Becca and Matt Hamilton haven’t always enjoyed fast starts in mixed doubles curling competitions, but the McFarland siblings opened the Winter Olympics tournament in fine form.
The U.S. team defeated Anastasia Bryzgalova and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii of Russia 9-3 today in the opening event at the 2018 Games in Gangneung, South Korea.
The Hamiltons burst out to a 3-0 lead after one end thanks to a double takeout by Becca Hamilton on the last shot. They then took advantage of miscues later by Bryzgalova and Krushelnitckii, the 2016 mixed doubles world champions, to widen their advantage.
The result was a positive start for the Hamiltons, which went against their trend at major domestic events.
At the U.S. national championship last year, they lost three of their first four games and were forced to win two tiebreaker matches to advance to the quarterfinals. Once there, they won the title.
And in the Olympic trials last December, the Hamiltons started 0-2 and were close to a third straight loss before recovering to win their final seven matches and the U.S. berth in the first mixed doubles Olympic event.
Mixed doubles halves the number of competitors per team to two and is played to eight ends instead of the 10 contested in full team competition. Teams throw five stones per end, with one stone per team pre-placed in the house.
After the Russians scored two in the second end, the Americans were held to one in the third for a 4-2 lead. Becca Hamilton threw her final shot through the house to avoid disrupting the placement and possibly giving the Russians a steal of points.
The Hamiltons scored without the last shot in the fourth and fifth ends to take control.
Down 5-2 after allowing a U.S. point in the fourth, the Russians had to throw out their third shot in the fifth end when Krushelnitckii touched the stone while sweeping.
That opened the door for the Hamiltons to score twice and go ahead 7-2.
“You know in mixed doubles you’re never safe with a three-point lead,” Becca Hamilton said. “Anyone can score big ends, so we’re just focusing on capitalizing on their misses and coming out with the win at the end of the day.”
The U.S. conceded one point in the sixth end but put the game away in the seventh.
Bryzgalova’s throw on the Russians’ third shot of the end sailed through the house. Becca Hamilton drew to the button with the last shot for two points and a 9-3 lead that the Russians conceded they couldn’t overcome in the final end.
Becca Hamilton was the top shotmaker in the opening round of games at 85 percent. Matt Hamilton was at 81 percent.
“Nice to get out on the ice, surprisingly didn’t feel any jitters,” Matt Hamilton said.
The Hamiltons were due back on the ice later today (5:05 a.m. Madison time) to play the Canadian team of Kaitlin Lawes and John Morris in their second of seven games in the round-robin setup. The Canadians lost their opener 9-6 to Norway.
The top four teams qualify for the Feb. 12 semifinals.