China through to semifinals in men's curling
SOCHI, Russia (AP) China qualified for the Olympic semifinals in men's curling by beating Britain 6-5 Monday, leaving the British in a tiebreaker against Norway for the last spot in the playoffs.
The tiebreaker will be played Tuesday.
With Britain losing its final round-robin game, the Norwegians would have guaranteed themselves a place in the last four by beating Denmark but were defeated 5-3.
''We beat them in the round robin, we lost to them in the Europeans a couple of months ago,'' Norway curler Haavard Vad Petersson said, ''so it's going to be a close one.''
Sweden and Canada advanced on Sunday. Canada will play China in the semifinals and Sweden will take on the winner of the tiebreaker.
China skip Liu Rui thrust his clenched right fist into the air when his rock settled in the button for the winning point with the last shot of the game.
It's been a breakthrough tournament for the Chinese, who have showed improved maturity, temperament and strategy under the guidance of temporary coach Marcel Rocque - a Canadian curling great and three-time world champion.
China was eighth at the Vancouver Games in 2010 - its first Olympics - and has never won a medal at a world championship.
''You know what, my boys think they can run with anyone now, which is a big part of their success, believing they are as good as the top in the sport,'' Rocque said. ''I have worked a lot between the ears.''
The turning point in the game came in the eighth end when Britain skip David Murdoch was short with a routine draw to the button that would have earned his team a point. The Chinese stole a point, putting them ahead 5-3.
Britain scored two in the ninth but China had the hammer in a tense last end as Liu handled the pressure well in his last shot. He has a tournament average of 88 percent accuracy and is one of the stars of the Olympics.
''The Chinese guy was on fire there,'' Murdoch said. ''It is tough when you are up against a skip who is making everything.''
Murdoch is taking inspiration from the feats of Britain's best-known curler, Rhona Martin, whose team won women's gold in 2002 after coming through a tiebreaker with a 5-4 record.
''We are still in this,'' he said, ''and a certain curler from GB won coming from this spot before.''
Norway's players, who won a silver medal in Vancouver, watched the conclusion of the China-Britain game on TV. There was barely a reaction when Liu nailed his final shot, but there was relief inside Norway second player Christoffer Svae.
If Liu had have missed, Britain would have won and Norway would have been out.
''Right now, we are just happy we've got another chance,'' Svae said. ''We will have to play better than we have done so far.''
The tournament will lose some color if Norway, famous for wearing flamboyant pants during games, loses the tiebreaker. Against Denmark, they donned pants described as ''red and blue splash,'' but it was Denmark skip Rasmus Stjerne Hansen who stood out with 98 percent accuracy stats.
''If we lose in the tiebreaker,'' Svae said, ''we might have to dress up the Chinese.''