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Norberg The Greatest Ever?

This blogpost is all about the Swedes. Well, almost all of it.

First up on Day 11 is the Bronze Medal Game, featuring China versus Switzerland. Bingyu Wang versus Mirjam Ott. The defending world champion Chinese now admit they were looking ahead to the Gold Medal Game in yesterday’s semifinal battle with Sweden (photo), and that is an obvious no-no. The semi result was a reversal of last year’s world final in Korea, and now the Wang Gang must regroup to face a very disappointed Swiss side, which also lost their incredibly sloppy semifinal with Canada.

Yesterday we speculated that Ott, riding a six-game winning streak, was going to come out gangbusters against the Canadians, who would have to be on top of their game. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as both squads struggled.

The Swiss summed up the afternoon perfectly in the fateful 10th end. First, the two-time and defending Olympic silver medallist Ott navigated a tough port with an amazing shot, only to miss a wide-open hit on her next effort (she rolled out) for two points and the extra end.

Which brings us to the Swedes.

Anette Norberg and Co. may very well be the greatest curling team in history. Olympic gold, two world championships and a huge number of European championship titles constitutes a remarkable resumé, and we can now add Olympic silver – at minimum – to that tally.

Gold would merely make it a landslide.

The squad has had a tricky 3.5 years. They captured the 2006 world crown just weeks after their Torino triumph, but then played poorly at the Aomori worlds in 2007, and missed the 2008 worlds entirely. They did make the 2009 worlds final against China, but had a spare player at lead stone.

The squad did capture another European crown but then lost the 2008 final to Ott – and in Sweden, no less – and finished way back in fifth position this past December. A photo of Norberg in the crowd during the playoff games – knitting – didn’t do much to curb speculation that the team had lost some focus.

Ditto their fall results on the Champions Tour (the European version of the World Curling Tour) which tailed off, after previous solid play.

All this is now water under the bridge. The close-knit foursome started strongly, recovered from a minor mid-schedule swoon and thumped China in the semis to book their return to the championship final. Now, the lure of gold glitters once again.

Their return to the final has certainly been quiet. Much attention has been focussed on Canada, and specifically the home team’s “Curlgar” skip. The sheer volume of newbie curling media – both traditional and social, and much of it U.S.-based – has far, far outweighed any column inches dedicated to the Swedes.

In fact, all we’ve seen with any regularity is a slow but steady rediscovery of their pre-Turin 2006 music video with heavy metal thrashers Hammerfall, in all its awesomeness, which can be seen here. If this intrigues you to no end, be advised that The Curling News was the first media outlet in the world to promote this outside of Sweden (here) and we followed it up with their first live concert appearance here, and here, and a little Joan Jett action here.

Let us conclude with this thought. Canada’s Cheryl Bernard foursome has managed to qualify for the Gold Medal Final despite some very conservative strategy, some misses along the way and a surprisingly poor performance in the semi. It stands to reason they’ll need to bear down in the chase for gold.

Because they’re playing against the best women’s team that curling has ever seen.

[Sweden photo copyright The Curling News by Anil Mungal. Click on image to increase size]

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