Both Japan and Great Britain’s women’s curling teams needed to win on the final day of round-robin play to reach the semifinals of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Now, both teams will be playing in the final game.
In dual upsets, Japan took down No. 1 seeded Sweden and Great Britain came back from an early deficit to defeat No. 2 Sweden in the semifinals. Japan and Great Britain will now face off in the gold-medal game, both teams looking to make history.
Here’s what to know about the gold-medal game and how to watch it:
Canada, Great Britain, Japan, and South Korea all came into the final night of the women’s curling round robin fighting for two open spots in the tournament semifinals. There were a dozen different scenarios that would determine the last two spots based on how the final games played out, and it still came down to a tie.
Great Britain and Canada both finished Session 12 with victories, while Japan and South Korea finished the night with losses. After all games were played, there was a tie between GBR, Japan, and Canada, all with 5-4 records overall. Because each team had beaten each other during round-robin play, the tiebreaker was determined by draw shot challenge, and Canada was the odd team out.
Great Britain took the No. 3 seed and Japan was No. 4.
Both teams had to pull off upsets to get to the gold medal game, and do so in dramatic fashion.
In Japan's semifinal against Switzerland, a 4-point end by the Japanese team gave them a lead, and they played nearly perfectly from there on the way to an 8-6 win. Switzerland was the No. 1 seed going into the semifinals after going 8-1 in round-robin play.
“I am so happy they were able to have fun today in the semifinal. You can see how happy they were from their smiles,” Japan coach Ryoji Onodera said of the semifinals win.
Great Britain defeated Sweden, the defending gold medalists, in the semifinals despite falling behind 4-0 in the first end. Team GBR ended up winning the high-scoring contest, 12-11 in 11 ends.
“During the round robin we didn’t play bad – we played well,” said Great Britain skip Eve Muirhead. “I was very pleased with how we played and I knew we just needed to sharpen up on tiny little things here and there. And that’s exactly what we did.
“I’ve always said to the girls, it is not over until that last stone is thrown… This is the Olympic Games and there’s nerves that are high and there’s always things that happen that are a bit of a surprise, so we stuck in there until the very end.”
Japan last won Olympic bronze in 2018. Since then, the team finished fourth at the 2019 world championships, but failed to place in the top 8 at worlds in 2021.
Great Britain, which finished fourth at the 2018 Olympics after falling to Japan in the bronze medal game, has also not had as much international success since then. Muirhead’s team most recently finished eighth at the 2021 world championships.
Great Britain defeated Japan, 10-4, when the two teams met in round-robin play at these Olympics
"We are actually really looking forward to playing Team Muirhead because they are my favorite team of all,” said Japan’s Chinami Yoshida. "We are ready to play the best game in the Olympics.”
“I’ve played Japan so many times,” Muirhead said. “We had a great game against them here and beat them so I can assure you that it’s going to be a very good game… It’s going to be close. No doubt it will come down to that very last stone again, but that’s curling, isn’t it? I expect it to come down to that last stone.”
Satsuki Fujisawa has been seen with a message written on her hand during games that reads “I’m a good curler. I have confidence. Let’s have fun!”
View social media post: https://twitter.com/WholesomeMeme/status/1494681421293752336
Playing with confidence and joy has been important for Japan at the Olympics. Their coach said the team is going into the gold-medal game just hoping to have a good experience.
“Olympics is about timing and responding strategically to opportunities. It’s a competition of mentality,” Fujisawa said. “It’s vital to examine closely our own strengths and weaknesses, and those of our opponents.”
“I heard that they give you Bing Dwen Dwen if you win. It would be great if I get one as well," Onodera said. "But it’s OK if we don’t. I just want them to have fun."
Japan’s curling team is guaranteed to win the country’s second-ever women’s curling medal, but gold would be a first.
Great Britain’s lone women’s curling gold medal came in 2002. The country has only won one other women’s curling medal, a bronze in 2014 on a team also skipped by Muirhead.
Muirhead is guaranteed to become just the fourth women’s curler to win multiple Olympic medals.
“I’m stuck for words. That’s the third time I’ve been in an Olympic semifinal and ever since I’ve not made it to the final. It has been my dream to get to that final game,” Muirhead said. “This year has been tough, it’s been a roller coaster and there were times when I never thought I’d be back here. To come back here and to get the chance to go for that gold medal really is a dream come true.”
Great Britain’s men’s curling team won silver at this year’s Games.
“I'm just so glad all the (Great Britain) curlers that have come are all getting a medal,” said GBR’s Jennifer Dodds. “I'm just so happy that we've proven ourselves… It's so exciting for British curling. I just hope people keep watching and keep getting into it. It's not just every four years. I hope people will get into it and love it as much as we do.”
HOW TO WATCH
Great Britain and Japan will face off for the women's curling Olympic gold medal at 8:05 p.m. ET Saturday.
Great Britain vs. Sweden – TV – 8:05 p.m. ET – CNBC