PYEONCHANG, South Korea — Curling doesn’t have a long Olympic history, but it belongs to Canada.
The country has claimed 10 medals in Winter Games competition, including three golds in a row on the men’s side, culminating in a gold-medal sweep from its men and women four years ago in Sochi.
So while the USA's close, 6-4 loss in the second game of the mixed doubles round robin hurts — the brother-sister pair of Matt and Becca Hamilton aren’t much for moral victories — it did make a statement: On an evening when things didn’t go its way, the U.S. showed itself to be medal contenders in the format, which is making its Olympic debut at the Pyeonchang Games.
“We had a good handle on the ice today,” Becca Hamilton said. “We’re just going to have to sharpen up a bit for tomorrow to put a few more wins on the board.”
Earlier on Thursday, Becca and Matt Hamilton netted a 9-3 win against a team of Olympic Athletes from Russia — they played “their best game,” Becca Hamilton said. And of the eight ends against Canada, seven met the team’s standard; one, unfortunately, did not.
The match was tied at 2-2 heading into the fifth end, and then the bottom dropped out: Canada scored three points to take a 5-2 lead, and while USA crawled back to draw within one point heading into the final end, the damage was already done — two missed shots gave their opponent an edge, and Canada took advantage.
“I have full confidence that we can bounce back tomorrow,” Becca Hamilton said.
Maybe the U.S. team was out of its normal rhythm. In their return trip to the Gangneung Curling Centre in the early evening on Thursday, the Hamilton siblings hit on a problem more familiar to media members than Olympic athletes: their bus was late.
Arriving late to the ice forced the pair to alter their routine. Since last year’s world championship, Matt and Becca Hamilton have warmed up for each match by throwing a football back and forth, emulating their favorite athlete, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The delayed arrival cut that exercise short, and overall led the siblings to rush through their normal pre-match schedule.
It might be a stretch to blame a faulty fifth end on delayed transportation. Yet the point stands: Even as things felt out of sorts, the U.S. team still managed to come within one end of a 2-0 start to round-robin play.
“We had one bad end out of 15. So fix that, and we’re going to be a force,” Matt Hamilton said.
USA will start Friday with a morning match against Switzerland, the lone unbeaten among the eight countries in competition, before taking on Korea, which split its opening games against Finland and China.
“Matt and I have done it before,” Becca Hamilton said. “I know if we just come out a hair sharper we’ll be fine.”