Stirling 2019: Stunning win for Latvia

Worlds debutants make dream start to Championship

wheelchair curlers from Latvia high-five after beating Canada on the ice Latvia celebrated a stunning start to their debut Worlds by beating Canada © • World Curling

The first day of the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2019 delivered a shock victory for nerveless debutants Latvia, who beat Canada 7-6 in their first match at this level.

Latvia took two points in the final end of their Worlds debut in Stirling, Great Britain, to seal the victory.

The match was up and down, after Latvia started strongly with a three-point steal and led 5-1 after the fifth. Canada, featuring Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games champions Mark Ideson and Ina Forrest, fought back, taking the sixth and seventh ends to force Latvia to up their game with their last stones.

Latvian skip Polina Rozkova took out a Canadian stone for a ‘hit-and-stay’ with the final shot of the game.

“I don’t understand the feeling yet. Probably I’m happy, yes, I’m happy for sure,” she said afterwards.

“I think what helped is that our guys played really good today. That’s the important thing. I think that every game we need to start from the beginning, so it doesn’t matter how many wins or losses we have. It doesn’t matter what team or what situation we face. It’s just about how we perform,” Rozkova added.

Clean sweep for China

In the evening session Latvia made life hard for PyeongChang 2018 gold medallists China. The score stood at 4-4 after seven ends, but China’s experience showed in the eighth.

China’s skip Haitao Wang had a tricky shot to deliver to secure the win but succeeded in taking out Latvia’s stone to score three points and win the match 7-4.

The victory over Latvia followed China’s earlier 5-2 win against South Korea. The South Korean team were able to take just two of the seven ends played, before conceding the match to the Paralympic champions.

Three-times world champions Russia* also had a good start to the championship after beating Germany 7-3. They followed the first match with a resounding 11-1 win over Estonia.

In the first match, Russia’s victory came courtesy of just two high-scoring ends netting them three and four points respectively. Against Estonia things were more straightforward, with the 2017 silver medallists taking the points in five out of the six ends played.

Estonia, like Latvia, are playing in their first world championship and the loss to Russia followed an earlier 6-7 defeat by the USA. The match went all the way but winning the final end by two points was not enough for skip Viljar Villiste’s team.

Champions make winning start

Defending champions Norway had a straightforward first match against Slovakia, winning 8-4.

Skip Rune Lorentsen, who is due to retire from international competition after the championship, said the result was a better start than Norway has had at recent competitions including PyeongChang 2018.

“At the last Worlds and the Paralympics we had a very bad start with three losses, so it’s better to have this start than the previous ones. We have to keep playing our best but I think we are where we should be and I think we have a level or more we can go,” Lorentsen said.

Hosts Scotland found the going tougher against Switzerland, losing 4-5 after a tense game.

China and Russia lead the standings after the first day.

The round-robin stage of the competition continues on Monday. The teams ranked first and second in the round-robin will progress straight to the semi-finals. The teams ranked third to sixth will take part in a play-off on Saturday (9 March), with the third-ranked team playing the sixth-ranked and the fourth- and fifth-ranked teams playing each other.

The bronze and gold medal matches will be on Sunday (10 March).

The tournament is the first opportunity for nations to earn qualification slots toward the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

*Editor's note: The International Paralympic Committee suspended the Russian Paralympic Committee on 7 August 2016 for its inability to fulfil its IPC membership responsibilities and obligations, in particular its obligation to comply with the IPC Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code (to which it is also a signatory). As a result of the suspension, Russian athletes cannot enter IPC sanctioned events or competitions, including the Paralympic Games.