Winter Olympics: Muirhead's curlers fall short of Olympic final - again

Yahoo Sport UK
Eve Muirhead was unable to lead her rink to the gold medal match (Andy J Ryan/ Team GB)
Eve Muirhead was unable to lead her rink to the gold medal match (Andy J Ryan/ Team GB)

There’s been a feeling of déjà vu about these Games. Skeleton remains our undisputed national winter sport and the words heartache, Olympics and Elise Christie invariably go together, writes James Toney in PyeongChang.

And then there’s Eve Muirhead, beaten in an Olympic curling semi-final. Again.

Muirhead’s rink was outthought and outclassed by Swedish skip Anna Hasselborg as they surrendered tamely in a game they never really contested.

There were tears after their semi-final loss four years ago in Sochi – Muirhead still calls it the toughest moment of her career – but they turned it around to win bronze less than 24 hours later.

Now she must do the same again with Japan waiting in today’s third place-off.

And it’s a must win match on so many levels, for Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray and Anna Sloan personally and for the whole British team, if they hope to achieve the target of five medals set for them by UK Sport here in South Korea.

“I definitely don’t think it can harm us what we went through four years ago. We went through a semi-final loss and we came back strong to get the bronze medal,” said Muirhead.

“As a team, we know exactly what we did. From four years ago we learnt a lot so we’re going to come out very strong and hopefully play well for that bronze.

“As the skip I’m gutted I missed a few shots out there but it happens, it’s sport.

“Japan lost a world final a couple of years ago, it’s going to be a tough game but we’ll come out strong.

“I’ve never said that I’m coming just for the gold. I’ve trained the last three, four years to come to an Olympics. As a team we come out here and play the best curling. Of course we came up short, but we came up short against a strong Swedish team.

“We’ll take some time as that’s a disappointing loss but then we’ll move on.”

  • Can Eve Muirhead win Britain’s fifth medal? Watch her curling bronze medal match live on Eurosport 2 at 11am today. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games at Eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app 

Bronze medal matches are the hardest to play, both teams coming in downbeat with confidence flagging. Unlike four years ago there were no waterworks from Muirhead, perhaps because this was a match they were, in truth, always chasing.

Sloan admitted the Swedes were the better team in the handful of clutch points across the three hour long match but, like her skip, was determined to accentuate the positive.

“We’ve been here before, we know what it takes to lose a semi-final and win a bronze medal match,” she insisted.

“It’s devastating but we’ve now got the chance to play for an Olympic medal, we just have to remember what that feeling was like, winning that medal four years ago.

“I think that gives us more perspective and I’m not going to dwell on this forever. We’ve got a massive match to win.”

In contrast, Japan’s skip Satsuki Fujisawa, who lost to Muirhead in the round robin stages, looked bereft after a final end loss to Korean opposite number Eun Jung Kim, whose glare and funky glasses has become the subject for endless Internet memes.

Known as the ‘Garlic Girls’, the Korean women’s curling team have become the rock stars of these Games, a humble group of friends from the same rural town, who luckily have switched off their phones during the games to block outside attention.

When they turn them on – perhaps as gold medallists tomorrow – they’ll be in for a shock.

Scalps

Koreans were barely aware of curling a decade ago and yet their team have claimed the scalps of Canada, Switzerland, Russia, Great Britain and Sweden in recent days. Not bad for a team ranked eighth in the world.

If Korea is falling in love with the roaring game, over in Canada, a national inquest has begun after their men’s team lost their bronze medal game to Switzerland yesterday.

Having made the podium in every Olympics since 1998 in both the men’s and women’s competition, Canada – where curling is a religion – are returning empty handed, though they did win gold in the mixed doubles event, contested for the first time at these Games.

Muirhead’s Canadian coach Glenn Howard claims he’s not surprised by the shifting tides of curling’s top nations and admitted disappointment at some of the comments aimed towards him from fans in his native land – with the word traitor temporarily added to his Wikipedia page.

“It’s a little bit disappointing if people are upset with me coaching Great Britain,” he said. “I’m a proud Canadian but I’m also proud to be a part of this British team.

“This is the way it is in sports, there are different nationalities coaching different nationalities and I’m proud to be part of this team.

“Canada is not walking in here and wiping the floor with anyone, that’s just the way it is. They came and did their best and it wasn’t good enough.

“The game of curling is in great shape right now because of the parity across the world and to me, that makes it exciting.”

  • Can Eve Muirhead win Britain’s fifth medal? Watch her curling bronze medal match live on Eurosport 2 at 11am today. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games at Eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app 

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