The top two seeds in the women’s curling tournament are set to face off with a gold medal on the line.
South Korea and Sweden each won their semifinal match Friday morning to advance to the championship game. The teams combined for a 15-3 record in round robin play.
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s gold medal game (stream live here at 7:05 p.m. ET / 4:05 p.m. PT)
How South Korea reached the title game
South Korea received an automatic bid into the Olympic tournament as the host country. It began round robin play with a shocking upset.
South Korea topped pre-tournament favorite Canada 8-6 in its first Olympic match. Canada had won gold at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
“Since it was the first game, we were really nervous,” South Korean skip Kim Eun-jung said after the victory over the Canadians. “There was a lot of pressure since Canada is one of the best teams in the world, but curling depends a lot on the shots and the opportunities. We took our chances and took our shots.”
South Korea followed with a loss to Japan before stringing together seven straight wins to close out round robin competition.
"They're very resilient,” U.S. skip Nina Roth said after her team fell to South Korea. “They've got the home-court advantage. They like a lot of rocks in play so they put pressure on teams, and I think that's great.”
The South Koreans faced Japan in the semifinal round and clinched a spot in the title game when Kim’s final stone in the 11th end sat perfectly on the button.
"In the beginning of the competition, the main focus was to beat every team we faced,” Kim said after the semifinal victory. “But as we became first in the rankings, we really wanted to get to the final, and we've become more focused on winning the medals.”
How Sweden reached the title game
Sweden, which won silver in Sochi, was not expected to compete for a medal at the 2018 Games. But the Swedish team proved it was a contender for gold early in the tournament.
Sweden registered a convincing 9-3 win over Denmark to begin round robin play and followed that with a one-point victory over Canada.
“The energy level was really good,” Sweden skip Anna Hasselborg said about the win over the pre-tournament favorites. “There were some nerves, but we balanced that really well, and I'm really happy that we got the shots to win.”
Overall, the Swedish team opened Olympic competition with five straight wins before falling in back-to-back games. They then tacked on two more victories to finish round robin action.
“We keep focusing on every shot in every game,” Hasselborg said about her team’s performance after a win on Feb. 18. “Just be in the moment and just have a lot of fun. Everyone is playing really well.”
Sweden tallied multiple points in four ends and cruised to a 10-5 victory over Great Britain in the semifinal round.
"I'm so proud of my team and how we handled all the feelings all week,” Hasselborg said after the semifinals. “This is the most fun game I’ve ever played, so I hope the gold-medal game will be just as much fun or even more fun."
Last time the teams met
South Korea held on for a 7-6 win over Sweden when the teams matched up in round robin play Feb. 19.
South Korea carried a 5-2 lead into the seventh end and pushed its advantage to four in the eighth frame. Sweden rallied with two points in the ninth but failed to complete the comeback when it scored just once in the final end.
"Sweden is very aggressive in their shot-making and strategy,” Kim said following South Korea’s victory. “I think they're one of the top (teams) in the world …We had to concentrate a lot more."
Numbers to know
South Korea is the first team from Asia to reach an Olympic curling final. Regardless of the game’s outcome, the South Korean team will earn the country's second ever non-skating Winter Olympic medal.
Canada entered PyeongChang as the only country to have won a women’s curling medal at every Olympics since the sport debuted in 1998. But that will change is 2018, as the Canadian team, skipped by Rachel Homan, finished with a 4-5 record and was eliminated after round robin play.
South Korea has stolen a tournament-high 15 ends through its 10 games. Sweden is second in that category with 14.
South Korea has outscored opponents by 32 points—tops in tournament play. Sweden is currently second with a plus-21 point differential.
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