Saturday, December 16, 2006

Swiss men end 20-year Euro curling drought

BASEL, Switzerland – It was going to take a special performance to upend defending world champion Scotland in the final of the 2006 Le Gruyère European Curling Championship (WCF photo by Urs Räber).

To the joy of a boisterous home crowd at St. Jakob Arena, Switzerland's new – and now disbanded – all-star team did just that, beating Scotland's David Murdoch 7-6 to win the championship (WCF photo by Urs Raeber).

Skip Andreas Schwaller and new temporary teammate Ralph Stöckli rode their experimental lineup right through the eight-day event, ably supported by front-enders Thomas Lips and Damien Grichting, in winning their country's first European title in 20 years.

Now Stöckli returns to his regular team, and will challenge Schwaller for the Swiss championship in January, for the right to compete in the Ford World Curling Championship in March.

"Yes, he goes back to his team and we will actually play each other in the first game next month," said Schwaller. "It's funny how it goes. We will be opponents as always, except for this one event, this one time, and that makes it special."

Murdoch's men fell behind 3-1 and 5-2 before roaring back with a three-ender in the seventh frame. With the Swiss clinging to a nervous 6-5 lead in the 10th, the Scots maneuvered well to lurk for the deuce, but an uncharacteristic miss on Murdoch's first stone forced him to take the tying single with his last rock.

Switzerland held the hammer in the extra-end, played it cool, and after a critical double-takeout on his first rock, Schwaller made a cool draw to the four-foot for the win.

After the top three placements - Per Carlsen's Swedish foursome claimed the bronze - an additional five teams claimed berths in the Worlds for their nations: Germany, Norway, Finland, France and Denmark, which held off a stubborn Czech Republic, the B-pool champions, in a challenge series.

Italy took the B-pool silver, and Russia the bronze.

It was a day of firsts in Basel as Russia's women, led by 20-year-old Ludmila Privivkova, won their first-ever major championship in a 9-4 victory over Italy in the women's final.

The Swiss men, well known for Olympic medals and decent showings at world events, last won the European Championship in 1986, when Felix Luchsinger defeated Sweden's Göran Roxin in Copenhagen.

At next year's Le Gruyère European Curling Championship in Fussen, Germany, B-pool qualifiers Italy and the Czech Republic graduate to the A-division, while Ireland and Wales both drop to the B-pool.


1. Switzerland, 9-2, Gold
2. Scotland, 8-4, Silver
3. Sweden, 7-5, Bronze
4. Germany, 6-4
5. Norway, 6-5
6. Finland, 5-5
7. France, 5-6
8. Denmark, 3-7
9. Ireland, 3-7
10. Wales, 1-8

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