On one sheet, the women’s curling semifinals pitted two of the sports heavyweights – Sweden, which has won two gold medals in the past and has made three straight trips to the gold medal game, versus Great Britain, who won the gold in 2002. Those two countries are the only ones besides Canada to have won Olympic gold in curling.
On the other sheet were two teams much more unknown in the sport. Both South Korea and Japan were looking for their first trip to a medal game. Only one other Asian country has ever medaled in women’s curling when China won bronze in 2010. Korea has only competed in one other Olympics in 2014. Japan has competed in every Olympics curling has been contested, but has never finished higher than fifth.
Now, an old favorite will meet with the new surprise No. 1 seed after Sweden defeated Great Britain and Korea defeated Japan to advance to Saturday’s gold medal game.
Semifinal 1 – South Korea 8, Japan 7 (11 ends)
South Korea scored 31 more points than they gave up in nine games of round robin play. They went 7-1, their only loss coming to Japan.
And again, Japan gave EunJung Kim’s team all they could handle.
Japan was down as many as three on two separate occasions, but forced Kim to make mistakes late and send the game to an extra end.
Even though Korea wasn’t able to get the big win they’ve become accustomed to, they found a way to win when it counted, scoring a single point in the 11th for an 8-7 victory.
In the tenth end, Korea faced what should have been an easy hit-and-roll on the hammer. Kim was shooting with 75 percent accuracy on her draws to that point in the game, but seemed concerned with the throw out of her hands. It ended up having too much, just clipping the side of the Japanese stone and bouncing out further than the yellow stone moved. Japan tied the game for the first time in the contest with the stolen point.
Kim faced much the same situation in the 11th, with one Japan stone sitting just outside the button. But this time, instead of going for the takeout, Kim and company decided to simply lay the hammer on the middle of the button. It looked as if the throw may have been too light out of Kim’s hand, and it required all four teammates to sweep, but eventually the stone made it, and sat perfectly in place for the point and the win.
Korea was the highest scoring team in round robin play, and showed off their scoring prowess early, knocking down a hit-and-stay for three points in the first end.
Japan answered in the second, with Satsuki Fujisawa’s hammer throw coming around two Korean stones at the top of the house to score two. The two teams traded single points from there until the fifth end, when Korea again notched two points after Fujisawa got a single takeout, but couldn’t get two, setting up an easy shot for the double by Kim to go up 6-3.
Korea kept at least a three point lead until the ninth end, when Fujisawa knocked off a perfect hit-and-roll takeout for two to cut the lead to 7-6 heading into the final end.
The amazing run of South Korea in their hometown Games saw them win seven straight to take the No. 1 seed in the semifinals. Now, that run takes them to the gold medal game. Kim and her teammates – YeongMi Kim, SeonYeong Kim, and KyeongAe Kim – could all be seen crying alongside their tearful coaches after making the final point for the win as the crowd erupted in cheers, much like they had done all game and all tournament.
KOR 3 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 1 – 8
JPN 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 – 7
Semifinal 2 – Sweden 10, Great Britain 5
Make it four straight for Sweden’s women, who will return to the gold medal game for a fourth straight Olympics after defeating Great Britain 10-5 Friday morning.
The Swedish team is looking for its first gold medal since 2010. Anna Hasselborg’s team finished third at the 2017 World Championships.
Hasselborg and Eve Muirhead’s squads went back-and-forth early, but ultimately two ends were enough to put the game away for Sweden.
Tied 3-3 after six, Sweden capitalized on a mistake by Muirhead to score two. In the seventh, Sweden lied three in the house, and Muirhead made a massive mistake for Britain, hitting her own guard and stopping before even making it into the house to give Sweden a five point lead with just three ends to play.
The two teams blanked the first end and Sweden scored two with hammer in the second. Great Britain also had a two point end in the fifth. After Hasselborg landed a perfect shot to put a stone in the house, Muirhead, with the help of sweepers Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray, was able to take the stone out for the double to tie the score.
Britain scored another double in the eighth after Sweden’s three point end, but Sweden responded in the ninth by sitting the hammer throw right on the button for another double. Muirhead’s team conceded the final end of play.
SWE 0 2 0 1 0 2 3 0 2 X – 10
GBR 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 2 0 X – 5
Sweden will now play Korea in the gold medal game Saturday night at 7 p.m. EST. Britain and Muirehead will play for a second straight bronze medal Saturday morning at 6 a.m. EST.