GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Canada’s Olympic curling nightmare was completed on Friday when the men’s team, gold medalists in the last three Games, lost 7-5 to Switzerland in the bronze medal match.
Canada’s men were battling for bronze having missed out on the final for the first time since the event was reintroduced to the Games in 1998 and their defeat followed the failure of the Canadian women’s team to win a medal for the first time since 1998.
It was a monumental double failure for a country that boasts more curlers than the rest of the world combined and their victory in the inaugural mixed doubles event to start the Games will be scant consolation.
Canada’s men were beaten by the United States on Thursday to end their hopes of four successive titles and while they perhaps were carrying a hangover from that, Switzerland had shrugged off their loss to Sweden.
They started strongly and looked the more settled team in a very tight match which stood at 2-2 after four ends.
The Swiss edged 6-3 ahead after seven ends before a fine shot by Canada skip Kevin Koe knocked two stones out to count two for the holders and tighten the score to 6-5.
Switzerland did not buckle, however, and skip Benoit Schwarz, whose remarkable five-pointer against Britain in the playoff sent his team into the semis, was again the man to keep his cool when it mattered, snatching another point in the ninth.
He was slightly off target with his last in the ninth, however, opening the way for Koe to take the game to an extra end but although he dislodged two, the third stayed safe.
The Swiss rink leapt in the air to celebrate, before quickly remembering their manners to shake hands with their clearly deflated opponents - after which they regathered for a mass hug.
After matching their bronze from 2010, Swiss skip Peter De Cruz said the success of their compatriots in other sports had made things difficult.
“It added a little pressure that whenever you went into the dining hall you see all these athletes showing off their medals to their friends and families,” he said.
“That really gave me a lot of pressure, feeling like, well this seems like a huge mountain to climb.
“But we wanted to make them throw some difficult shots, some shots to win the game, some shots to stay in the game and I think we did that.”
Canada’s Mac Kennedy said the failure of both Canadian teams in Pyeongchang should be seen as a reflection of improving standards elsewhere.
“I can tell you that we could have used some more misses this week, if teams were a little bit crappier,” he said.
“But they’re not, they’re damn good. They’ve learned how to win and it’s tough to keep up.
“As a Canadian that wants to win everything, it sucks. But I’m a fan of the sport it’s wonderful so if other countries are getting to finals and winning, then it’s awesome because I love curling more than anything.”
Sweden will play the United States in the final on Saturday with both seeking to win gold for the first time.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond