- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) - Despite entering the Pyeongchang Olympics as world champions and the favorites to win gold, Canada’s women’s curling team has been eliminated from medal contention after a shocking loss to Britain.

It’s an unwanted first for Rachel Homan and her teammates. No Canadian team has ever left the Olympics without a medal in men’s or women’s curling since the sport was reintroduced to the Winter Games in 1998.

“They played really well - they put the rocks in the right spots and we really didn’t,” Homan, Canada’s “skip,” or captain, said after the stunning 6-5 defeat. “Obviously, (we’re) a little bit disappointed. We wanted to try to qualify and make the playoffs for Canada, but we gave it all we had. We never gave up and that’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s sport.”

Canada entered the final end, or period, of the match up 5-4, but the British team had an advantage known as the hammer, which means they were allowed to throw the final rock.

The Brits quickly crowded the center of the target, known as the house, with stones. Homan tried to remove the rocks by throwing a fast-moving stone. But she didn’t quite nail the shot, leaving two Canadian stones close to the center of the house. Homan then faced a difficult final shot, which had to make its way around a cluster of rocks to the bullseye.

It came up short of the target. And it was games over for Homan’s team.

Canada’s uneven performance during the Games rocked the curling world, particularly Canadians who are by far the most feverish curling fans on the planet. The Canadian spectators at the Gangneung Curling Centre, normally the second-rowdiest bunch in the arena next to the hometown crowd of Koreans, fell unusually silent as the players reached over to shake their opponents’ hands in gracious defeat.

The Canadians were struggling to keep up from the start of the games, losing their first three matches and falling to last place. They managed to rally back to the middle of the pack, but faced fierce competition from the rest of the teams.

Though Canada has long dominated the sport, the strong performance from other countries at Pyeongchang has proven that curling is no longer entirely Canada’s domain. The Korean women’s team, considered a longshot to reach the medal round, is now in first place.

“Especially on the women’s side, every single team that was here earned the right to be here and are all amazing,” Canada’s Lisa Weagle said.

Though the pressure their homeland heaped on them to get the gold was intense, the curlers denied they’d let the lofty expectations rattle them, saying they stopped going on social media and reading articles about themselves after arriving in Pyeongchang.

“They are way harder on themselves than anyone else is,” coach Adam Kingsbury said. “I’m well aware of the pressure that’s being placed on them, but they’re in a bubble. So any time they’re in a competition, that pressure and that intensity and that fire you see - that comes from within.”

The women still have another round of matches later Wednesday to determine who heads into the semifinals. Sweden is currently sitting in second place, followed by Britain.


More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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