The margin for error remains thin but at least Team Canada has its mojo back at the world women’s curling championship.
Canada, skipped by Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., won twice Tuesday — including a clutch 6-5, extra-end victory over 2013 world champion Eve Muirhead — to improve to 4-5 and get back into the playoff race.
Canada also picked up a 10-4 win over Italy’s Stefania Constantini at the Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary and now has three straight wins after starting the tournament 1-5.
“We’re definitely not giving up,” Einarson said. “We’re just out there being us and enjoying the moment. It’s a very special moment and we’ve got to embrace it and just go out there and continue to be us.”
They’ve looked much more like themselves the last three games and are now in seventh place, just slightly behind sixth-place China, which has a 4-4 record.
Canada needs to get into the top six in order to make the playoffs and to directly qualify the country for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China.
Canada may even be able to afford another loss and still get into the playoffs, but you get the sense this team just wants to keep the momentum rolling.
“We’re gonna keep fighting and doing everything we can and just keep trying to win the next one,” Team Canada third Val Sweeting said.
“I think we’ve pivoted really well. We told ourselves after the third loss that now is the time and it’s still the time. But all we can do from here is stick together and try to get as many wins as we can and keep wearing the Maple Leaf with pride and just keep fighting out there.”
The win over Scotland was huge for Canada, which plays its remaining games against China (4-4) Denmark (3-4), Japan (2-5) and Estonia (1-7).
The Canadians stole three key points in the eighth end to take a 5-3 lead and held Scotland to a single in the ninth. But, with the hammer in the 10th, Einarson made another of the unforced errors that have been too common this week, whiffing on an open takeout that would have given Canada the win.
The miss sent the game to an extra end, but Einarson made good there, scoring the winning point with a takeout on her last rock.
The good news for Canada is that plenty of playoff spots are still up for grabs.
Although 8-0 Russia (Alina Kovaleva), 7-1 Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni) and 6-1 Sweden (Anna Hasselborg) are clearly establishing themselves as the class of the field so far, and the United States (Tabitha Peterson) isn’t far off at 6-3, fifth-place Scotland’s 5-3 mark and sixth-place China’s 4-4 record are definitely catchable for Canada.
“We’ve definitely been in this situation before where our backs are against the wall.” Einarson said. “We know that pressure and we know what it takes to win. We need to focus on ourselves, us four, stay as a unit, and just embrace it out there.
“We definitely want to keep this momentum going forward and keep doing all the good things that we’re doing out there and then see what it brings at the end.”
Team Canada, which includes second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur, has shown a lot of grit just in getting back into the race after falling to 1-5.
They’ll have a good chance to get back to .500 in their only game of the day Wednesday, against Estonia, a team and country making their first appearance in the world women’s championship.
“We’re feeling confident and that’s all we can do right now,” Sweeting said. “Just focus on ourselves, focus on the shots and take it one game at a time. It may sound cliché but that’s really all we can do that is within our control right now. We’re just gonna keep fighting for as many wins as we can get and see where we land.”
ESTONIA’S HISTORIC WIN
It has already been a memorable world championship, with no fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic, games not being televised because of positive tests for coronavirus among broadcast staff and Switzerland scoring the first eight-ender in the history of the event.
And there was a little more history made Monday night, when Estonia earned its first-ever win at the world level, 11-9 over Germany’s Daniela Jentsch.
“The fact that we’re not going home with a zero on the scoreboard is already a good thing for us,” said Marie Turmann, the Estonian skip.
“Us being here is a big thing and getting that win is just an extra bonus.”
Estonia, competing in the world championship for the first time after five appearances at the Europeans, now has a 1-6 record and sits 13th out of 14 teams.
But Turmann and her teammates from the Tallinn Curling Club have not looked out of place.
“The last games have been so close and we are really in the games with all the big guns here, so it’s a really good feeling to come out with at least one win,” said Erika Tuvike, the Estonian lead.
Estonia has only about 40 curlers and only three competitive women’s teams. Turmann hopes her teams performance here will help to change that.
“I hope this motivates all the curlers we have in Estonia, the ones who are just playing for fun, the ones that are trying to maybe be THE team some day. I hope it just makes it more popular in Estonia.”
Sweden’s Hasselborg, who has played against Turmann many times at the European Championship and at the mixed doubles level, said Estonia’s win is good for curling in general.
“It’s so fun to see,” she said. “I knew they would win some games at this championship. They played really well against us at the Europeans last year. Also, Marie is no stranger to the mixed doubles game, a really great curler. So no surprises there.”
STILL NO BROADCASTS
Of course, no one in Estonia — nor anywhere else for that matter — can see the games on TV.
Tuesday was Day 3 of a COVID-19 outbreak among broadcast staff, which has forced the cancellation of televised games on TSN in Canada and on World Curling TV internationally.
The World Curling Federation announced Tuesday that no games will be televised until at least Thursday afternoon. Any decision to return will depend on another round of testing and approval from Alberta Health.
A total of seven people on the broadcast staff have tested positive for COVID-19, but many others have tested negative repeatedly and they could conceivably be allowed to return to work before the end of the tournament in the Calgary bubble.
The lack of television is making it tough for family, friends and fans of the teams to follow along. The WCF website provides updates but has often been overwhelmed by the volume of traffic, so the best bet for many is shot-by-shot live tweeting coming from the Curling Canada feed.
“I think they’re just trying to keep up by hitting update, update, and also keeping contact with us,” Hasselborg said after her team picked up a big win over previously unbeaten Switzerland Tuesday morning. “We all have family chats so we can keep them updated and that’s a lot of fun.”
It’s the same for the Canadians, who normally have their family and friends around them for these events. Now those people can’t even watch the games.
With no fans. no cameras and no booming voices coming from the broadcasters in the Markin MacPhail Arena, the whole place seems stranger than ever.
“It’s even more quiet now,” Einarson said.
“You don’t have the extra people around and we miss them. We hope they come back.”
WOMEN’S WORLD CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP
At Markin MacPhail Centre, Calgary, April 30-May 9
Russian Federation (Alina Kovaleva) 8-0
Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni) 7-1
Sweden (Anna Hasselborg) 6-1
United States (Tabitha Peterson) 6-3
Scotland (Eve Muirhead) 5-3
China (Yu Han) 4-4
Canada (Kerri Einarson) 4-5
Denmark (Madeleine Dupont) 3-4
Germany (Daniela Jentsch) 3-5
South Korea (Eun-Jung Kim) 3-5
Japan (Sayaka Yoshimura) 2-5
Czech Republic (Anna Kubeskova) 2-6
Italy (Stefania Constantini) 2-7
Estonia (Marie Turmann) 1-7
Canada 10, Italy 4
RCF 6, Japan 5
South Korea 8, Estonia 6
Sweden 8, Switzerland 3
Denmark 7, Germany 6
United States 8, Japan 7
Scotland 6, Czech Republic 5
RCF 8, China 4
Canada vs. Scotland
Switzerland 9, Czech Republic 1
United States 6, China 3
Italy 11, Estonia 5