SOCHI, Russia (AP) — British curler Vicki Adams shrugged her shoulders, stepped off the ice and exchanged a joke with her teammates.
Her team had just lost to fierce rival Sweden in their opening game of the Olympic women's tournament but if there was disappointment, it didn't show. The message to the Swedes was clear: We'll see you again — probably in the Feb. 20 final.
In a heavyweight matchup between two favorites for the gold medal, Sweden landed an early psychological blow on the world champions by winning 6-4 to make the ideal start to the defense of its title. Neither team was reading too much into it, though.
"It's nice to beat them," Sweden skip Margaretha Sigfridsson said. "But we usually meet them more than once during a championship, so we will meet them again. "The final, maybe." Another team making a statement of intent at the Ice Cube Curling Center on Monday was Canada.
Jennifer Jones' foursome crushed 2010 bronze-medalist China 9-2 in a shortened game that was conceded after just seven of 10 ends because of the huge differential. "I couldn't have asked for a better start," said Jones, a long-time star of Canadian curling who was nevertheless making her Olympic debut.
Switzerland beat the United States 7-4 and Russia delighted its raucous fans by defeating Denmark 6-4 in the other first round-robin games. The curlers struggled to make themselves heard on the ice as Russian supporters made a thunderous noise inside the 3,000-seat arena, which was half-empty for the men's games in the morning but was close to full for the women's curlers.
Sigfridsson and her team never lost focus, though. They went 3-0 up after three ends and although Britain chipped away at the deficit to make it 3-3 after the sixth, Maria Prytz made a sublime draw into the target to win two crucial points in the seventh.
British skip Eve Muirhead flopped in the Vancouver Games in 2010 when favorite for gold as a 19-year-old, but much more is expected of her four years on. She cut an exasperated figure in the final two ends, kicking the air and hanging her head.
Like Sigfridsson, she knows there is plenty of life left in the tournament. "I missed a lot of shots early on, which isn't like me, but we'll pull together," Muirhead said. "It's day one. There's such a long way to go. I'm not that frustrated."
Sweden's women curlers are aiming for a third straight gold. The 2006 and '10 titles were won by Anette Norberg's team. If anyone is going to stop the Swedes or the British, it's likely to be Canada. Especially on Monday's evidence.
China trudged off the ice after being administered a lesson by the Canadians, who are looking to win women's gold for the first time in the curling-mad country's No. 2 sport. Canada's men are clear favorites for a third straight title.
"Obviously having been there and knowing what it feels like, it's not a great feeling (to lose so heavily)," said China coach Marcel Rocque, who is a Canadian curling great and three-time world champion.
Switzerland has also been in contention for the medals at major tournaments in recent years and the 2012 world champions recovered from going 2-0 behind after three ends to beat a U.S. team skipped by Erika Brown in her third and probably final Olympics.
"We struggled with Erika's rocks a bit," said U.S. player Debbie McCormick, the country's skip in 2010. "They were going a little straighter than the rest of ours and I think that got us into some trouble."