The US men’s curling team doesn’t dwell on the last time it faced Sweden at the Olympics.
It’s thinking about next time.
In a rematch of the Pyeongchang gold medal game, Sweden beat John Shuster’s quartet 7-4 on Thursday to quickly top the round-robin standings and hand the defending champions their first defeat of the Beijing Games.
The result left the Americans hoping for a rematch against Niklas Edin’s quartet, which could only happen if they both qualified for the playoffs.
“I can’t think of very many Olympics or World Championships where Niklas isn’t hanging out somewhere at the end of the week,” said Chris Plys, a newcomer to Shuster’s team from Pyeongchang. “We hope to be there with them and I would love to have another chance with them for sure.”
Four years after Team Shuster won five straight playoff games – including a victory over Edin who won the first American gold medal in Olympic curling history – it was a holiday for the Swedes.
Trailing 7-4 in the 10th and final end, Shuster conceded after Edin left the Americans with just one rock in the target zone and one more to play.
“When you play against the reigning world champions and you have opportunities, you have to take advantage of them,” Shuster said. “We’re going to have to fight tooth and nail to get every win here.”
The Swedes improved to 2-0 in Beijing and the defending champions fell to 1-1. Edin also took a 5-4 lead against Shuster in the 2018 gold medal game.
“We play them tons of times. It’s always close battles, always good games,” Edin said. “So we knew it was going to be a big game – both of our teams are in playoff contention – so winning is big.”
The Americans started the game with last-rock advantage known as the hammer, but missed a big scoring opportunity in the first end and settled for a point. Sweden took two with the hammer in the second, two more with the hammer in the fourth, then stole a point in the fifth when the United States was supposed to have the advantage.
It was a two-run game in the eighth when Edin executed a tricky double takedown between the houses and Shuster couldn’t finish one of his own. The Americans intentionally shut out the ninth inning to maintain last-rock advantage.
But in the last end they ran out of stones.
“They are good friends of ours. It’s really good to beat them and also to get ahead in this head-to-head battle that’s been going on, especially since the last Olympics,” said Edin, a five-time world champion who also won a bronze medal in Sochi to go with silver in Pyeongchang. “We know they are one of the gold medal contenders here.”
In other results from Thursday’s men’s game, the Russian team beat China 7-4 in nine ends, Canada beat Norway 6-5 and Great Britain beat Italy 7-5.
Women’s play began Thursday morning with Tabitha Peterson’s USA team winning twice, beating Team Russia 9-3 in seven ends in the morning and Denmark 7-5 in the evening.
“It’s a great position,” Peterson said. “We worked hard there. I think we deserve it. So hopefully we can keep doing what we’re doing in the next two games.”
The other women’s matches saw defending champions Sweden beat Japan 8-5 in the morning but lost 8-2 to Great Britain in seven sets. Great Britain are 2-0, having beaten Switzerland 6-5 in extra innings in the morning.
In other matches, Canada beat defending silver medalist South Korea 12-7 and hosts China lost twice, 7-6 to Denmark in the morning and 7- 5 against Switzerland in the evening.
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