Eve Muirhead and her curling rink secured a slice of history for Great Britain yesterday as their bronze medal ensured the country would equal its greatest haul of medals at a Winter Olympics.
The dramatic bronze they secured on the final end of their third-place play-off with Switzerland was the third won by Team GB in Sochi. A fourth medal is guaranteed from the men’s curling team today when they go head-to-head with Canada in the gold-medal match.
Britain last won four medals 90 years ago, when they had the biggest party of 16 competing nations at the first hosting of a Winter Olympics, in Chamonix.
This present-day haul justifies the record investment of £13.5m by UK Sport which, due to that large financial backing, set a target of three to seven medals to be won in the Russian Black Sea resort.
Team GB could yet win more with short-track speed skater Elise Christie going in her favoured 1,000m today while Britain’s bobsledders set the fastest times in official training runs yesterday ahead of their competition, which begins tomorrow.
While the men’s curlers have already secured a medal, the clinching yesterday of Britain’s third of these Games was as dramatic as any that have gone before.
Britain had to pick themselves up from semi-final defeat to Canada the day before, and overcome a deficit, to defeat the Swiss on the final end.
After a slow start yesterday, Muirhead rallied her troops to win 6-5. It was the first Olympic medal for the women curlers since their coach Rhona Howie – then Rhona Martin – skipped GB to gold at Salt Lake City in 2002.
Muirhead, who wept tears of despair four years ago when, at just 19, her team exited at the round-robin stage in Vancouver, said: “What a dream come true.
“The Olympic medal was the one medal we have been missing and for me to win it with four of my best friends seems so special.
“That shows what great athletes we are. Every athlete needs to learn how to lose before they can win.
“First, they need to learn how to get up from defeat. To lose the semi-final and know you have to come back and play for that bronze medal is extra tough and, for us, it showed how strong we are.
“We regrouped and came out fighting, and I knew we still had a chance to get a medal. I’m delighted.”
Vicki Adams was “still in shock” minutes after the final end, but was clear as to how well GB had worked to set up the dramatic finish, which allowed Muirhead to slide in a final shot to take the medal.
She said: “I feel absolutely amazing. I knew if we went into the last end with the hammer we could pull it out. We played the end the best we could.
“Eve played a fantastic shot at the end, after Claire (Hamilton) played two fantastic shots.
“We couldn’t have set it up any better and for Eve to have a four-foot draw at the end was great.”
Anna Sloan admitted the semi-final defeat by Canada had left the team “devastated”.
However, she reiterated the sense of togetherness within Muirhead’s group which ensured that they would not return from Russia empty-handed.
“I think it shows the team spirit and the support we have for each other to come back from that loss, pick ourselves up and get ready for (yesterday’s) game, because there was no way we were going to leave without a medal,” she said.
“We all wanted it so bad. We wanted the gold, there is no doubt about that, but it shows the spirit to make sure we go home with a medal and a bronze medal feels amazing right now.
“It was hard to pick ourselves up, but that’s curling, things happen like that.
“But we knew if we put in a performance like (Wednesday) and more, then we would get a win.
“We were patient and really calm. We’ve worked so hard over the three years and I truly think we’ve deserved that medal. I’m so proud of the girls.”
Canada’s women claimed their first Winter Olympic curling gold in 16 years as they beat defending champions Sweden 6-3, avenging the final defeat suffered at the hands of the Swedes, on home ice in Vancouver, four years ago.
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