CANOE NAGANO '98 ISP DIRECTORY
Saturday, February 14, 1998
Canada in gold medal game
KARUIZAWA, Japan (CP) -- Canada's Olympic curling teams advanced to their respective gold medal games in vastly different fashions.
The women's foursome needed a clutch last-rock shot from skip Sandra Schmirler to claim a close 6-5 extra-end victory over England's Kirsty Hay. Toronto's Mike Harris, however, easily dispatched American Tim Somerville 7-1 in eight ends.
Schmirler takes on Denmark's Helena Blach Lavrsen, a 7-5 semifinal winner over Sweden's Elisabet Gustafson. Harris faces good friend Patrick Huerlimann of Switzerland, an 8-7 victor over Norway's Eigil Ramsfjell.
Schmirler held the hammer in the extra end but Hay was lying two, the shot rock biting the eight-foot. However Schmirler, a three-time world champion, calmly put the rock to the back of the eight-foot for the victory.
"She's the best in the world," third Jan Betker said of her longtime skip. "But it was too close for comfort.
"It looked like it was never stopping."
It was indeed close. Schmirler's deciding stone stopped with about three centimetres to spare.
"All I know is Jan's arms went up and the team started to smile," Schmirler said with a laugh. "That's all I needed to see.
"It didn't matter how close it was."
Hay blanked the ninth, then with Canada lying two, froze to the Canadian shooter to force extra ends.
The Regina foursome curled a steady 79 per cent, but lacked its usual polish. Betker struggled noticeably, too, the effects of a cold clearly evident in her raspy voice. Play in the eighth was halted briefly because Betker had a bloody nose.
"It seems like everything has hit me all at once," Betker said. "We were a little bit off.
"The ice was straighter and there was some frost out there. We were just struggling hitting and sticking, but part of that could be nerves."
Added Schmirler: "It was one of those character wins. We missed some bad shots, which is unusual for our team."
Schmirler finished atop the round-robin standings with a 6-1 record, including a 9-5 victory over Denmark. But Schmirler says she's not even thinking that far back.
"The Danes are a tough team," Schmirler said. "It's going to be a tight, tough game and we're just glad to be playing in it."
Harris had no difficulty in his semifinal. After storming out to a 2-0 lead with the hammer, the native of Georgetown, Ont., stole singles in the second and third to take total control of the contest.
"We got off to a good start with the deuce in the first like we have all week," said Harris, who is nursing a head cold and fever. "Once we got up 3-0 we were never in trouble.
"We played the first three ends really well. I'd say it was more us playing well than them playing poorly."
Despite the lopsided score, lead George Karrys surprisingly said the win wasn't easy.
"At this level it's all mental," Karrys said. "It's how we play against the ice as opposed to the opposition.
"It never gets easy. It's always a struggle with yourself."
Harris, whose rink finished the round robin first overall, is looking forward to facing Huerlimann, whom he first met 15 years ago and whose wedding he attended.
"He's a really good friend of mine and if one of us couldn't win, the other one would be really happy," Harris said. "But if we can play like we did (against Americans) I think we'll be OK."
Canada 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 1--6
Britain 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0--5