by Chipp Reid

The Swedish men’s curling team picked the right time to get hot.
With skip Niklas Edin leading the way, Sweden rocked and rolled its way to the 2009 European Championship Dec. 14 with a nail-biting extra-end victory over Switzerland. The victory confirmed Sweden’s place in the Olympic tournament in February and also makes Edin’s bunch one of the teams to beat in Vancouver. Had Sweden lost, Edin said he and his team would have had to wait to know whether they would play in the Winter Games.
“We would have been told December 22 but we knew after the victory,” Edin said. “It feels damn good.”
Sweden finished second in the Pool A round robin while Switzerland finished third. Both teams ramped up their play in the quarterfinals and semifinals. The European Championship in Aberdeen, Scotland was the first major tournament for Edin, who is just 24 years old.
“It feels very good to be going home with the trophy. There was no particular shot that won us the game, it was the whole game,” said Edin “The team played so well. At the beginning of the tournament, we struggled but we played really, really well for the play-offs.”
Edin and his team -- Sebastian Kraupp, Fredrik Lindberg and Viktor Kjall – went into the final knowing they faced a red-hot Swiss team that knocked defending world champs Scotland and a strong Norwegian team. Yet for Edin, there was no pressure.
The Swedish skip calmly staked his team to a 3-0 lead in the second end as each of his rocks scored points and blocked Swiss stones from scoring.
Swiss skip Ralph Stockli, who had been devastatingly accurate all week, gradually eroded the advantage and pulled level in the 10th end, forcing an extra end. Edin, with last-stone advantage, showed ice-cool nerves with his final hit to claim the title.
“The last stone was the biggest of my life,” Edin said. “I was not really nervous though. It was identical to Ralph's last shot and I could see it did not curl too much. I knew what I had to do and I was confident I was going to make it. It was very close, but I was confident towards the end with last rock.”
In curling, the team with the final rock holds the “hammer” as it can either grab the last point or bump an opposing rock out of the scoring circles. Edin said having hammer was a huge advantage.
“We have a very good record of winning with the hammer so I was not too worried,” he said.
Edin made last stone advantage count and finally scored the one he needed for victory with a precision hit and stay around a front guard, curling jargon for bumping a Swiss rock out of the scoring circle while keeping his stone in position to both score a point and prevent an opponent from scoring.
“We had a really great week,” said Swiss Skip Markus Eggler. “We had six wins in a row, but for sure it’s disappointing when you lose the final game in an extra end. I think they are winners who should be congratulated.”
Edin was just as gracious in victory.
“It was a great final, both by us and by the Swiss,” he said. “It was a very exciting match. The finals must have been the perfect television game.”
The gold at Aberdeen is the latest in a series of successes for Edin and his team. Edin and Lindberg have won Junior World Championship gold while Kraupp took silver in the Junior World Championships. Edin and his teammates are all from Karlstad.
Although Sweden took the gold, the path the championships had a couple of speed bumps.
Sweden opened the tournament with a 3-2 loss to Scotland, then won seven matches in a row, including a 7-5 win over Denmark and a 6-5 win over the Swiss. Edin and company lost their final group game to Norway by a lopsided 10-4 score to finish second in the standings to their Scandinavian rivals.
The Swedes quickly rebounded from that loss, however, defeating the Norwegians 7-3 in the playoffs to reach the finals. The top two teams only needed one win to reach finals, with the winner advancing and the loser moving to the semifinals. The Swiss played and won their quarterfinal against the Scots before beating Norway to reach the final.
The Swedish women finished a disappointing fifth in the tournament.