SOCHI, Russia >> Canada and Sweden will play for the gold medal in women’s curling for the second straight Olympic Games after winning semifinals that each went to the final shot on Wednesday.
The Canadians stole a point in the second end and never surrendered their grip in a 6-4 win over world champion Britain, keeping Jennifer Jones’ rink unbeaten in Sochi.
Sweden stayed on course for a third successive gold medal by beating Switzerland 7-5. Swiss skip Mirjam Ott was heavy with a draw shot for two points on her last rock that would have won her team the game.
Canada will be considered the favorite for Thursday’s final after going through the round-robin stage undefeated with nine wins — an unprecedented feat in women’s Olympic curling.
“It’s the game you have dreamed of for your entire life,” said Jones, who has been wearing eye shadow with a gold hue throughout the tournament.
Canada beat the Swedes 9-3 in the round robin but lost 7-6 in the 2010 final in Vancouver, when both teams had different skips.
Britain will play Switzerland for the bronze medal.
Canada has seemed the most assured team in Sochi under the captaincy of Jones, a 39-year-old lawyer who has been her country’s top female curler for the past decade and is making the most of her first Olympic appearance.
Jones took control early against a British team that started poorly. Vice skip Anna Sloan slipped before moving to sweep a shot and Muirhead got a “pick-up” off the ice and missed a simple takeout, allowing Canada to go up 2-0.
“It was a hair from one of the brushes, it just caught the stone,” said Muirhead, adding that something like that happens in “one in a thousand” shots.
“That pick-up was brutal, losing a two off the bat from something that you can’t control against Canada, it’s going to be tough to come back,” she said.
Muirhead then missed a hack-weight double takeout to allow Canada a steal in the second end. Jones’ team went ahead 3-0 and never looked back.
In the eighth, the usually reserved Jones pumped her fists after making a pressurized double takeout to ensure the end was blanked, leaving Canada 5-3 in the lead.
Muirhead could only draw to the button for one point in the ninth and the British needed a steal at the last. They couldn’t do it.
The Canadians jumped up and down in a circle and their players threw both fists in the air. Sloan was tearful after coming off the ice.
There was never more than a point separating Sweden and Switzerland until Ott’s bold last rock sailed past another of her own stones in the house as she tried to make a split for two points.
Sweden’s celebrations were similar to those of the Canadians, their players linking arms in sheer joy.
“It was a really exciting, close game and it’s just great, great happiness,” Sweden skip Margaretha Sigfridsson said.
Sweden won the last two Olympic titles under skip Anette Norberg, who is in Sochi working for a Swedish TV station.
Canada is assured of winning a medal in women’s curling for a fifth straight Olympics.