Coming into the PyeongChang games, everyone expected to be chasing the Canadians in both the men’s and women’s curling tournaments. Canada’s men’s team has won the last three Olympic gold medals, and are the defending world champions. The Canadian women’s team is also defending their Olympic gold medals from 2014 and a 2017 World Championship.
But things haven’t been all rosy in group play for the Canadian squads. Both are playing with skips who are accomplished on the world stage, but are making their Olympic debuts. The men’s team, led by Kevin Koe, started a perfect 4-0, but have now lost two straight. The women, led by skip Rachel Homan, are in even more trouble after starting the tournament 0-3. They’ve bounced back with two straight victories, but still sit in a tie for sixth out of 10 teams, with only four making it past the round robin stage.
With Canada’s troubles, another strong team has stepped up to dominate the competition – Sweden. The Swedish men’s team, led by skip Niklas Edin, and the women’s team, led by skip Anna Hasselborg, are both undefeated so far in group play, the only undefeated teams in each tournament.
The success isn’t much of a surprise. Sweden’s women’s team won silver at the Sochi Games and third at the most recent World Championship. The 28-year-old Hasselborg is playing in her first Olympics. While the Swiss haven’t been dominating in the stats department, they’re still outscoring opponents 37-26 in five games, with a +11 differential that’s third best among all teams. Hasselborg is shooting 84 percent in PyeongChang.
The women have won three games by just one point, and another Sunday over Great Britain by two points in extra ends to become 5-0.
“We keep focusing on every shot in every game, just be in the moment and just have a lot of fun,” Hasselborg said to reporters in PyeongChang after defeating Great Britain Sunday. “Everyone is playing really well and Sara McManus had a terrific game today. This is one of our best games so far and hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”
The men are just as strong, going a perfect 6-0 so far. Edin’s team won bronze at the Sochi Games, and finished second at Worlds last year. Edin, playing in his third Olympics, is shooting 89 percent in PyeongChang, and none of Sweden’s four players are shooting less than 85 percent.
“I am not surprised we are playing well but I am surprised we are both undefeated so far,” Edin said, “because that takes a lot at the Olympic Games to not lose any games. We have a few more to come, so it could switch around in a hurry. We have to try to keep it up and keep our focus out there.”
With just three games for the men and four for the women remaining, there’s no guarantee Sweden will make the semifinals, though it’s a good bet. The women’s team has a crucial match against South Korea Sunday night, one of the biggest surprises in these Games. South Korea is 4-1, tied for second overall, with a +12 score differential. Sweden also has to play Japan, also sitting 4-1.
The Swedish men’s team has a bit of an easier road the rest of the way, though wins are not guaranteed. They’ll face Switzerland (4-2), Italy (2-4) and Norway (3-3) to finish round robin play.