The U.S. men’s curling team wanted to make a statement in their PyeongChang opener, and in their all white uniforms they did.
The men, led by Skip John Shuster, scored three points in two different ends on the way to an 11-7 win over Korea.
“Definitely not the best we can put out there, but very solid,” Shuster said to reporters after the game. “We executed the basic shots and when we got misses and half shots from the other team we capitalized on it. We wanted to focus on rock positioning and take advantage of any nerves that maybe those guys might have coming out there – and we executed on both those things very solidly today.”
The U.S. scored two in the opening end after Korea’s final throw went through the house, a good start that set the table for the rest of the contest.
The Koreans answered with two of their own in the second, but Shuster was able to one-up them in the third, capitalizing on another Korean mistake for a takeout and three points to go up 5-2 early.
Korea again made a mistake on their final throw in the fifth, going too hard through the house, and the U.S. again made them pay by easily placing their hammer throw for three more points. The Americans led 8-3 at the midway point.
Korea scored three of their own in the seventh to make it interesting, but again the U.S. had the answer. Korea’s final throw landed directly on the button, but Shuster had the perfect hammer throw to not only knock it through but put two more on the board for the U.S.
The U.S. not only had two players making their men's Olympic debut, but they also debuted new outfits - white pants, which run counter to the black most teams have become accustomed to wearing.
“I think that actually helped us relax a bit too, we came out there nice and loose and had a few laughs about it," Shuster said of the new pants. "I think is was last week in Japan [during training] that we decided ‘maybe give the white on white a try’… you are not going to compete with the Norwegians that’s for sure. I think we are looking good out there!”
Korea scored once more in the eighth, but the U.S. scored one of their own in the ninth, and the Koreans were forced to concede the game in the 10th.
The U.S. gets off to a good start after struggling the last two Olympics to 10th and 9th place finishes.
For as much scoring as the U.S. and Korea put on the board, the rest of the games were decidedly more defensive. Canada and Italy each blanked the first three ends, and neither team scored more than a point in an end until Canada scored found two rocks in the house in the eighth.
In the end, Canadian Skip Kevin Koe was able to come away with the decisive double-takeout on the final hammer throw of the 10th end for the 5-3 victory.
Italy got on the board first with a single point in the fourth, but Canada answered with one point in each of the fifth and sixth ends. The teams were tied at 2-2 before Canada was able to get some breathing room with the two point eighth.
The Canadian team, is looking to win its fourth straight Olympic gold. Italy came into the games ranked ninth out of 10 teams.
It took an extra end, but in the end all Great Britain needed to do was sit their final rock on the button for the one point victory over Switzerland.
Switzerland and Great Britain each had just one end in which they scored more than a single point. The defensive battle saw three ties and five lead changes through the 10 ends of regulation.
In the final end, Switzerland’s Benoit Schwarz had his final shot fall well short of the house, setting up an easy final throw for Britain’s Kyle Smith. Smith hit the house perfectly for the victory over last year’s World Championship bronze medalists.
Sweden comes into PyeongChang looking like Canada’s stiffest competition after finishing second in the World Championships last season. They started these games on the right foot too with a 9-5 win over Denmark.
Sweden scored two in the second, three in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take a commanding 7-2 lead through six ends. Denmark scored twice in the ninth end to make it interesting, but Sweden was able to get the final point in the tenth for the ultimate win.
The men’s tournament will resume on Wednesday morning with four more games – Canada vs. Great Britain, Switzerland vs. Italy, Korea vs. Sweden and Norway vs. Japan