Curling may not be the most exciting sport to the uninitiated viewer, but the ice sport often brings close encounters at the Olympics. Ten teams will be taking part in both the men’s and women’s competition, and as usual they will play a round-robin tournament before heading into the playoffs.
In the men’s tournament, Canada has a positive record against all other nations in the field. An exception is technically speaking Russia, as the host nation is competing in the Olympic curling for the first time. Given their 10th place in the last Worlds, not too much should be expected of them on home ice. Great Britain – or Scotland to be more precise – and Sweden are the only nations to have taken part in all Olympic curling competitions, also competing in that almost forgotten 1924 tournament (which featured France as the third nation). Despite this long history, the Britons have never beaten Canada at an Olympics, while the Swedish curlers fear the Swiss, being down 0-6 in their matches.
Medal-wise, Canada, Norway and Switzerland are the most likely to be on the podium. Canada has won two silvers (1998, 2002) and two golds (2006, 2010), while Norway and Switzerland have won one gold each, and earned three medals in the last four Olympics. Scotland has done well at recent World Championships, though, and Sweden are the reigning World Champions.
There is no nation with a positive record against all teams in the women’s competition. Both Canada and Sweden have a historically been better than six of their nine opponents. Canada has lost its only match against China, and is down 2-3 versus Switzerland. The Swedes, champions in 2006 and 2010, are 2-3 down against the Canadians, and the current host nation, Russia, is also ahead 2-1. New on the Olympic ice sheets will be South Korea, which surprisingly took 4th place in the 2012 Worlds. This brings the number of Asian nations competing to a record three.
Looking at the medal history, Canada has always been on the podium, but have only won the gold once, in 1998. Sweden appeared three times in the top three, placing third in Nagano besides their two titles. With two silvers in 2002 and 2006, the Swiss are the third most medalled nation in women’s curling. Recent World Championship medalists also include Scotland (2013 winners) and China.