Winter Olympics: Pyeongchang Games opens with curling

Athletes competing during the curling mixed doubles event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Curling Centre on Feb 8, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) - South Korea's Jang Hye Ji launched 18 days of competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Thursday (Feb 8) by sliding the first mixed doubles curling stone in Olympic history down the ice.

While the official opening ceremonies are not until Friday night, the first mixed doubles curling event in the Olympic Games began a day early to open 18 days of competition that will conclude with the Feb 25 closing cermony.

Jang took the opportunity to make Olympic history in her opening round-robin match match alongside Lee Ki Jeong, beating Finland's Oona Kauste and Tomi Rantamaeki 9-4 before about 2,500 spectators at Gangneung Curling Centre.

Also making their debut were Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR), but the husband-and-wife team of Aleksandr Krushelnitckii and Anastasia Bryzgalova were trounced 9-3 by American siblings Matt and Becca Hamilton.

The Russians entered under the Olympic flag as their homeland's banner and anthem were banned along with many athletes in the wake of major doping violations at the Sochi 2014 Olympics.

"I'm sure they are a little bit bummed they don't get to wear a Russian flag," Matt Hamilton said. "But that's life. You've got to take what you are given. At least they are at the Olympics."

The Hamiltons jumped ahead 3-0 and needed only seven of eight ends to take the most lopsided win of the opening round-robin session.

"We knew we had strong competition in the opening match and we would have to capitalise on their misses," Becca Hamilton said.

Other opening results saw Norway down Canada 9-6 and Switzerland beat China 7-5.

The OAR duo were cheered by a handful of supporters waving a Russian flag and yelling "Russ-i-a", notably after the couple scored two points in the second end, their best moment of the match.

Neither Krushelnitckii nor Bryzgalova spoke to reporters after the match.

After seven round-robin matches through Sunday, the top four teams reach Monday's semi-finals with medal matches on Tuesday.

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