TORONTO — It’ll be remembered as the “Michael Jordan flu game” of curling but more importantly it’ll be remembered as Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling history.
Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg scored two for the win in the eighth end to edge Team Kerri Einarson of Gimli, Man., 6-5 Sunday and capture the Princess Auto Players’ Championship to become the first women’s team to complete a career Grand Slam.
Neither the skip nor third Sara McManus was feeling 100 per cent in the women’s final as they both were hit with food poisoning. Still, Hasselborg shot a respectable 81 per cent with McManus just one point behind firing at an 80 per cent clip.
“We’ve definitely been under the weather,” Hasselborg said. “I was not sure that I was going to play just 40 minutes before this game. That’s pretty crazy now that we’re standing here now as the Players’ Championship champs.”
It’s the seventh Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling women’s title in total for Hasselborg, McManus, second Agnes Knochenhauer and lead Sofia Mabergs, as the Princess Auto Players’ Championship was the last of the four majors missing from their remarkable resumes.
The Swedish squad cashed in $35,000 for the championship victory plus a $50,000 bonus for finishing first overall in the Pinty’s Cup standings.
“It’s something hard to describe,” said Hasselborg, who also took the Pinty’s Cup during the 2019-20 season. “I knew the strength of this team and I always knew way back when we put this team together. We’ve done so much (during) this cycle that we’ve been together and the years before that, it just shows every game at this tournament has not been easy. We started to battle, lost a couple of big ends but it just shows the strength of this team, how hard we work together and how much will power we have in this team. I’m just proud.”
Hasselborg added: “We said this morning we were on the revenge train. … It feels really, really good and it’s very cool to capture all the majors.”
It was “fika time” for Team Hasselborg as they had to grind it out all week like a fine Swedish coffee overcoming a 0-2 start to slip into the C Event of the triple knockout preliminary round and won five consecutive games with elimination on the line to reach the final. That includes a stunning 8-7 victory over Rachel Homan’s Ottawa team in Saturday’s semifinals stealing two points in the eighth and the winning point in an extra end.
The final fittingly saw Team Hasselborg battle back as they were down by three after the first end and singles back and forth in the second and third re-established the gap as Einarson led 4-1.
Hasselborg chipped away at the deficit with a nose hit for a deuce in the fourth end and a steal in the fifth tied it up as Einarson rubbed and rolled off the counter on the button just a tad too far to concede a point.
Einarson made a double bump to get a single in the sixth to retake the lead, but she hit and rolled out on her last in the seventh to clear the house and allow Hasselborg to blank and retain the all-important hammer for the decisive final frame.
Although Einarson made a great runback double takeout on her last, that left Hasselborg a golden opportunity to pull off a thin double of her own and count the championship-winning deuce.
“I think even the ends that we have given up a big end, we think that we threw them pretty good, it’s just millimetres here and there,” Hasselborg said. “We’re just taking away anything we can learn from that.”
Hasselborg also felt a boost having her husband Mathias and young daughter Mira cheering her on.
“Coming from first the Olympics and then worlds, it’s had so much of a relaxed feeling,” Hasselborg said. “I mean, we really, really wanted to win but everything around has given us more energy, a freer feeling, not closed off in a bubble and be able to bring your family. It’s huge and I think we all wanted to win for them.”
The team of Einarson, third Val Sweeting, second Shannon Birchard and lead Briane Meilleur were eyeing history as well entering the final as the double defending champions and looking to become the first team — male or female — to win the event three consecutive times.
Einarson topped Hasselborg in the 2019 final, also at the historic venue formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens, and successfully defended the trophy last year with a victory over Homan in the final taking place in the Calgary bubble at WinSport Arena. The Players’ Championship was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup wraps up the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season, May 3-8, at the Olds Sportsplex in Olds, Alta.