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Canada's Einarson 2-2 after opening weekend of women's world curling championship

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — Another day, another split for Canada's Kerri Einarson at the women's world curling championship as the host country emerged from opening weekend with a 2-2 record.
Canada skip Kerri Einarson throws a stone while lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard prepare to sweep at CN Centre on Sunday afternoon at the Womens World Curling in Prince George, B.C., Sunday, March 20, 2022. Einarson's curling team didn't let the ice fool them a second straight game at the women's world championship with an 8-4 doubling of Turkey on Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James Doyle

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — Another day, another split for Canada's Kerri Einarson at the women's world curling championship as the host country emerged from opening weekend with a 2-2 record.

Einarson and teammates were on their game in an 8-4 doubling of Turkey, but less precise in a subsequent 11-3 loss to defending champion Switzerland on Sunday. 

After giving up a steal of four in the sixth end, the Canadians shook hands with Silvana Tirinzoni's Swiss foursome that's chasing a third straight world title.

Canada's second day of the preliminary round day resembled Saturday when the Manitoba rink dominated Italy in its first game and then lost to Norway.

"It's not what we wanted to start off with, but it is what it is," Einarson said. "We're getting there and we aren't panicking."

Canada's lone game Monday is against Denmark's Madeleine Dupont (2-1).

While Einarson relishes playing in front of Canadian fans in Prince George, B.C., in the first "normal" world curling championship since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago, the virus remains a sport disrupter.

Scotland withdrew from the 13-country field Sunday because two more players tested positive for the virus in addition to skip Rebecca Morrison and alternate Fay Henderson, who were infected before the tournament started.

"That's a team's worst nightmare," Einarson said. "I just hope that they're not too sick. All of us feel really bad for them because we would never want anyone to get sick."

Gina Aitken skipped a three-woman Scottish team in losses to the Swiss and the Czech Republic. 

Substitute player Beth Farmer arrived Sunday from Scotland intending to play in the evening against Denmark, but two more players on the roster with the virus meant the Scots would not continue.

"It has been agreed with the organizers that Team Scotland will not take part in any further matches in order to protect the safety of our athletes, our staff, all other competitors and those involved in the event, as well as to maintain the integrity of the 2022 World Championships," Scottish Curling said on its website Sunday.

"Arrangements are currently underway to organize the team’s return to Scotland as soon as it is safe and possible for them to do so."

Scotland's remaining opposition — Canada was scheduled to play them Wednesday afternoon — win those games by forfeit. Teams will do their pre-game, button draw because it is a tiebreaker factor, before a 30-minute practice in the time slots vacated by Scotland.

Switzerland, South Korea and Japan (3-0) topped the standings Sunday ahead of Sweden, the United States, Norway and the Danes at 2-1. Canada was alone at 2-2 followed by the Czech Republic (1-2) and the winless Germans, Italians and Turks.

Einarson's shooting percentage was 100 per cent against Turkey. The host country was quicker to adjust to the ice conditions than they were in a 6-4 loss to the Norwegians the previous evening.

But missed hits in the first and third ends against the Swiss gave Alina Paetz, who throws fourth stones for Tirinzoni, open draws for three points for a 6-2 lead.

Einarson's Gimli Curling Club team was 1-3 after the first two days of last year's world championship in Calgary.

"I think we had hoped to maybe have a three and one record, but I think there's lots of event left," second Shannon Birchard said. "We learned that last year, and we're in a better spot than we were last year."

Tirinzoni won her second world crown in Calgary's bubble and her first three years ago in Silkeborg, Denmark. The 2020 championship in Prince George was cancelled because of the pandemic. 

The Swiss are coming off a disappointing Olympic Games. After topping the standings in the preliminary round, Tirinzoni lost both the semifinal and the bronze-medal game in Beijing.

"It's almost like we need to come back out after the Olympics just to kind of get on the winning road again," the Swiss skip said

There were 1,527 fans at the CN Centre – a nearly 6,000-seat arena – to watch Sunday's late draw that included Canada versus Switzerland.

"We haven't played in front of a crowd for almost two years now," said Tirinzoni. "This was . . . fantastic. They were cheering for them, but they were fair. They were also like, applauding for us. It was really special actually, just to hear the people making some noise."

The top six teams at the conclusion of the round robin Friday advance to the playoff round. The top two earn byes to Saturday's semifinals with third through six playing off to join them. The medal games are Sunday.

Malfunctioning handles in the curling stones in Prince George meant hog-line violations went to the honour system Sunday.

The same problem occurred in Beijing, although the World Curling Federation stones used at the CN Centre are a different set.

Sensors in each stone's handle determine whether the rock is released before touching the hog-line. A green light indicates a legal delivery, while a red light indicates a violation and the stone gets pulled.

For the rest of the women's championship, it will be up to players to call any violations as was the case midway through men's and women's team curling in Beijing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press