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Olympics: Canadian, Swedish curlers chase golden hat-tricks

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Canada's men's curlers are aiming for a hat-trick of gold medals in Sochi as they seek to maintain their Olympic dominance while Sweden's top-ranked women are chasing their own three-in-a-row.

The Canadians, who took gold in 2006 and 2010, also won three consecutive men's world titles from 2010-2012 before finishing second behind Sweden in front of their own fans last year.

Brad Jacobs, 28, is skip of the team, which includes brothers E.J. Harnden and Ryan Harnden, and has the tough task of following in the footsteps of the Vancouver gold medallists, who boasted an unblemished 11-0 record.

"It has been a long road to get to this moment and it has been worth every minute of training we put in," said Jacobs. "I can't wait to walk onto the ice in Sochi with my team and give it everything we've got to try and represent Canada with pride."

Jacobs's team finished as runners-up at last year's world championships in Victoria, Canada, behind a Swedish team led by Niklas Edin that is currently ranked third in the world behind Canada and Great Britain.

In the women's competition, Sweden, led by Margaretha Sigfridsson, 37, will be confident they can make it three golds on the bounce after triumphing against Scotland in the final of the European championships in Norway in November.

British skip Eve Muirhead, who led Scotland to the world title in Latvia earlier last year, is relishing the pressure that comes with success.

"You're always going to have pressure going into the Olympics as world champions," Muirhead, 23, told Britain's Daily Mail.

"But if someone was to ask you if you want to go in ranked number one or ranked in the middle of the table, you know which you're going to pick. We enjoy the pressure and it's something we've learned to deal with over the past few years."

Canada's women, who last won the Olympic crown in 1998, have unfinished business after they were denied an emotional win on home ice by Sweden in 2010.

Skip Jennifer Jones, 39, said the team were going to Russia with gold in their sights as they bid to dethrone the Swedes, who have been runners-up at the past two world championships.

"I am so excited to be representing Canada in Sochi," said Jones. "This is something that I have looked forward to for many years, and all the hours of training and hard work have finally paid off."

Curling was part of the original Winter Olympic Games in 1924, with Britain taking gold, but it did not return as a medal sport until the Nagano Games in 1998.

The sport captured the public imagination in Vancouver four years ago as much for the striking good looks of some of the female players as the sport itself.

Canadian and Scandinavian teams have dominated Olympic curling, with the bronze won by the US men's team in 2006 the first time a team other than from Canada or Europe won a medal.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140121/olympics-canadian-swedish-curlers-chase-golden-hat-tricks