Gold-Medal Favorite Canada Suffers Shaky Start in Men's Curling

Canada made a stuttering start to the defense of its Olympic curling title on Monday, following up a scrappy win over unheralded Germany with a surprise loss to Switzerland on a sobering day for the big gold-medal favorites.

By the end of opening day, Sweden was the only team 2-for-2, with wins in tough matches against the Swiss and Britain at the Ice Cube Curling Center at the Sochi Games.

After becoming the first team in Canada's storied curling history to go through Olympic trials unbeaten, Brad Jacobs' rink was widely seen as the overwhelming favorites for the games.

But Canada was sloppy in beating Germany - arguably the weakest lineup in the 10-team competition - 11-8 in the morning and then was upset 5-4 by Switzerland in the evening. It has given plenty of hope to their rivals for the gold.

"I'm a little bit surprised," Sweden player Fredrik Lindberg said. "But they have never been abroad to play a championship and that's something to consider. And they are expected to win and obviously it has to be a big pressure on them.

"If they get a tough start, maybe it starts getting to them."

And it doesn't get any easier for the Canadians — their only match on Tuesday is against Sweden in a repeat of the 2013 world championship final. The Swedes won that in Victoria, Canada, in April.

"We're not sharp, not in a rhythm, not making our shots," Canada's Ryan Harnden said. "But we will bounce back. We are the type of team that bounces back. Tomorrow's a new day."

Joining Sweden in making a good start to round-robin play was Norway, the 2010 silver medalists who have become much more popular for their fashion sense than their curling.

The Norwegians were the talk of the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 for wearing a range of funky, diamond-printed pants during their games. They are continuing the trend here, and emerged for their first game - against the United States in the evening - with another snazzy pattern on their pants.

This time, they donned the Ice Blocks range - a mixture of red, white, blue and gray squares and rectangles.

"We have so many things going on in the closet right now," Norway curler Haavard Vad Petersson said. "We just have to try to get through them all."

Curling's kings of cool proved too strong for the U.S., taking a 5-1 lead after three ends and winding up a 7-4 winner to go 1-for-1. They were playing in front of Prince Hakan of Norway.

With Princess Anne of Britain and Prince Albert of Monaco also spectators at the Ice Cube on Monday, there was a royal feel to proceedings.

Sweden leads the way after beating Switzerland - the reigning European champion - 7-5 in the morning and then winning 8-4 against Britain, which had started by easing past Russia 7-4.

"We couldn't be more happy - two solid wins," Lindberg said.

Britain, China and Denmark all finished the day with one win to their name. Russia is 0-for-2, disappointing the horn-blowing, thunderstick-clapping home fans who created a lively atmosphere throughout the day.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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