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February 11, 2014

Favorites already under pressure in men’s curling

SOCHI, Russia — The Olympic curling tournament is only one day old and already the men’s and women’s gold-medal favorites are in a spot of bother.

Canada’s men’s team arrived in Sochi as the team to beat and the two-time defending champions, but a scrappy win over Germany and a surprise loss to Switzerland has put pressure on them going into a game against Sweden on Day 2.

And that won’t be easy for the Canadians — Sweden was the only rink to be 2-for-2 on the opening day and is the reigning world champion.

“They know they are a good team — I’m not going to say they won’t win any more games, because they will — but if they get a tough start, maybe it starts getting to them,” Sweden player Fredrik Lindberg said. “They are only human.”

In the women’s tournament, highly fancied Britain is also looking to bounce back from losing 6-4 to fierce rival Sweden in their only game on Monday. After a bye in Tuesday’s morning session, Eve Muirhead’s world champion British team takes on the United States in the evening games at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

“It’s a marathon not a sprint,” Muirhead said. “There are a lot of games left.”

If Britain slips up again, memories will invariably turn to the Vancouver Games in 2010 when Muirhead went into the tournament as favorite but failed to make it out of the round-robin stage.

The Swedes continue their quest for a third straight Olympic gold when they play Canada in the pick of the women’s matches.

The Canadians also made an early statement of intent in crushing China 9-2 in their first game that was shortened to just seven ends before the Chinese conceded.

“It’s nice to us to be out there, feeling comfortable straightaway,” Canada’s Jill Officer said.

The U.S. men lost to Norway in their opener, so will look to get off the mark against China in this afternoon session.

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