“I feel perfect – so, so happy! The second Championship win is certainly more rewarding because this time around I understood what it took to win a World Championship. The first time it was a little bit of surprise but this time it was a big challenge for us.”
Russia are the 2015 World Wheelchair Curling champions after defeating China in the gold medal game at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2015 held at the Kisakallio Sports Institute in Lohja, Finland.
The result means that China take the silver medals while hosts Finland defeated Slovakia to win the bronze medals.
In the gold medal game, Russia raced to a 4-0 lead after two ends, stealing a single point in the first end before China skip HaiTao Wang hit a Russian guard and promoted it into the house to give Russia a steal of three points in the second end.
China battled back, taking one point from the third end and stealing a single point in the fourth end.
Russia extended their lead in the fifth end as, with his last stone, Russia skip Andrey Smirnov attempted a draw into the house. Luckily for him he hit his own guard, which promoted into a scoring position to give Russia a score of three points.
China took one point from the next end, then stole a single point in the seventh end before Russia closed out their win as China conceded in the eighth end, with the final score 7-4.
This is the second World Wheelchair Curling Championship win for Russia after they won in Chuncheon, Korea in 2012.
In this year’s gold medal game they were skipped by Andrey Smirnov, with Marat Romanov as third, Svetlana Pakhomova second and Alexander Shevchenko as lead. They were supported by alternate Oxana Slesarenko (who played in some games throughout the Championship) and coach Anton Batugin.
After winning the game, Russia skip Andrey Smirnov said: “I feel perfect – so, so happy! The second Championship win is certainly more rewarding because this time around I understood what it took to win a World Championship. The first time it was a little bit of surprise but this time it was a big challenge for us.”
Speaking about the significance of their win, he said: “I think it will be a good chance to further develop wheelchair curling in Russia. We have a lot of new facilities opening and new people who are starting to play so we believe this will be good for the sport in our homeland.”
For China, who take silver, this is their highest ever finish at a World Wheelchair Curling Championship, a remarkable achievement for two reasons: wheelchair curling only began in China in 2007 and they have the youngest average team age in this year’s Championship.
After picking up the silver medals, China skip HaiTao Wang said: “It’s a pity we didn’t win gold but this is the first time our wheelchair team has made it to the final so we have to be proud of our achievements. We are very young with a long future ahead of us and I know we’ll get better and better, year by year.”
In the bronze medal game, Slovakia were leading 3-1 going into the fourth end. There, their fourth player Branislav Jakubec attempted to promote one of his stones which instead raised a Finnish stone into a scoring position.
Finland skip Markku Karjalainen was left with a draw into the house which would have scored six points, but his shot was too heavy. None they less, Finland still took five points to gain a 6-3 lead by the fourth end break.
The teams exchanged single points in the next three ends before Finland secured their win and the bronze medals with a hit for one point to make the final score 8-5 in the eighth end.
Finland made history in this Championship for more than one reason. Not only was this their highest ever ranking at a World Wheelchair Curling Championship, it also marks the first time that Finland have been represented by teams at the World Wheelchair, World Women’s and World Men’s Curling Championship in the same season.
After their win, Finland skip Markku Karjalainen said: “We all feel Incredible! It feels like winning (the gold). Today I think that it was the Finnish attitude and spirit that helped us get the win. The fans throughout the week have been fantastic and today they were our ninth stone.”
Speaking about their experience playing in this year’s Championship he said: “It was very special to play here in our homeland - it gave us strength. With these medals, hopefully more people in Finland will start playing wheelchair curling and more dedicated facilities will be built.”
Finland received further good news as second Mina Mojtahedi was awarded the World Wheelchair Curling Championship Sportsmanship Award following nominations from all competitors. This award is given to the athlete who best exemplifies the traditional values of skill, honesty, fair play, sportsmanship and friendship.
Earlier in the day, Russia comfortably beat Slovakia 12-1 in the sole semi-final.
Following the conclusion of this event, the latest Wheelchair World Rankings were published, which sees Canada and Russia retain the top two spots while China leapfrogged Scotland/Great Britain into third position thanks to their silver medals in Lohja. The full standings are published here: http://worldcurling.org/wheelchair-curling-ranking
The latest Paralympic Qualification points were also published by the World Curling Federation following this event: http://worldcurling.org/pyeongchang-2018-paralympic-winter-games
Gold medal game: Russia 7, China 4.
Bronze medal game: Finland 8, Slovakia 5.
Semi-final: Russia 12, Slovakia 1.
FINAL STANDINGS (W-L):
1. Russia 11-1 (Gold)
2. China 8-3 (Silver)
3. Finland 6-5 (Bronze)
4. Slovakia 6-6
5. USA 4-5
6. Canada 4-5
7. Germany 4-6
8. Scotland 3-7 (Relegated to WWhCQ*)
9. Sweden 3-6 (Relegated to WWhCQ*)
10. Norway 2-6 (Relegated to WWhCQ*)
*WWhCQ – World Wheelchair Curling Qualification event