Eight Ends is your daily one-stop shop for all things curling with news, notes, insight and analysis through the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. Plus the occasional pop culture reference, see if you can catch ’em all.
First End: Canada’s Jennifer Jones kicked off her quest for a second gold medal in women’s curling with a 12-7 victory Thursday over Eun-Jung Kim of South Korea. Jones, who went undefeated through the 2014 tournament in Sochi, is now 12-0 on Olympic ice.
The teams traded threes early and the key was Jones hitting another tie-breaker three-pointer like Fred VanVleet in the seventh that made it 9-6 although not exactly the way she drew it up. Jones was looking to score four after Kim missed a freeze, Canada was able to chip it out but lost two stones at the back. Fortunately, the shooter rolled to the right spot where it caught another South Korean rock and stuck around for the three spot. What a yo-yo of events from looking to score four to maybe only getting two and then actually counting three.
Second End: It was a close game with Canada curling 82 per cent as a unit edging South Korea at 80 per cent. Kim, who captured silver on home ice four years ago at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, simply couldn’t keep up with Jones in the final few ends. Canada held South Korea to a single in the eighth and replied with an insurance-marker in the ninth to hold a 10-7 lead entering the final frame. It was essentially a checkmate situation in the end as Kim needed to make a triple takeout and save the shooter in order to score the equalizer. Know when to fold ’em, but like Han Solo, never tell Kim the odds as she went for it anyway. As predicted though, Kim managed to eliminate only one Jones stone and tacked two more stolen points on the board.
Third End: Almost everyone on Team Jones had played in the Olympics previously, including coach Viktor Kjell, who threw lead stones for Sweden’s Niklas Edin at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games. Just second Jocelyn Peterman was making her Olympic debut Thursday and and what an interesting game to start as she’s engaged to Team Gushue second Brett Gallant and her future father-in-law, Peter Gallant, coaches the South Korean team. If Peterman was nervous at all, she didn’t show it and threw a team-leading 86 per cent.
Fourth End: Lisa Weagle is Canada’s alternate by the definition of the word as she’s more like a second lead and since joining the team last season actually alternates through tournaments with Dawn McEwen. It’ll be intriguing to see if that continues through the Olympics (I imagine it will be considering that’s what brought them to the dance) even with McEwen shooting a stellar 85 per cent to start.
Fifth End: Jones had a bye to start so there were already three draws complete before they even hit the ice for action. Plus, it was Jones’ first game since winning the Canadian Olympic curling trials in late November. Yes, it’s kinda weird Team Gushue had two games in the bag before Team Jones even started but that’s how the draw shook up.
Fortunately, South Korea also had a bye in the first women’s draw, so it wasn’t like mixed doubles where Rachel Homan and John Morris started against Great Britain, who already had a win in hand. Again, as mentioned Wednesday in Eight Ends, that’s where Kjell is counted upon to watch the earlier draws, scout rocks and provide intel.
Sixth End: Up next for Jones is Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa on Friday at 1:05 a.m. ET. Japan (0-1) fell 8-5 to Sweden in the first draw and had a bye in the second. Jones holds a 7-5 head-to-head advantage in 12 previous meetings although Fujisawa has won their past two encounters, according to CurlingZone.com.
Seventh End: While you were sleeping (or at least when you should have been sleeping) Canada’s Brad Gushue improved to a 2-0 record on the men’s side. If you had bet on Canada’s game against Norway, I hope you took the straight-up win, even with Gushue as a superheavy favourites at -333 chalk, as you would have lost the over/under with a 6-5 final score. Canada opened with the hammer, which seems to be quite rare in Beijing, and converted with a deuce in the first, but Norway was able to reply with two in the second and kept matching back-and-forth with singles in four and five and deuces again in eight and nine. Unfortunately for Norway, they ran out of ends as Canada held the hammer in the 10th and final frame to score the winning point.
Eighth End: Gushue has a bye in the next men’s draw and will play 2018 Olympic bronze medallist Peter de Cruz of Switzerland on Friday at 7:05 a.m. ET (a more reasonable 8:35 a.m. NT for all his fans back home on the rock as opposed to the graveyard shift slot for the game against Norway). De Cruz throws second stones while skipping, so the key player to watch is ace Swiss fourth Benoit Schwarz, who is one of the best pure shooters in the game right now. Gushue holds a 13-7 all-time advantage in 20 games against de Cruz including 11 of their past 13 meetings, according to CurlingZone.com.