Curling: Australia upsets favourite

Australia got a jump start and then used its experience to beat China 9-6 to win the men's curling gold medal on Saturday.

The Australian team of Steve Johns, John Theriault, Hugh Millikin (skip) and Ian Palangio upset the pre-event favourite in the final at the Maniototo International Curling Rink.

Australia had two big ends, scoring two on the first and three on the sixth.

The rest of the game it was a struggle between the amateur Australians and the Chinese professionals, who have already qualified for next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"It was a struggle all the way through but we never gave up," Millikin said after the game.

"It was just like the semifinals. We made a couple of mistakes but then kept on going."

Millikin (53) started curling in his native Canada 40 years ago and has competed in 10 world championships.

This experience was needed because, while the Chinese train every day, the Australian team had little time to prepare for the Winter Games.

China clawed itself back into the game with singles on the second, third and fifth ends to make it 3-3 at the break.

Australia appeared to have nailed the game when it scored three on the sixth end to lead 6-3.

But China replied with three on the next end to level the scores with just three ends left.

"I was worried," Millikin said.

"We could have played that end better.

"We had the rocks well set up and then decided to play more aggressively. We should have kept it clear. It was my strategy mistake."

The seventh end showed the class of China with all team members contributing.

Second Zang Jialiang gave China two early shots, third Xu Xiaoming played a brilliant shot to blast two Australian rocks out of the house and skip Liu Rui pushed out the lone Australian rock to give his team three points.

This was a crucial stage in the final and was where Millikin's experience counted.

Australia had the last stone on the eighth end and Palangio used it to get the shot and a one-point lead.

Australia added another point on the next end with a steal after a brilliant takeout of the Chinese rocks by Millikin.

Palangio (36) won the gold medal for Australia with a double take-out of Chinese rocks with his last rock on the 10th end.

It was the shot of the game and gave Australia the gold medal.

The most consistent member of the Australian team was lead Steve Johns, who had an accuracy rate of 93%.

Theriault scored 88%, Millikin 78% and Palangio 83%.

China's average was 82% with the best performed being lead Li Hongchen (95%) and second Zang Jialiang (85%).

Japan was always in control of the play-off for the bronze medal after scoring two on the first end and four on the third end to beat Korea 10-7.


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