So much for this supposedly being the most open women’s Olympic curling tournament yet.
Canada’s Jennifer Jones is turning it into a procession.
The Winnipeg skip was in solid form Thursday as Canada beat both Denmark and Switzerland by identical 8-5 scores to remain undefeated after five games and move to the brink of the semifinals.
“I don’t know if we are making it look easy,” Jones said, “but we are coming out, playing well and making the big shots when we have to.”
Canada now has beaten all of its big rivals — Sweden, Britain and the Swiss — in the opening four days as it goes for its first Olympic gold medal in the women’s event since 1998 when the late Sandra Schmirler won in Nagano, Japan.
In Jones, Canada has probably the best women’s player in Sochi and she broke open a close game against Denmark by scoring three in the ninth to give her team an 8-5 cushion.
She made the difference in the ninth against the Swiss as well, playing a draw that just slid by an opposition stone to settle in the four-foot for three.
“There’s a reason why I’ve been playing with her for more than 20 years,” second Jill Officer said. “She is a great shooter, a great leader, a great skip.
“It’s great she’s on top of her game.”
Jones thinks Canada still needs two more wins to secure a top-four place. But six victories has been enough to reach the medal round in the three previous Olympic tournaments where there have been 10 teams.
Sweden (4-1) is pulling out all the stops just to stay in reach of the Canadians.
The two-time defending champion won both of its games Thursday on the final shot, scoring one with the hammer to beat Switzerland 9-8 in the morning session, then earning a steal to beat Denmark 7-6.
“We had a really good team spirit today,” said Sweden skip Margaretha Sigfridsson, who acknowledges Canada is the team to beat. “At this point, yes.
“But we aren’t in the playoffs yet. Then it can change.”
World champion Britain was under pressure after losing two of its first three games but beat China 8-7 in the morning session to revive its chances of qualifying for the semifinals.
A day after making a mistake with her game-deciding final shot in a 9-6 loss to the Canadians, British skip Eve Muirhead was left with a routine draw into the four-foot to seal victory against the Chinese.
Switzerland started the day unbeaten and top of the standings, but dropped to third.
The United States stayed alive in the tournament by picking up an 8-6 win over Japan in the evening session. Erika Brown’s rink is 1-4 and still could qualify by winning its final four games.
“Just in the nick of time. We were hoping for that three or four days ago,” Brown said. “There’s still an outside chance we can make the tie-breaker.”
Japanese curler Kaho Onodera was in tears as she walked past reporters after the game. She returned to the team after missing its first three games because of the flu.
South Korea beat Russia 8-4 in the other evening game.
Denmark (0-5) is the only team without a win after four days of the tournament.