Swiss joy, Russian flourish into Euro curling finals

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BASEL, Switzerland – It was a truly and methodically grand display of high-performance curling for Andi Schwaller's newfangled Swiss team against Scotland's powerhouse David Murdoch squad in this morning's semi-final of the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships (WCF photo by Urs Raeber).

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Switzerland are through to Saturday's final and the St. Jakob Arena will be throbbing for Eurosport's live TV coverage to some 100 million households. Hopp Suisse!

Now for the women's semi. Moments ago, Swiss second Valeria Spälty made a wicked come-around in the extra-end against Russia and somehow the Swiss managed to cling desperately to that steal stone through the next six rocks. On the final Russian stone of the game, skip Ludmila Privivkova was facing that stone – now double-guarded on the centre line – with only a Swiss guard tight to the rings, but a full three feet off to the side.

Bedlam ensues. Privivkova made the runback double on the side rock, removing both Swiss stones, to count her two biters for the 7-5 win.

Oh yeah... did we mention she had to spill the counter and the shooter amid two Russian stones in the rings?

Earlier, the Italian women had beaten the Swiss in the Page 3/4 game, so it's Russia and Italy, ranked first and second in the round-robin, in tomorrow's ECC 2006 finale.

Are you kidding me?

NOTES:

• Great run by Ott, who, as we've mentioned, was all over the place at this event. Alternate Manuela Kormann came in after their 0-3 start and seven wins and a last-gasp loss later, the Swiss had one helluva tournament. And through it all, as the WCF writes, Ott careened and lurched through her victories, surrendering late steals before prevailing, and even suffering a spectacular fall during a winning shot attempt on Wednesday.

• Austria's impossibly telegenic sister duo of Claudia and Karina Toth – both of them calendar girls, by the way – have won the Euro women's B-pool, and will compete in next year's Euro A-division along with Finland. They now compete in a best two-of-three challenge series against the Czech Republic to go to Aomori for the Worlds in March. Who is out of the Worlds and down to next year's B-pool? The Dutch and, wait for it... Dordi Nordby's Norway. Oops.

• In men's B-pool action, the Czechs have won the gold and will play in the "major league" along with Italy next year. They are battling Denmark in the challenge series for a spot at the Ford Worlds in Edmonton in March. Gonzo from Edmonton and down to B are Ireland and Wales, both of whom might have deserved better.

• A surprise howdy (Hallo dort) to TCN in the arena from Mike Reid, a fine Toronto shooter now living in Suisse, who is married to a delightful curler, speaks great Swiss-German and is making ice in Biel. Mike's mom is former CCA President/Sherry Middaugh coach/COC curling rep and still a fine shooter herself, Pat "A." Reid. Small world (kleine Welt).

Elsewhere:

• There's still time, we think, to check out CBC Calgary's recent feature on the curling calendar, it's posted at the Absolutely Canadian webpage located here (look for Sunday Edition), but you'd better hurry hard, we think they'll change the content by Saturday at noon ...

• Kelley Law and her (pre-Olympic) ex-teammate Marla Mallett are into February’s B.C. Scotties provincial, and speaking of Law, she’s in action this weekend in Ottawa at the humungeous Canada Cup East, while most of the best Canadian men’s teams are in Edmonton at Cup West ...

• And, Ontario curling fans can watch tape-delayed Cup East action across the province via Rogers Cable on Monday, where all three of that day's quarters, semis and final will be broadcast. There’s also a curling theme to the Big Bad Sports Show, which kicks things off at 2:00pm ET ...

• More relieved Sackville, N.S. curlers speak out about their club’s near-closure:

• Seen this Gushue spotlight in a recent issue of the Toronto Star? Interesting ...

• Oh, the pain...

• More stat geek musings from outside the sport, concerning the recent Black Book of Curling story...

• Finally, this is just beautiful. Click here, then go find the name Ian MacPherson ... and consider condemning someone you know to eternal damnation ...