BEIJING (Reuters) – Reigning champions United States survived a war of attrition on the ice against the ROC, while Canada skip Brad Gushue marked his Olympic return with a win as the men’s curling competition got underway at the National Aquatics Centre on Wednesday.
U.S. skip John Shuster’s rink, who upset heavyweights Sweden four years ago in Pyeongchang, edged the Sergey Glukhov-led Russian Olympic Committee in a cagey affair, ultimately triumphing 6-5 in a thrilling extra end.
“That was a definite grind of a game but getting wins like that does nothing but help us build character and momentum for what is going to be a long tournament,” said the 39-year-old Shuster, who is competing at his fifth Olympics.
“I’ve been blessed with some great teams over my career and I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life… and still getting better so it’s hard to think about stopping now or any time soon.”
Sweden — who have won the last three world championships — began their campaign with a tense 6-4 victory over hosts China as they hunt for an elusive Olympic gold in the men’s event, having won bronze and silver in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
Norway were locked at 4-4 against Switzerland at the halfway stage but escaped with a 7-4 win despite a nervy and error-ridden final end, while Canada scored a comfortable 10-5 victory over Denmark, who forfeited the last two ends.
“It has been a while. Too long, but it’s nice to finally get back,” said Canada vice-skip Marc Nichols, who was also part of Gushue’s rink when they won gold in Turin in 2006.
“Obviously playing at an Olympics in a pandemic is something crazy in itself. But I feel fortunate to be playing in an Olympic Games with everything else that’s going on.”
Teams will play nine matches in the round-robin stage, with the top four advancing to the semi-finals next week.
The women’s competition begins on Thursday before the men’s round-robin continues later in the day.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma; Editing by Hugh Lawson)