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Gold or silver for women curlers

Team members Mirjam Ott and Laurence Bidaud celebrate their semi-final win Keystone

The Swiss women's curling team have guaranteed themselves either gold or silver in Salt Lake City after successfully reaching the Olympic final. Switzerland's men, though, must battle for the bronze.

This content was published on February 21, 2002 - 08:02

Luzia Ebnöther's team enjoyed an emphatic victory over their American hosts in Wednesday's semi-final, winning 9-4 with an end to spare. Just hours later the Swiss men's team suffered a narrow 7-6 defeat against Norway, condemning them to the third place play-off.

"Of course we want more now," said Ebnöther as she looked ahead to Thursday's final against Britain. "We want the gold. We were already dreaming of it a little before the semi-finals and tonight we can dream a bit more. But only until the final actually begins. Then we'll be back to full concentration."

Concentration key

Concentration was certainly the deciding factor during Wednesday's win over a US team apparently distracted by their vociferous home support.

Struggling to find their range throughout the match, the Americans allowed the Swiss to steal one stone in the third end and two more in the seventh.

Trailing 6-4 and without last stone advantage going into the ninth end, the Americans were forced to risk everything and in doing so allowed the Swiss team to grab another three points and the overall victory.

Rare lapse by men

Overall victory also seemed to be within the reach of the Swiss men in their semi-final against Norway but two rare errors by skip Andreas Schwaller saw the team from Biel suffer an unlikely defeat.

Finishing the tenth end with last stone advantage and a 6-5 lead, Schwaller sent his final stone crashing into a Norwegian guard, allowing Norway to level the scores.

As the match went into an extra end Switzerland still held last stone advantage but once again Schwaller was unable to find his usually assured touch. Attempting to take out a Norwegian stone, the skip instead hit one of his own guards prompting instant celebrations among his opponents and disbelief among the Swiss team.

Varied opponents

While the Switzerland will be strong favourites to beat Britain in Thursday's women's final, the Swiss men must now pick themselves up in time for a daunting bronze medal match against Sweden on Friday.

The Swedes, who lost 6-4 to Canada in Wednesday's other semi-final, are the reigning world and European champions, having secured both titles last year with final wins over Switzerland.

Schwaller's men may take some comfort from the fact that they finally got the better of Sweden during last week's Olympic qualifying round, securing an 8-7 win.

The Swiss women will not be thinking along the same lines, having lost their preliminary match against Britain 7-4. That encounter though was far from crucial for Ebnöther's side who had already notched up five successive victories by that point.

In their three previous top-level meetings, the Swiss have run out winners every time.

Even if they do face an upset in Thursday's showdown, Ebnöther's team are already set to register the best ever Swiss result in women's curling.

A gold or silver medal at the Olympics would certainly eclipse the world championship titles won by Switzerland in 1979 and 1983, when the sport was still in its professional infancy.

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