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How Swede it is: At long last, Sweden finally wins Olympic men's curling gold

How Swede it is: At long last, Sweden finally wins Olympic men's curling gold
Posted at 4:11 AM, Feb 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-19 08:28:51-05

Sweden versus Great Britain in the Olympic men's curling gold medal game pitted veterans versus newcomers, the world’s best versus the next generation, defending Olympic silver medalists versus the team looking to unseat them.

All but one member of Sweden’s team is older than all members of Great Britain’s team. Swedish skip Niklas Edin and teammate Oskar Erikkson were playing in their fourth Olympics, while all GBR players were playing in their first.

Edin’s team is the 3-time defending world champions. Great Britain finished second to Sweden in the world championships in 2021, but have been hot on their heels ever since. Great Britain defeated Sweden in round-robin play earlier at these Olympics, and were the top seed going into the semifinals.

In Saturday's Olympic finals, the veterans weren’t ready to be unseated by the newcomers quite yet.

The only achievement Edin was missing on his curling resume was an Olympic gold medal, and he got it Saturday with a 5-4, 11-end win over Great Britain for Sweden's first Olympic men's curling championship.

"It feels so crazy, I almost had to ask someone before I came here, 'We have won, right?’" Edin told reporters after the game. "God, it’s nice. It’s obviously been an incredibly long journey with pretty disappointing defeats in a couple of the previous (Games)… We know that the margins are small and it could’ve been the same thing this time too. We could’ve finished fourth with the same play that we had now, so just to get some results from this feels incredibly nice but also a lot more happiness than I thought I’d feel."

Edin said before the game he and the Swedish team would need to use their experience to win Saturday’s Olympic finals. Both teams tried for an analytical approach to the contest, with Sweden blanking the fifth and sixth ends and Great Britain blanking the ninth, in hopes that holding onto hammer would give them more of a statistical advantage later in the game.

The win, though, ultimately came down to physical prowess and one throw.

In the tenth, Great Britain, trailing 4-3, was sitting a stone in the edge of the 8-foot circle. On Sweden’s final stone, Edin went for a difficult runback attempt, one that needed precision down to the millimeter and excellent sweeping to keep both stones in a line for the takeout. It was a shot only one of the best curlers in the world could pull off, and he did, knocking Britain’s stone into the side to leave Sweden lying three.

From there, Great Britain was left no choice but to play a draw for one to tie the score and go to extra ends.

In the 11th, Great Britain skip Bruce Mouat had almost equally as difficult a takeout attempt on his final throw. Mouat would need to hit his stone into one sitting outside of the house, and change direction to force the second stone into the 4-foot circle to knock out Sweden’s sitting rock.

Mouat’s runback attempt spun and went over the top of Sweden’s shot stone, leaving it in place, and ultimately giving Sweden the win.

"It’s completely unbelievable,” Edin said. "It’s an insane end to this tournament, both the semifinal and the final are incredibly well-played and tough matches. We fought all the way to the end and it was down to millimeters in many situations in both games.

"Very tight games and a lot of emotions out there. We felt that we played good enough and that we’re worthy champions but it still felt completely insane and when it actually happens it is hard to understand."

"More than a little bit,” Mouat said when asked if taking the silver medal was a disappointment. “We've been preparing for this for about five years and this is the moment we were hoping to have that win, so we're very disappointed."

It was one of the few times Mouat missed in the game. He tried for a crosshouse double takeout in the second, but didn’t get his stone to roll far enough, leaving it alone in the house. Edin took out the GBR stone with ease while lying his other stone on the outside of the 12-foot, putting two on the board for Sweden to take the lead, 2-1.

Sweden managed to steal a point in the third after Edin got a takeout and pushed a second GBR stone out, hit in such a way that his own stone rolled back up onto the button. Mouat tried for a shot to tap the Swedish stone off the button enough for a point, but came up light, allowing the steal.  

Great Britain needed a big sweep after Mouat’s fourth-end hammer throw seemed light out of the hack. Sweepers Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan gave it everything they had, and it was just enough to be closer by inches for a point for GBR that cut Sweden’s lead to one, at 3-2.

From there, Sweden went defensive, blanking the fifth and sixth ends in order to hammer in the seventh. On the final stone of the seventh, Great Britain had one stone on the button surrounded by three Swedish stones in the house and a line of GBR stones in the T-line as guards. Edin wanted to score the three stones in the house, and went for an extremely difficult hit-and-roll down the line of guards, but the throw overcurled, and Great Britain was able to steal a point and tie the score, 3-3, with three ends to play.

Trailing by one in the ninth, Great Britain had hopes to blank the end to keep hammer for the tenth, and Grant Hardie helped the cause. Hardie had a double takeout to clear the house with two stones remaining for each team. GBR would keep the house clean from there, and Mouat’s team still trailed by one, but had the final throw in the tenth.

"It was a great week from us. We played really well throughout the tournament. We were hoping to have that performance today. It was pretty close but we gave them too much of a head start,” Mouat said. "I think in the last half we were in control, more so than them, but we gave them too much of a head start at the start and we had to battle back. We were trying really hard for that two in 10."

Great Britain’s young team put pressure on Sweden’s veteran squad all night, but like Edin had hoped, the win came down to experience, and few teams in the world have as much experience as Edin's.

"It was a great week from us. We played really well throughout the tournament. We were hoping to have that performance today. It was pretty close but we gave them too much of a head start,” Mouat said. "I think in the last half we were in control, more so than them, but we gave them too much of a head start at the start and we had to battle back. We were trying really hard for that two in 10."

Edin and company leave the 2022 Games as Sweden’s first Olympic gold medalists in men’s curling, and Edin and Eriksson’s three medals from the 2014, 2018, and 2022 Games now makes them the most decorated curling Olympians of all time.

I think that I might wake up tomorrow morning wondering if we have one more match to play. It can take its time. It will feel as good as it can be for a long time now," Edin said. "It feels like there are very few athletes who are more worthy of this than us."

The silver medal for Great Britain is the country's third men's curling medal all time, and first since 2014.

"We're still very proud of that, particularly how we played all week,” Hardie said of the silver. "At the moment the overriding emotion is disappointment that we didn't bring home the gold for everyone."

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