Great Britain’s Curlers captured the first Olympic medal in the sport since 2002 after a tense and enthralling bronze medal match against Switzerland in Sochi. Bouncing back after a cruel semi-final defeat to Canada, Eve Muirhead’s team held their nerve in the final end to take a 6-5 victory.
Things didn’t get off to the best start for the British team however, as Switzerland, led by Mirjam Ott stole two stones in the second end after a couple of poor British shots. With the hammer – last stone advantage – in the third end, Britain pulled back a stone to narrow the gap to just the one point, thanks to a carefully judged hit and roll from Muirhead.
Understandably in the circumstances, nerves were high and small mistakes would prove key in determining the outcome of the match. Swiss skip Ott, having shown to be slightly vulnerable in the round robin matches started effectively, achieving 92% accuracy after the opening four ends. In the fourth however, the slightest of cracks began to appear as Ott only just managed to salvage a point by a matter of inches.
The fifth end would give us a better idea of how the match was unfolding. With the Swiss unrelenting in their approach, it would take inch perfect draws from the British team to avoid going into the break further down. Midway through the end, the Swiss were lying shot, with two stones placed at the top of the house. Vicki Adams (third) played a double rip to remove these to get out of a likely hole. Mirjam Ott, playing superbly, tightened the pressure on Muirhead – also playing a cool game. Muirhead firstly jammed two Swiss stones before sending down a barrier shot with a light weight to tie the match at 3-3. A low scoring, but pulsating encounter at the break.
While momentum swung back and forward throughout the opening five ends, there was a sense of a real change in control. End six looked for all money like it would be blanked by the Swiss, Ott looking for a simple hit and roll ended up hitting the British stone on the head and grabbing a one, and thus giving away the crucial hammer.
Now with the hammer, Britain looked to grab the initiative but a mistake from Anna Sloan under seemingly little pressure showed Switzerland a chance. An uneventful end saw Muirhead blank with another hit and roll to ensure the hammer into the eighth and tenth ends respectively.
With Ott only managing to take out one stone – when two were possible – Muirhead delivered a simple draw to take vital two points (albeit needing the measuring device to ensure this) and take the lead for the first time in the match. An excellent shot from Swiss third Carmen Shaefer – who had earlier given Britain chances for two – made sure that Ott would have an easy draw to tie up the match into the final end. Ott did so with aplomb setting up the decider.
A nerve-wracking final end provided the best curling of the match and tactics and precision were at a premium. Muirhead’s shot for the top T was executed perfectly to lean on the Swiss stone. Ott responded with a lovely shot to put the Swiss lying shot. A simple draw was all that was left, although given the circumstances, it would perhaps be the most demanding shot played. Muirhead, leaving the stone heading down the ice could do nothing but watch as it glided slowly but surely onto the button. Great Britain took the bronze and the tears from both sides could not have painted a better picture of Olympic sport. Joy for Britain, despair for Switzerland.