Undefeated Canada clinches women’s curling gold

With the gold medal wrapped up, Canada skip Jennifer Jones rejoices. Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Ints Kalnins/Reuters

With the gold medal wrapped up, Canada skip Jennifer Jones rejoices.

Her gold medal-clinching rock wasn’t even halfway to the house when Canada skip Jennifer Jones put her hands to her face, soaked in the moment, then jumped up with her broom hoisted in the air.

Jones didn’t need to see the end result. After a 16-year wait, Canada’s women were Olympic curling champions.

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‘‘I thought, ‘Wow — just wow,’ ’’ Jones said. ‘‘We did it, we did it. We are gold medalists.’’

Canada denied Sweden a third straight Olympic title with a tension-filled 6-3 victory at the Sochi Games Thursday, completing an unbeaten campaign of 11 wins — an unprecedented achievement in the women’s game.

The gold medal fills the résumé of Jones, who already has won world and multiple Canadian titles. It must rank her among the best female curlers in the sport’s history.

‘‘We did it in a way that we played so consistent all week on the biggest stage for sport,’’ Jones said. ‘‘We came out and played our best.’’

The Canadians broke up a scrappy, error-strewn final by stealing 2 points in the ninth end when Maria Prytz, throwing Sweden’s final rock, was short with a draw and bumped another of her rocks away from the button.

Instead of potentially being down, 5-4, with one end to play, Canada was up, 6-3. The last end was a formality, with the Canadians playing takeout after takeout.

A smile appeared on Jones’s face as it became apparent there was no way back for the Swedes. And fittingly, the tournament’s best player took the last throw — having spent what seemed like an age scrubbing the base of the rock, just to make sure.

‘‘It’s sad to lose the final,’’ Sweden skip Margaretha Sigfridsson said, ‘‘but after a while we had to be the silver medalists.’’

Anette Norberg was Sweden’s skip for the last two Olympic successes, the second coming in Vancouver four years ago when Canada’s Cheryl Bernard had a meltdown in the final two ends to give the Swedes a 7-6 win.

They put up a good fight in their title defense before a three-quarter-full Ice Cube Curling Center. And it could have been so different had Prytz not missed a great chance for 4 points — and a 5-3 lead — in the fifth end. She failed to make a clean double takeout and was fortunate in the end to claim 2 points to tie the score at 3-3.

‘‘They played a little bit better than us on the important shots,’’ Sweden coach Fredrik Hallstroem said. ‘‘It’s two strong teams, it can go either way.’’

After Jones’s last rock bumped a Swedish stone out of the house to seal the win, she bounded down the ice and, with a joyous whoop, huddled with her teammates and jumped up and down.

Kaitlyn Lawes, Canada’s weakest link on the day with 68 percent accuracy, glanced at her mother in the stands and thought about her late father Keith, who died in 2008.

‘‘I know he would be so proud. This is something he knew we had in us,’’ Lawes said. ‘‘I thought about him a lot during the game. I wish I could share this experience with him. He was my inspiration.’’

The championship means Canada’s women curlers have finally stepped out of the shadow of their men’s teams, who have won gold at the last two Olympics and will go for another on Friday against Britain.

As for Jones, who just 18 months ago was laid up after knee surgery and pregnant with her first baby, the debate has just started as to where she lies in the pantheon of great female curlers. Only Canada’s Kevin Martin has led a team undefeated through an Olympic campaign, in 2010.

Does this make Jones the greatest?

‘‘I would completely, 100 percent, agree,’’ teammate Jill Officer said. ‘‘I’ve felt that a long time.’’

Britain beat Switzerland, 6-5, earlier Thursday to win the bronze medal.

Freestyle skiing

Men’s skicross — Just shy of an elegant and historic finish in a sport where both are in short supply, France’s Jonathan Midol provided a comic reminder Thursday that in skicross, order comes from chaos, not the other way around.

Seconds after countrymen Jean Frederic Chapuis and Arnaud Bovolenta grabbed gold and silver in the Olympic final, Midol was headed across the finish to join them when he washed out landing the final jump.

Gravity did the rest.

Instead of a picturesque moment with arms aloft in triumph after France’s first-ever medals sweep in the Winter Olympics, Midol slid to bronze on his behind. Skis splayed. Poles flopped. Midol laughed.

Skicross won. So did France.

‘‘I can’t explain how it feels,’’ Midol said. ‘‘We had a dream to make the podium with friends. The Olympic Games, three French on the podium is incredible.’’

And unprecedented.

France’s last podium sweep in any Olympics came on men’s vault during the 1924 Summer Games in Paris. Nine decades later in a sport barely out of its infancy, the bleu, blanc and rouge will drape across the medal stand once again.

‘‘We party together,’’ Bovolenta said. ‘‘We share the glory of our victories together and we generally have lots of fun in training, all the time. They were wonderful minutes when we’re on the podium together.’’

Minutes that arrived only after two hours of typical skicross bedlam at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. On softening snow that rode like an indecisive escalator — fast in places, slow in others — the second run of skicross in the Olympics produced incidents and accidents that didn’t play favorites.

Gold medal contender Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden was leading his quarterfinal heat when his skis crossed a few feet from the finish. In an instant he was joined by Jouni Pellinen of Norway and Russia’s Egor Korotkov.

Rather than advance to the semifinals, Oehling Norberg ended up third when his last-second lunge with his arms was edged out by Korotkov’s flop across the line.

‘‘I just lost my balance,’’ Oehling Norberg said. ‘‘It’s my fault.’’

That wasn’t always the case in an event where hard luck doesn’t necessarily lead to hard feelings.

Chris Del Bosco of Canada narrowly missed out on bronze in Vancouver in 2010 when he smashed into a gate in the finals. In Sochi, he was second fastest in qualifying, then went out in the first round of elimination races after failing to find any sort of rhythm over the series of rolling mounds, banked turns and a massive leap at the end that is the equivalent of jumping out of a six-story building at 50 mph.

John Teller of the US spent most of a first-round elimination race battling with Midol for position. Three times they touched, with Teller losing his momentum after the final clash, his unlikely pursuit of an Olympic medal gone.

‘‘That’s skicross,’’ the part-time auto mechanic said.

Nordic combined

Large hill team — After failing to win a medal at the Vancouver Olympics, the country that spawned Nordic combined more than 125 years ago made quite a comeback in Sochi.

Norway won its second gold medal in three days, taking the large hill team event. That gave the Scandinavian country its fourth medal of the Games in three events.

Norwegians Joergen Graabak and Magnus Moan finished 1-2 in the large hill Tuesday while teammate Magnus Krog took the bronze in the normal hill.

‘‘Tuesday was a great day for me, but this is better — standing on top with these friends and teammates,’’ Graabak said inside the stadium at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center after the venue’s final event of these games.

‘‘We had a bit of a rough patch in Vancouver. To be able to take the gold and also three individual medals at these championships is unreal.’’

On Thursday, cross-country ski specialist Moan made up a 25-second deficit on the first leg and Norway outdueled Germany and defending champion Austria in the relay in which each team member skied 5 kilometers.

Final-leg skier Graabak outsprinted German rival Fabian Riessle in the last 100 meters to give Norway the victory by three-tenths of a second. Two-time defending champion Austria took the bronze, 3.4 seconds behind.

Norway, where soldiers first competed informally in ski jumping and cross-country skiing in the late 1800s, finished the relay in 47 minutes, 13.5 seconds.

‘‘I’ve had a lot of good sprints this year, and I knew that if I was the first one into the stadium, I was pretty confident that I would be the first one over the finish line,’’ Graabak said.

Germany took an early lead when all four of its competitors, including normal hill gold medalist Eric Frenzel, jumped 125 meters or better — the only team to do so.

Frenzel, who nearly missed the large hill final because of a virus and finished 10th, was the lead skier for Germany with a seven-second advantage over Lukas Klapfer of Austria. Norway started 25 seconds behind and France 35 seconds.

‘‘I felt really much better than the last competition,’’ said Frenzel, the World Cup leader. ‘‘My body felt today really good. For me it was a perfect Olympic Games: two medals — one gold, one silver.’’

Klapfer, Frenzel and Moan finished the first leg within a second of each other, and that’s the way it stayed for the remainder of the race as France sat a distance fourth, some 30 seconds behind.

Austria was trying to become the first country to win three consecutive gold medals in the team event.

‘‘There were just a few seconds to gold medal, and we made it a good competition,’’ said Mario Stecher, who skied the final leg for Austria.

The Americans, who won a silver medal in this event at Vancouver in 2010, started 1:52 behind Germany in the relay after its ski jumping.

Todd Lodwick, the 37-year-old from Steamboat Springs, Colo., is competing in his sixth Olympics. He plans to retire after Sochi.

‘‘A lot of mixed emotions, that was my last ski jump,’’ said Lodwick, who carried the US flag at the opening ceremony. ‘‘To be at the top [of the ski jump], I just took in the moment.’’

He’s not sure what he’ll be doing down the road. His immediate plans, though, are clearer.

‘‘I’ve got two kids at home that I’m really excited to see and a girlfriend I love more than anything in the world,’’ he said. ‘‘I just want to be home.’’

After winning four Nordic combined medals at Vancouver, including Billy Demong’s gold in the large hill, the Americans will return home without one from Sochi.

‘‘It was tough,’’ Demong said. ‘‘We had some realistic individual expectations. But to be able to come back today and personally have a better day, and have the guys have a good morale throughout the whole thing, is a positive note to end on.’’

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