Team USA Wheelchair Curling Takes Fifth at Beijing 2022 Winter Games
By Stuart Lieberman / Team USA
The U.S. wheelchair curling team ended its campaign at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 in fifth place — tied for its second-best finish ever — with an even 5-5 record after splitting its final two matches on Thursday at the National Aquatics Centre. The team just missed qualifying for the semifinals, finishing two games out of the fourth and final playoff spot.
Team USA first fell to Sweden, 10-7, on Thursday after conceding five points in the seventh end, and then bounced back to defeat South Korea, 7-6, and end on a high note. The U.S. changed its lineup for the final contest with original alternate Pam Wilson throwing the first stones and came through with two points in the final end to capture the victory.
“It was a nice week, and we finished on a good note. That’s what it’s all about,” said two-time Paralympian Steve Emt, the team’s lone holdover from PyeongChang 2018. “It’s just another growing experience, as in life there’s winning and there’s learning.”
In the day’s first match against top-ranked Sweden — who will go into the semifinals on Friday with first-place China, Slovakia and Canada — the U.S. scored two points in the first end but gave up five points in a matter of minutes to head into the halfway break down by three. The Americans came back strong in the fifth to score four and retake a 6-5 lead and doubled their lead in the seventh end before Sweden came back firing with five points of its own.
Against South Korea, the U.S. fell behind early before levelling the game 3-3 in the fourth end. The two teams exchanged points in the fifth and sixth ends before the U.S. scored two in the final end to win the game by one.
For David Samsa, Oyuna Uranchimeg, Matt Thums and Wilson, it all marked the conclusion of their first Paralympic Winter Games experience, one they all mentioned they’d cherish for years to come.
“I’m satisfied being a first-time Paralympian, as four years ago I didn’t see myself here,” Samsa said. “Our team rallied quite well, even after losses, and end on a positive.”
After a disappointing 12th-place finish four years ago at the PyeongChang Games, the fifth-place finish is among the team’s best since the debut of wheelchair curling at the Games in 2006. The team had to earn a last-chance spot for Beijing 2022 after missing the 2020 world championships. In 2021, it won the World-B Championship, the first wheelchair curling gold medal of any kind of the United States, before finishing fourth at the world championships.
“I’ve been curling since 2012 and have been fighting to get on a team for eight years,” Thums said. “It was a grind to get here — we did really well at worlds last year — I just wish we had a couple ends back in a couple of games to go for a medal. But this team worked really hard, and I’m really proud of them.”
The U.S. wheelchair curlers said they would enjoy their final days in Beijing soaking up the experience in the Athletes Village and cheering on their compatriots in sled hockey.