Swedes, Canadians vie for curling gold hat-trick
Published: 09 Feb 2014 09:17 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Feb 2014 09:17 GMT+01:00
Sweden's women's curlers and Canada's men's team are both chasing golden hat-tricks in Sochi as they seek to extend their Olympic stranglehold on the sport.
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Sweden, led by Margaretha Sigfridsson, 38, will be confident they can make it three golds on the bounce after triumphing against Scotland in the final of the European championships in Norway in November.
British skip Eve Muirhead, 23, who led Scotland to the world title in Latvia earlier last year, welcomed a clash against Sweden -- the first day of action on the ice.
"Sweden are one of the top teams here but for us I think it's a good thing that we're starting off against one of the top-seeded teams," she said. "We've got to go out there and bring our 'A game' when we play them."
Canada's women, who last won the Olympic crown in 1998, have unfinished business after they were denied an emotional win on home ice by Sweden in 2010.
Skip Jennifer Jones, 39, said: "The ice here is fantastic and the facilities are amazing. We couldn't have asked for anything better. We can't wait to play our first game and make the play-offs."
The top-ranked Canadians, who took gold in 2006 and 2010, also won three consecutive men's world titles from 2010-2012 before finishing second behind Sweden in front of their own fans last year.
Brad Jacobs, 28, is skip of the team, which includes brothers E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden, and has the tough task of following in the footsteps of the Vancouver gold medallists, who boasted an unblemished 11-0 record.
He said he was impressed by the Ice Cube Curling Centre in Sochi.
"I've never seen something that bright before," he said. "Definitely a different-looking curling rink but I think when we all walked in there it felt like a good place to win a gold medal."
Jacobs's team finished as runners-up at last year's world championships in Victoria, Canada, behind a Swedish team currently a place behind Britain at third in the rankings.
Swedish skip Niklas Edin, 28, played down the pressure of coming into the Games as reigning world champions.
"If we relax now, then we can play very well," he said. "We need to stick to our plan and if luck is on our side, we might get the same result."
Curling was part of the original Winter Olympic Games in 1924 but it did not return as a medal sport until the Nagano Games in 1998 and the sport captured the public imagination in Vancouver four years ago.