March 20, 2012
Expect the unexpected at worlds
By Con Griwkowsky, QMI Agency
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. - The only thing predictable about the world women's curling championship is its unpredictability.
A team can win the whole shooting match one year and finish 5-6 the next. That's what happened with Germany's Andrea Schoepp after she won the 2010 worlds.
This week has proven to be no exception.
On the plus side, Korea has greatly improved on its two-win performance from the 2011 event.
On the minus side, a troika of teams that were expected to do well are faltering and could be on the outside looking in when the playoff round starts Friday.
Scotland's Eve Muirhead has been playing nowhere near the potential she's shown in winning four world junior championships and the world women's silver medal in 2010.
China's Bingyu Wang, who won this event in 2009, also finished Tuesday with a losing record.
The only other former champion in this field, Alison Pottinger of the U.S.A. (2003), is in the same boat after dropping her first four starts.
You could almost figure Germany would falter when Canadian-born Melanie Robillard took over after Schoepp broke her leg in a skiing accident just before the tournament began.
Or, that this event would be overwhelming for Russia's Anna Sidorova in her first year of women's play.
Muirhead has been plagued by consistency problems and nearly reached the boiling point after her Tuesday morning loss to Switzerland's Mirjam Ott.
"I'm getting there slowly," said Muirhead. "What can you do? We were shooting well out there and it came down to one or two judgements. When you're throwing the rock well, you're trying harder and harder. There's not much you can do."
Needless to say, Muirhead's slow start is nowhere near what one of the hottest skips in the game expected.
"No, not at all," Muirhead said. "We now in a situation where we probably must win every game."
The good news is that misery loves company and Muirhead rightly pointed out no team has really shown it's dominant enough to run away with this.
"Other teams are struggling as well as us," said Muirhead. "We've just got to keep strugging out there and try harder. A lot of teams are struggling and it's not just us."
Wang had just one win heading into Tuesday's draws and the three-time podium team seems to be missing the steady hand of long-time third Liu Yin.
"I really would like to win all the last games," said Wang. "There's no time for thinking, just play and try."
The Chinese contingent is trying everything it can to get the team back on track, including lineup substitutions.
"Right now we have to win our games," said Wang.
About the only upbeat skip out of the faltering trio is Pottinger, who has managed to crawl out of last place.
"We can get used to it," said Pottinger after her second straight win in the morning draw -- on a measure against Germany. "It feels pretty good. It starts to build momentum, especially when it's close.
"You really start to believe and gain some confidence. You can put your shoulders back a bit."
Part of Pottinger's problem has been giving up big ends she's unable to recover from. Despite her slow start, Pottinger remains confident she can make a run for a playoff spot.
"Yeah," said Pottinger. "If you see every game out there, it's coming down to the last end. I feel like every team is kinda right in the mix this week.
"We just have to roll off some wins. We know we put ourselves behind the eight-ball, but roll off some wins and let the chips fall where they may."
While much of the field is strugging with ice conditions, Pottinger figures her team has it figured out.
"Actually, I think we figured out the ice a bit more," said Pottinger. "Even for guards, it's a smidge difference you need. It's the same on the peels. We're figuring that out and I think that's making a difference."
Four losses got teams into a tiebreaker in 2011.
The way this field is starting to separate, five may be too many.