The Swiss were as surprised as anyone else by their gold-medal victory at the 2014 Ford Women’s World Curling Championship.
Binia Feltscher’s inexperienced Flims Curling Club foursome upset Canada’s Rachel Homan 9-5 in Sunday’s final at Harbour Station.
“I’m speechless. It’s like dream. It’s awesome,” Swiss third Irene Schori said. “We were very relaxed. We had nothing to lose and they were under pressure.
“We are surprised. We did a great job the whole season, but we never thought we could win a medal at the world championship.”
It’s Switzerland’s second women’s world title in three years after Mirjam Ott won it in Lethbridge, Alta., in 2012.
Feltscher won an Olympic silver medal in 2006 playing third for Ott, but Schori, second Franziska Kaufmann and lead Christine Urech made their world championship debuts in Saint John.
It was a deflating end for Canada’s Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Alison Kreviazuk and lead Lisa Weagle out of the Ottawa Curling Club.
The host country boasted an 11-1 tournament record going into Sunday’s final, but a devastating eighth end cost Canada.
Leading 5-3 after seven, the Swiss scored three points on Canadian mistakes and Homan couldn’t recover.
More errors in the ninth forced Homan into a low percentage angle raise double takeout with her final throw.
The Canadian skip missed and gave up a steal of three for the first time in the tournament. Down four points coming home, even a team as potent with the hammer as Homan’s had been couldn’t generate four points.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t finish off that last game,” a stoic Homan said. “We had a really good week.
“The whole game we just weren’t quite making the shots we needed to make.”
Homan went undefeated to win a second Canadian championship and earn a return trip to the world championship.
The skip missed her last shot of the semifinal in Riga, Latvia, last year to give up the steal of a point and the win to eventual champion Eve Muirhead of Scotland.
The Canadians settled for bronze in Riga and came to Saint John bent on moving two steps up the podium, not one. Muirhead opted to focus on the Winter Olympics in Sochi instead of participating in playdowns for this world championship.
Canada’s lone loss of the preliminary round was to Switzerland on Day 2. With runbacks and raises, Homan drained the Swiss of their offence in Friday’s playoff game between the tournament’s top two seeds.
The Swiss felt no weight of expectations and Canada did.
“A silver medal is still an improvement from the bronze last year,” Kreviazuk said. “We worked so hard this year. It feels good to come out of this with at least a medal.
“Tomorrow we’re going to look at the silver and be a lot happier. Right now, it’s a little tough to swallow. I’m still proud and happy. I know I will be tomorrow.”
Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones went undefeated in Sochi to claim Olympic women’s curling gold last month, but Canada hasn’t won a world women’s title since Jones in 2008 in Vernon, B.C.
Homan and Miskew led in shooting percentages at their position prior to the final, but shot 61 and 63 per cent, respectively Sunday.
“They just made more mistakes than they usually make,” Feltscher said through an interpreter.
In the eighth end, Kreviazuk needed to put her draw on the top of the four-foot rings, but her stone stayed top 12. Miskew’s draw was heavy and Homan missed a freeze with her first shot of the end.
She threw big weight to chip off one of her own stones to the button and missed, leaving Feltscher with a draw for three.
“I thought I stuck it for shot and it just kept spinning,” Homan said.
The future of Homan’s team in Canadian curling remains bright if they continue on together as a team.
Weagle, who turns 29 on Monday, is getting married in July. Her teammates are all 25 or under and in the early stages of their careers after earning their university degrees.
The South Koreans, Chinese and Russians are full-time, paid athletes. The federations focus on a chosen few because those countries don’t have Canada’s depth.
Canada determines its international representatives via the natural selection of regional, provincial and national playdowns.
Qualifying for Canada’s 2017 trials requires travelling to World Curling Tour events across Canada throughout the winter to earn ranking points.
That’s a difficult commitment when juggling careers and families.
“It’s not a discussion we’ve had, but I can’t see the girls backing down anytime soon,” Kreviazuk said. “You’ll probably see a lot of us.”
Kelly Scott, winner of the women’s world title in 2007, recently announced her team is disbanding.
“At this point, all the ladies are assessing where curling fits into their busy lives; complete with careers and young families,” Scott said in a statement.
Jones, 39, has a young daughter. It is unclear at this point if she wants to commit to another Olympic quadrennial.
Earle Morris, who had a cult following at Harbour Station, has coached Homan for the better part of the last decade. He wasn’t certain he would be coaching them next season because he too may take a break.
“I think they will have a great future,” Morris said. “The problem with curling and stereotypically with women is life gets in the way. We just have to hope that’s not going to happen with this team. It would be hard to replace anybody on this team in their position.
“Your motivation, suddenly it’s not the most important thing in the world when you have a little baby to worry about or a family to raise or work commitments. It is a challenge for women more so than men in that regard.”
Anna Sidorova claimed the first women’s world curling championship medal for Russia by scoring two in the 10th and stealing one in an extra end in a 7-6 win over South Korea’s Ji-sun Kim.
“I just don’t have enough words to describe my feelings,” said Sidorova, who went 3-6 in Sochi. “Now I’m pretty sure we are able to play at a really high level and we’re able to beat everybody. We just need to execute well and believe in ourselves sometimes.”
Alberta’s Kevin Koe won the Tim Hortons Brier and will represent Canada at the men’s world championship Saturday to April 6 in Beijing.
The 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts will be held in Moose Jaw, Sask., and Sapporo, Japan will be the host of next year’s women’s world championship.
Saint John drew approximately 44,000 people to Harbour Station for the nine-day event. The last world curling championship at Harbour Station in 1999 drew 96,000 when it combined both men’s and women’s events.
Since they were split into two separate events in 2005, Grande Prairie, Alta., holds the attendance record for the women’s event at 60,000 the following year.
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