Russia's Aleksandr Krushelnitckii brushes the ice surface during the curling mixed doubles round robin session between the US and the Olympic Athletes from Russia during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangneung on Feb 8, 2018. AFP Photo

GANGNEUNG: South Korea’s Jang Hye-Ji launched 18 days of competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Thursday by sliding the first mixed doubles curling stone in Olympic history down the ice.

While the official opening ceremonies are not until Friday night, the first mixed doubles curling event in the Olympic Games began a day early to open 18 days of competition that will conclude with the February 25 closing cermonies.

Jang took the opportunity to make Olympic history in her opening round-robin match match alongside Lee Ki-Jeong against Finland’s Oona Kauste and Tomi Rantamaeki before about 2,500 spectators at Gangneung Curling Centre.

Other opening round-robin matches sent Canada against Norway, China against reigning world champion Switzerland and the Olympic Athletes from Russia against the United States.

The Russians – the 2016 world champion husband-and-wife team of Aleksandr Krushelnitckii and Anastasia Bryzgalova – are competing under the Olympic flag after Russia was banned from the Games for major doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The OAR duo launched their medal quest against US siblings Matt and Becca Hamilton, inspiring a solitary “Russ-i-a” yell from the crowd after scoring two points in the second end.

After seven round-robin matches through Sunday, the top four teams will reach Monday’s semi-finals with medal matches set for Tuesday.

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