Lohja, Finland – Norway and Finland have qualified for the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2013 following the final day of play at the World Wheelchair Curling Qualification event.
Both teams join Russia, Korea, China, Slovakia, USA, Scotland, Canada and Sweden who have already qualified for this event based on the final ranking at the 2012 event.
Norway were first to qualify after defeating hosts Finland 8-3 in the 1v2 play-off. Norway skip Rune Lorentsen and his team of Jostein Stordahl (third), Sissel Løchen (second) and Terje Rafdal (lead), led from the first end onwards. Recent victories over Finland provided them with the confidence to steal five points in the first three ends, and although Finland managed scores of one point in the fourth, fifth and seventh ends, they could not get back into the game after Norway took another three points in the sixth end.
After the game, Norway’s skip was both delighted with their success and relieved to make it out of the Qualification event. He said: “It feels fantastic to have won. We knew before this match that we were the only team to have beaten Finland, so we had a good feeling going into this game. We have met Finland four times this Autumn and we have won all of them, so they don’t like to meet us.
“We pushed ourselves today. We didn’t let ourselves relax and did our best every end. We tried not to do too many take-outs and instead keep many stones in play, if we could. We got in front early and could relax from there on.”
Speaking generally about the event, Lorentsen added: “Many games at the World [Wheelchair Curling] Championship were very close, so we felt we were very unlucky in Korea. But I don’t want to come down to the Qualification event again because it was very tough – there were some very good teams here, it’s not easy for anyone who goes down to get back up again.”
Finland played Italy in the final play-off of the event following Italy’s 3v4 play-off win against Latvia earlier in the day. Both Finland and Italy showed signs of nerves and were unwilling to take risks early on.
It wasn’t until the sixth end when a missed takeout allowed Finland to score three points. Although the game remained tight until the end, Finland held on to secure their place at the World Wheelchair Curling Championship being held in Sochi, Russia, next year. Skipped by Vesa Hellman, Finland’s team included Markku Karjalainen (fourth), Sari Karjalainen (second) and Tuomo Aarnikka (lead).
After the game, Finnish skip, Vesa Hellman, said: “Italy was a great team to play against and we are so happy about this win. The level in this year's qualification was so high that I think we have a good chance of doing well in the World Championships if we continue to improve. Our goal there is finish in fourth place or higher so that we still have a chance to qualify for the Paralympics in Sochi, but we know it will be very difficult as there will be so many good teams there."
Earlier, in the 3v4 play-off, Latvia started well to lead by three points going into the third end. Their early confidence faded however as Italy hit back, scoring two points in the third and stealing two more points, one in the fourth and another in the fifth. Latvia couldn’t get back into the game and a steal of two points in the final end secured a 7-4 win for Italy.