Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Swedish rockers play conservative game

AP , PINEROLO, ITALY

Sweden's skip Anette Norberg, center, releases the final stone as Sweden competes against Switzerland for the gold medal in curling in Pinerolo, Italy, on Thursday. Sweden defeated Switzerland 7-6 in the 11th end.

PHOTO: AP

The Swedish women's curling team rock 'n' rolled its way to another medal -- this one Olympic gold.

Stars of a head-banging, leather-and-chains music video back home, the Swedes played a conservative game on Thursday night to beat Switzerland 7-6 with a double-takeout on the last stone of an extra end.

Canada beat Norway 11-5 in eight ends earlier to take the bronze.

Switzerland rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the 10th and final end of regulation to force the extra end.

In the 11th, Switzerland put one stone in the middle and piled guards in front of it before Swedish second Cathrine Lindahl took out two stones with one shot to get the edge back.

Skip Mirjam Ott curled her first stone -- Switzerland's second-to-last of the game -- around a guard, but it didn't get inside the Swedish one that was sitting on the lip of the red 1.22m circle.

For their last stone of the Olympics, the Swiss talked over their options and Ott knocked Sweden out of the zone. That meant if the Swedes could convert with the hammer, the gold medal was theirs.

They called time out. The crowd made some noise. And then it fell quiet again.

Swedish skip Anette Norberg pushed out of the hack and let the rock slide. It curled into the target area and knocked away both Swiss rocks for the victory.

"The game was going back and forth, back and forth," Swedish lead Anna Svaerd said. "One end I feel like we would win. The next I feel we would lose. But we have mental strength, which helps us in those situations."

Sweden won the bronze medal in Nagano, when the sport was promoted to full Olympic status. Norberg was an alternate on the team that won the curling silver when it was a demonstration sport in Calgary in 1988.

Ott gets a second Olympic silver to go with the one she earned as the third in Salt Lake City. But she's still looking up at the Swedes, who have won the last six European titles -- beating Switzerland each of the last three years.

"Sweden is always good," Swiss third Binia Beeli said.

"Two years ago at the Europeans it was not so close. In December it was close. Now this was really close," she said.

The venue 45 minutes outside of Turin didn't come to life until the end, as the teams played a cautious chess match of waiting for the other's mistake.

Occasional chants of "Hop Suisse!" and the clanging of cowbells quickly dissipated, making it possible to hear the curlers call for shots or frenzied sweeping.

The Swedish fans, some wearing flags as ponchos and foam curling rocks as hats, chanted across the building and sang the chorus from Hearts on Fire, the heavy metal song their team appeared in a video for as part of their Olympic preparation.

Sweeping the band HammerFall by the unlikely score of 80-0 in an error-filled curling match, the Swedes sang into their broomsticks and gradually morphed into hairsprayed and leather-clad rockers.

Ott made a delicate tap-in for two points in the eighth to make it 5-4, but now Sweden held the hammer and the advantage that comes with it. With two Swiss stones poised to score, Norberg made an easy draw right to the middle of the target and a 6-4 lead.

Turning back to their conservative play in the final end of regulation, the Swedes tried to continue knocking out the Swiss rocks, but missed several shots to create an opening. Ott's rock in the 10th end was an easy takeout for two points that made it 6-6 and sent the game into extra ends.

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