Eve Muirhead’s trigger finger deserted her as Great Britain’s curling team were beaten 10-5 by Sweden in their Olympic semi-final at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Muirhead had deployed her ‘pistol’ to sink favourites Canada on Wednesday but two days later it was more a case of shooting herself in the foot as a calamitous seventh end signalled an emphatic defeat.
For the second consecutive Games the 27-year-old Muirhead will now face the tough task of raising spirits ahead of today’s bronze medal match against their fellow last-four losers Japan.
Muirhead, who has often described her 2014 semi-final loss in Sochi as the most difficult of her career, said: “I definitely don’t think what we went through four years ago can harm us.
“We dealt with a serious loss and came back strongly to win a bronze medal. We’ll move on from the loss and focus on the next game and will go out there to get that bronze.”
Muirhead’s fate hinged on a pivotal seventh end in which it first appeared that Great Britain, trailing 5-3 at the time but with the all-important hammer, would benefit from an uncharacteristic mistake from Swedish skip Anna Hasselborg.
But Muirhead’s bid to draw her final stone to set up at least a two backfired spectacularly when she clipped one of her own guards, setting up the Swedes to steal a three and with it effectively the match.
Muirhead said: “If my first shot had passed I think we’d have looked good for three but it didn’t and it was a tough draw.
“You’ve got to make these shots, and if you don’t make them against these strong teams like Sweden, you’re going to be on the back foot.”
While the seventh end may have come down to matter of inches, Muirhead’s team were always struggling to assert themselves after falling two down in the second end, and seldom looked like booking a place in their first Olympic final.
Muirhead was badly in need of the same magic which saw her eliminate the Canadians on Wednesday with a raised double take-out, but none was forthcoming from a player who would be the first to admit she has struggled to consistently fire at this tournament. GB’s Canadian coach Glenn Howard, who received some social media criticism after masterminding his home nation’s demise on Wednesday, said he had no doubts Muirhead’s team would bounce back in the bronze medal match.
“It came down to a couple of shots in the seventh end,” saidHoward. “It went from a (possible) 5-5 to an 8-3 and that’s a pretty big hill to come back.
“These girls give their heart and soul in every game they play. Obviously they wanted to get in the gold medal game but the bottom line is they are going into the bronze medal and it is not going to be hard to get them back into shape.” Japan’s hopes of reaching the gold medal match ended in a comparatively thrilling clash with hosts South Korea on the adjacent rink, home skip Eun-jung Kim drawing the final stone of the extra end to seal an 8-7 win amid tumultuous scenes.
Earlier, Canada’s curling calamity continued when the men’s team followed the women in failing to win a medal, Kevin Koe’s team falling to a 7-5 defeat to Switzerland in their bronze medal match.
Fifteen-year-old Alina Zagitova won the Olympic ladies’ figure skating title at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Friday, earning the first gold of the Games for the Olympic Athletes of Russia.
Zagitova held on to beat compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva by just over a single point after a pair of mesmerising free skates which earned identical scores of 156.65. Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada was a distant third.
Zagitova had gone into the free skate narrowly ahead of 18-year-old Medvedeva after a world record score in her short programme routine on Wednesday.
Germany, having already accounted for Sweden, pulled off an even bigger shock by knocking defending champions Canada out of the men’s ice hockey with a 4-3 semi-final win. Earlier the Olympic Athletes of Russia swept aside the Czech Republic 3-0 in the other last four encounter.
Kelsey Serwa won the women’s ski cross ahead of fellow Canadian Brittany Phelan at Phoenix Snow Park. Fanny Smith of Switzerland took bronze, while Briton Emily Sarsfield was fourth in her quarter-final heat after coming second in her first round heat.
Holland’s Kjeld Nuis won the men’s 1000m long-track speedskating gold medal.