Thursday, February 26, 2009

China, Canada into Harbin finals

by Paul Webster

HARBIN, China – After starting the day slowly – and seeing themselves in a 5-1 deficit at the fifth-end break – Canada turned up the heat on Great Britain and managed to pull off a huge win in the semifinals of the 24th Winter Universiade.

Playing in their first ever world playoff game, Canada – skipped by Wilfred Laurier University’s Hollie Nicol – looked a veteran team in both composure and the consistency of their pressure on the Great Britain squad.

The Scottish girls – well, they are Scottish after all – have three World Junior Champions on their team, and they definitely let their guard down in the second half, and didn’t react well to the pressure the Canadian were applying. A number of key misses by their third Kay Adams did not present many great options for skip Sarah Reid.

The Canadians have simply played great all week. With the win, the girls have ensured our Canadian University Team a medal - they simply have to play the final to decide the medal’s colour! And the ladies will be playing none other than hometown heroes China in the gold medal match.

In the other semi, the Chinese demolished Russia 11-2 - not even close. China, ranked as the number one team, now has the chance to confirm that expectation. After all, the skip is Bingyu Wang, and she has two members of her 2008 world runner-up team on board.

In men’s action Sweden beat the Chinese men’s team and they certainly have been the class of the field all week. Norway will play Sweden in the final after having beaten the upstart Koreans in the other semi.

Some interesting notes:

• For Russia this was the first of three straight world championships - here, then at the World Juniors in Vancouver, and then at the World Women’s in Korea. They have elements of their national women’s squad on each team and rotate amongst younger and older players depending on the event.

I have to say, however, that skip Liudmila Privivkova (photo above) looks extremely burnt out. I’ve seen her play in numerous events and she definitely had her worst event of the last few years right here in Harbin. And now it’s off to North America, then rigt back to Asia!

• With the win Canada had choice of hammer or rocks.... we chose the hammer. We then got to select rocks from any sheet for the final. Normally teams will select from a few sets to make, what they feel, is a perfect set. These will then be moved to the championship sheet and the teams will get to practice to see how this new set, on the new sheet react.

However, this is not an option at this championship. I’m not sure why, nor is Norwegian coach Ole Ingvaldsen. Ole has attended hundreds of championships and he is quite sure that this is the first time a team cannot practice with their selected rocks prior to a final.

It was suggested that the team simply selects one entire sheet of rocks... which of course defeats the purpose of being able to take certain rocks from certain sheets.

Jut my two cents, but it’s interesting that nothing ever remains consistent from championship to championship. It woudn’t take much time out of the schedule to provide a 30-min team practice tonight and this afternoon. Ensuring the best playing conditions should be a priority, shouldn’t it?

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