(Reuters) – Niklas Edin has skipped his rink to two Winter Games podiums, five World Championship crowns and seven European titles and, while Olympic gold has so far eluded him, the Swede aims to put that right in Beijing.
Last year, Edin and his team mates became the first men’s curling team to win three straight World Championships and they will bid for another first in Beijing when they try to become the first Swedes to win gold in the men’s event at an Olympics.
Edin came close in Pyeongchang, losing to the United States in the final.
It is not just Edin and his rink who will return to the Olympic stage — all of the medal winners from 2018, both in the men’s and women’s fields, are back for another shot at glory.
Standing in Sweden’s path are the Swiss team skipped by Benoit Schwarz, who won bronze in 2018, and U.S. skip John Shuster, with the Americans among the favourites again following their triumph in Pyeongchang.
In the women’s field, reigning champions Sweden are primed to repeat their 2018 success despite Anna Hasselborg’s foursome finishing a surprising fourth at last year’s World Championships after losing to the United States in the bronze medal match.
South Korea’s ‘Garlic Girls’ led by Kim Eun-jung, who won silver on home ice after a dream run to the final, along with 2018 bronze medallists Japan and 2021 World Championship winners Switzerland are also in the mix.
The competition is not without newcomers, however.
Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt qualified for the mixed doubles event to become the first Olympic curlers from Australia.
The Czech Republic will also make their Games debut with Zuzana Paulova and Tomas Paul when the competition gets underway on Feb. 2.
Canada, the sport’s superpower, won the inaugural mixed doubles competition in 2018 but will be out to redeem themselves in Beijing after failing to medal in the men’s or women’s events in South Korea for the first time.
The women’s team, who before 2018 had medalled in every previous Olympics, did not progress beyond the preliminary stage. The men had won gold in Turin, Vancouver and Sochi but lost to the United States in the semi-final.
John Morris and Rachel Homan will look to defend the mixed doubles title while Brad Gushue and Jennifer Jones, gold medallists in 2006 and 2014 respectively, are aiming to put Canada back on top in the men’s and women’s events.
(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)