Naseby, New Zealand - China women and Korea men had wins in the first play-off session of the inaugural World Qualification Event, being staged in Naseby, New Zealand, to grab places in this season's World Curling Championships.
The World Qualification Event 2019 is a new pathway to this season's World events, with places up for grabs for two women's and two men's teams to join the nations who have already qualified directly.
For each gender, only three places were available in Wednesday's play-offs from the fields of eight teams that had been contesting the round robins.
China secure world berth
In the women's event, the three play-off contenders were unbeaten Finland, second-placed China, and third-placed Hungary.
Finland and China faced each other in Wednesday morning's first play-off game. In a tight game that featured three blanks ends, with never more than one point separating the teams, China emerged victorious. After blanking the ninth end to keep last stone advantage, their fourth player Rui Wang was able to draw her final stone inside two Finnish stones sitting in the house for a 4-3 win.
This gives China - fourth player Rui Wang, third player and skip Jie Mei, second player Mingyue Yao, and lead Jingyi Ma, supported by alternate Meini Wang and coach Zhipeng Zhang - a place in the 13-team Worlds line-up, while Finland now have a second chance to join them, when they play third-placed Hungary in the second play-off game.
After the game, a delighted Jie Mei said: "We are very happy now. We played well throughout this week, and now we have won. We have qualified for the Worlds, so this is going to be a new period for us. First of all, we would like to relax for a little bit and then practise. We just want to enjoy every day in curling and fight for awards."
Korea into world championships
In the men's event first-placed Korea, second-placed England and third-placed Netherlands qualified for the play-offs. Although England, Netherlands and New Zealand finished the round-robin on the same win/loss record, with each having the same head-to-head record, New Zealand were eliminated in fourth place because, between these three teams, they had the poorest draw shot challenge score.
Korea faced England in the first play-off game. Korea started strongly, scoring three points in the first end. England never recovered from this and Korea scored another three points in the sixth end to move onto a 7-2 lead. Korea won 7-3, which gives them a place in the 13-team world championship line-up.
The Korean team - skip SooHyuk Kim, third JeongJae Lee, second player ByeongJin Jeong and lead Hyeonjun Hwang, supported by alternate DongHyeong Lee and coach JeHo Lee - were pleased with their win. Kim said: "I'm so happy that we're now going to the World Curling Championship, and going to Canada. Our performance in this event was not bad, but the team will now re-group and keep trying, to get ready for the Worlds."
England men now have a second chance to join Korea at the Worlds, when they face the Netherlands in the second play-off game.