GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) The Swedish women won the gold medal in the final match of a marathon curling festival on Sunday, beating South Korea 8-3 in nine ends to leave the ”Garlic Girls” with a silver that is the hosts’ first-ever Olympic medal in the sport.
Sweden took control of the match by stealing a point in back-to-back ends – the fourth and the fifth – even though Korea had the last-rock advantage known as the hammer. After Korea mustered just one point in the sixth, Swedish skip Anna Hasselborg delivered a takeout on her final rock of the seventh to score three points and open a 7-2 lead.
The Koreans picked up one point in the eighth, but when they couldn’t keep the Swedes from scoring in the ninth, they conceded.
The Swedes hugged and jumped up and down on the ice. Korean skip Kim Eun-jung, who became a folk hero with her unexpected rise to the Olympic podium, took off her iconic owlish glasses and wiped tears away from her eyes.
With King Carl XVI Gustaf in the stands, the Swedes erased some of the sting from a night earlier, when their top-seeded team was upset by the Americans in the men’s final. The Swedish women are among the sport’s dominant powers, with five medals – three gold – in the six Olympics since curling joined the Winter Games.
Once again, curling enjoyed its quadrennial moment in the sun, with fans around the world tuning in to see the sliding and the sweeping and the clattering rocks. No one – not even the disappointed Canadians , who failed to medal in either the men’s or women’s event – took to the sport more excitedly than the hosts.
Fans cheered each shot – sometimes mistakenly – and waved South Korean flags for their ”Garlic Girls,” a playful foursome that took on the nickname of the pungent bulb grown in their home county. Korea had never qualified for an Olympic curling tournament before Sochi in 2014.
And it’s not just in Korea.
In the United States, fans watched in the middle of the night to see John Shuster’s team beat Sweden to win gold – just the second Olympic curling medal in American history. The actor Mr. T and football players like Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt reached out on social media, giving the curlers respect as athletes that they sometimes struggle for amid all of the jokes about brooms and beers.
In Pyeongchang, curling was the busiest sport; from the first match of the new mixed doubles discipline – a day and a half before the lighting of the cauldron – to the end of the women’s final, there were 18 straight days of competition, some with as many as four matches in each of three sessions per day.
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