SOCHI, Russia (AP) — One down, one to go. Over to you, Brad.
Canada is halfway to a gold-medal double in Olympic curling after its women's team completed an undefeated campaign with a 6-3 victory over Sweden in Thursday's final. Now it's the turn of Brad Jacobs' men's rink to handle the pressure of Canada's lofty expectations. They will be big favorites in the gold-medal game against Britain on Friday, when the Canadians go in search of a third straight Olympic men's title.
"Jennifer Jones' team has steamrollered the field and it's been awesome to see," Jacobs said. "Every time they win, we want to come back as well and stick with them. It's great for curling in Canada."
Jacobs arrived in Sochi as Canadian curling's new big thing after a breakthrough 2013 when his team won the national championship, then swept the Olympic trials unbeaten. No team had ever done that — no mean feat in the sport's hotbed, where curling is the No. 2 sport behind ice hockey.
Yet in their first tournament outside Canada, Jacobs and his teammates — brothers E.J. and Ryan Harnden and Ryan Fry — took their time to get going. They lost two of their first three games in the round robin, and it took a heart-to-heart and some video clips of their brilliant displays in the Olympic trials to pump them up.
After that, the Canadians won seven straight games, including a 10-6 win over emerging China in the semifinal, and have looked more like the class of 2013. "Honestly, the discussion we had when we went 1-2 was, 'OK guys, let's forget about what this is, the importance of it, the magnitude, the massive stage that the Olympics is and let's just get back to playing one game at a time,'" E.J. Harnden said.
Britain has come through a tiebreaker against Norway and then a semifinal against Sweden to reach its first Olympic men's final. Both of those games were clinched with deuces off skip David Murdoch's last shot and his confidence couldn't be higher.
"We have had tough games all week," Murdoch said, "and this is going to be no different. We have played them already, we know we can compete with them — we had a shot to win (in the round robin) and missed it by a couple of millimeters."
Murdoch is a two-time world champion and three-time European champion, so will not be overawed by the occasion. "I want the gold," said Murdoch. "You get this opportunity once in a lifetime and it's up to us to seize the day and make some incredible history."
Sweden plays China for in the bronze-medal game that precedes the final. Neither country previously has won a medal in men's Olympic curling.