robin play,
Norway were assured winners in their 6-2 defeat of Korea, while
neighbours Finland played them tough in the afternoon, but missed their
opportunity for a first win when Skip Markku Karjalainen was light on a
last rock draw that gave up a steal, rather than levelling the score.
German skip Jens Jager has
not played since game 2 and Switzerland closed out Germany 7-3 with a
steal of 2 in the 7th. They then defeated USA 8-2. Ahead by 4 points at
the break, their steal of 2 in the 5th sealed the win.
Canada were always in
control against Slovakia, closing out their first win with 4 in the 7th.
A relieved Skip Jim Armstrong said afterwards: We’re not used to
losing, we’re certainly not used to stringing them together but we’ve
been struggling, there’s no question about that.
That's true for team
performance with Armstrong at skip, and will help the self-belief of the
other teams that Canada even with Armstrong, can be beaten. Canada have
yet to play Russia and Norway, and must avoid another loss to keep
podium hopes alive.
February 23 - Draw 4 & 5
Norway are at the top of the table at 4-0, a game ahead of also
undefeated Switzerland. Norway fell behind Slovakia and were tied going
into the last end before posting a 7-5 win. Switzerland had to work to
beat winless Finland, taking 2 in the 8th for a 6-5 win.
Canada are the other team yet to post a victory. Alternate Sonja Gaudet,
the sole survivor of the 2006 Torino gold medal team, was given a game
against China in place of Dennis Thiessen. Canada fell behind 5-0 after
3 ends and despite rallying to level the scores, lost 8-7 after an extra
end. They did however post their first two steals of the tournament, but
were unable to build on that as they surrendered 7-3 to Korea in the
afternoon draw. They will be hearing Vic Rauter's voice asking whether
four losses is too many. It will be unless they run the table.
Germany posted their first
win, 6-5 over USA, bookending a steal of 2 in the 1st and a deuce with
hammer in the 8th. Finland were unable to build on their competitive
morning performance, running into an American buzsaw in the afternoon,
February 22 - Draw 2 & 3
Canada continued their slow start, losing to USA for the second year
running, this time 9-6. Single point steals in the first two and last
two ends were the margin of America's victory.
Norway are the early
leaders after posting emphatic wins over Germany and China, who despite
scoring 4 in the 6th were unable to undo the damage from giving up 6 in
the 4th end.
Hosts Switzerland remain
unbeaten. They raced out to a stolen 5 point lead against Slovakia only
to see it evaporate at the break. They finished strong though with
steals of 1 in the 6th and 3 in the 7th for an 11-5 win,
Korea lost a tight game to
Russia before pounding the Finns, who are finding Lucerne less
hospitable then last year's home ice in Lohja. They Join Germany and
Canada in looking for their first win.
February 21 - Draw 1
Canada got off to a slow start against hosts Switzerland who
opened with a deuce with hammer and then took three consecutive single
steals to go ahead 5 - 0 at the break. Though Canada opened the second
half with two, a single and another steal saw the Swiss ease out 7-2
Life was tougher for
Germany, flattened by defending powerhouse Russia 12-1. USA gave up a 3
and a 4 in a 10-4 loss to Norway.
Canada will be relieved to have Jim Armstrong return. With him since
2006 they have won two Paralympic and three World titles Without him
they have failed to reach the podium, coming within one loss last year
of a relegation tie-break, or as program Director Gerry Peckham chose to
describe it, one win from a playoff tie-break. The team disappointed at
this year's Canadian Open but won the Cathy Kerr, wheelchair curling's
largest international event, in November.
Coaching changes see Saskatchewan Wayne Kiel, a high performance coach
with no previous wheelchair curling experience, take over from Joe Rea.
He travels as Team Leader/snack preparer replacing Wendy Morgan who
takes on that role for Team Jennifer Jones.
Scotland are notable absentees, suffering relegation and subsequent
failure at the Worlds Qualifying tournament despite full-time players.
Their coach, Tony Zummack, has since been promoted to overall charge of
Scotland (and Sweden) need not worry that their absence will affect
their chance to compete in the 2018 Paralympics. Any team with
qualification points earned at the 2015 Worlds will qualify because the
2018 field is being expanded to 12 teams.
Defending champions Russia showed their ambition by competing in Canada
in November. Konstantin Kurokhtin joins a settled squad at 3rd. China
have won medals at the last 4 events though not yet gold. They appear to
have brought an entirely new team to Lucerne.
The high point for Germany was their bronze in 2009. Ebullient skip Jens
Jager came out the loser in a political battle over who ran wheelchair
curling in Germany. His vice, Marcus Sieger, was chosen to skip the team
in 2011 only to see them relegated. Jens skipped last year, winning a
tie-break that doomed Scotland, and will hope to build on that escape.
Norway, relegated last year, were emphatic Qualifying winners. Skip Rune
Lorentsen and Third Jostein Stordahl have played together since 2007 and
boast 2 World titles, though in less competitive times. As with any team
with a quad throwing 4th stones, Norway struggles when they need
up-weight shots with final stones. They've had a succession of coaches
since Thoralf Hognestad. Peter Dahlman works this year.
USA came within a German circus shot of claiming the podium in 2009 but
still await the break through. Skip Patrick McDonald relocated his
family to Wisconsin to further his curling opportunities yet appears
diffident on the ice, and might be less distracted if his lead kept her
opinions to herself.
Finland was the surprise team of 2015, though as host despite no record
of previous success, might have been fancied to make an impression.
Changes at 2nd and alternate and a move away from home ice will present
a challenge. Slovakia bring in Branislav Jakubec at 3rd and are still
looking for their first medal. Last year they beat Finland in the 3 vs 4
game, but under WCF rules, had to play again for 3rd place, this time
losing to Finland.
Korea is the girl with a curl of the wheelchair curling world: when they
are good they are very very good, and when they are bad they are horrid.
As Paralympic hosts in 2018 it can be assumed they will be taking the
next two Worlds more seriously than occasionally in the past.
Finally Switzerland have been out of the picture since 2010 and showed
ambition by joining Russia in competing in Ontario last November. We'll
have to see whether home ice will make up for a lack of competitive
experience at this level.