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updated: 2/19/2014 11:43 AM

Canada, Sweden advance to women's curling finals

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  • Canada's Jill Officer releases the rock during the women's curling semifinal game against Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

      Canada's Jill Officer releases the rock during the women's curling semifinal game against Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

SOCHI, Russia -- Canada's curlers gathered in a circle, hoisted their brooms into the air and jumped for joy. Sweden's players linked arms in a huddle and squeezed tight as their tears flowed.

After surviving tense semifinal games that sent emotions soaring at the Ice Cube Curling Center in Sochi, Canada and Sweden will play for the gold medal in women's curling for the second straight Winter Games.

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The Canadians stole a point in the second end and never surrendered their grip in a 6-4 win over world champion Britain, keeping Jennifer Jones' rink unbeaten in Sochi. Canada is assured of winning a medal in women's curling for a fifth straight Olympics.

"It's the game you have dreamed of for your entire life," said Jones, who has been wearing eye shadow with a gold hue throughout the tournament.

Sweden will seek a third straight gold medal after beating Switzerland 7-5 in a game that also went down to the final shot. It fell to Swiss skip Mirjam Ott, who was too heavy with a draw for two points that would have won the game for her team.

"It was a really exciting, close game and it's just great, great happiness," said Sweden skip Margaretha Sigfridsson, wiping away a tear from her eye.

It would be no surprise if Thursday's final is a nail-biter, too.

Canada will be considered the favorite, having completed the round-robin stage undefeated with nine wins -- an unprecedented feat in women's Olympic curling. Jones beat Sigfridsson 9-3 early in the round robin in just eight ends.

Both countries had different skips in the 2010 final in Vancouver, when Sweden won 7-6 for a second straight gold under Anette Norberg.

While Ott's missed split shot with the 160th and last stone was the deciding factor in the Sweden-Switzerland game, the key for Canada came in the first end.

The first of British skip Eve Muirhead's two shots deviated offline after going over a stray hair from one of the players' brooms, and she missed a simple takeout. It allowed Jones to take two points and Canada never lost control from that point forward.

Muirhead said something like that happens in "one in a thousand" shots.

"I just don't think that the curling gods were with us," she said. "That pickup was brutal. Losing a two off the bat from something that you can't control against Canada, it's going to be tough to come back."

Canada went on to steal a point in the second end, after Muirhead missed a hack-weight double takeout. Jones and vice skip Kaitlyn Lawes came up with some big shots down the stretch to stop Britain from getting a deuce that would have put them back into the match.

Jones needed to draw to the button with her final shot to seal the victory. She nailed it, leaving her with 89 percent accuracy for the game.

"To make a big team shot to win," Jones said, "you couldn't have scripted it any better."

Canada has seemed the most assured team in Sochi under the captaincy of Jones, a 39-year-old lawyer who has been her country's top female curler for the past decade and is making the most of her first Olympic appearance.

There was never more than a point separating Sweden and Switzerland until Ott's bold last rock sailed past another of her own stones in the house as she tried to make a split for two points.

She also made a mistake with her other shot in the last end, failing to remove a Swedish stone from the house that would have left her an easier shot for the win.

"The only thing we could do was just sit there and hope that the rock was heavy," Sweden curler Maria Wennerstroem said, "and it was."

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