March 10 - Russia continued to make their mark on the international curling scene with the junior women and men winning a gold and silver respectively on home ice at the 2013 World Junior Curling Championships.
At what was the Sochi 2014 Olympic test event for the sport, the next Winter Games host nation continued to prove they are a force to be reckoned with by making their first ever appearance in a junior world final.
Russia's women, consisting of fourth player Yulia Portunova, skip Alina Kovaleva, second Alexandra Saitova, lead Oksana Gertova and alternate Olesya Glushchenko, made no mistake in defeating defending champions Scotland – who took silver – by 6-5 after an extra end in the title-winning final at the Ice Cube Curling Centre.
The home squad came from behind to win the gold medal, with the first end being blanked before Portunova missed a double take-out attempt in the second to give Scottish skip Hannah Fleming an easy draw to open the scoring with two points.
In the third end, both Fleming and Portunova wrecked on the way into the house with their last stones, but, with one stone already counting, Russia opened their account with a single point.
The Scots had plenty of stones in the house during the fourth end, but when Fleming's complicated promote attempt went wrong they could only count one point, for a 3-1 lead before Russia levelled the game at 3-3 in the fifth end when Portunova had a simple tap-up with her last stone to score two points.
Scotland then blanked the next two ends looking for a big score, but their tactic backfired in the eighth end when a perfect draw by Portunova forced them to attempt a double take-out that failed, giving Russia a two-point steal and the lead, by 5-3, for the first time in the game.
After a long discussion before they played their last stone in the ninth end, Scotland chose to blank, and then good play in the tenth end gave them their reward when Fleming eventually hit for two points to tie the game and force the extra end.
In the extra-end, the Scots placed their front guards too close together, allowing Russia easy peels, and with her last stone Portunova delivered a perfect nose hit on a Scottish stone sitting at the front of the house for the one point needed to complete the win.
"I am very happy," Kovaleva said after the victory.
"Everyone's dream came true so it is wonderful, it's fantastic."
Scottish skip Fleming was gracious in defeat, saying: "We just weren't firing as well in the final as we have been.
"But you've got to hand it to Russia because they played well.
"But I'm really disappointed because we just didn't show up in the final."
Japan ended their 14-year junior medal drought when they beat the Czech Republic by 8-4 to take bronze, the first medals for their country at this level since 1999.
Meanwhile, it was case of role reversal in the junior men's title-winning game where Scotland won gold by beating the host nation 6-2.
With last stone advantage, because they had topped the rankings, the Scots blanked the first end and then took the early lead in the second end, scoring two points when skip, Kyle Smith, delivered a perfect nose-hit.
Russia then blanked the third end, but Scotland stole a further point in the fourth end when Smith drew nicely behind two front guards with his first stone and the Russians failed to remove it.
The Scots added another single steal of one point in the fifth end when Russian skip, Evgeniy Arkhipov, attempted a bold double take-out and missed the second Scottish stone, giving Scotland a 4-0 half-time lead.
Russia blanked the sixth end, but gave up another single steal in the seventh end when Arkhipov's attempt to clear out the house left one Scottish stone counting.
The Russians finally got on the scoreboard in the eighth end when Arkhipov played a good hit and stay at the back of the house for two points, but by this time, the Scots were keeping everything clear and eventually, Smith had another nose-hit to score one point in the ninth end for a 6-2 lead.
With his first stone of the final end, Smith cleared the house and ran Russia out of stones, to start the celebrations for the Scotland team – skip Smith, third Thomas Muirhead, second Kyle Waddell, lead Cameron Smith, fifth player Hammy McMillan, and coach David Ramsay.
"I'm speechless," Smith said.
"I don't know what to say.
"I just feel fantastic.
"We've just had a really good week and a good year."
In the bronze medal game, Canada took the prize with their 6-4 win over Sweden.
During the medal ceremony, the United States third Thomas Howell was announced as the winner of the Sportsmanship Award among the men, while Sweden's skip, Sara McManus, received the women's award.
Photos courtesy of the World Curling Federation
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
February 2013: Exclusive - Sochi 2014 coastal cluster is really very special, says curling President