British teams in danger in Olympic curling
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Britain lavished 5 million pounds ($8.4 million) of government and lottery funding on its top curlers over this Olympic cycle, making them full-time athletes and providing extras such as sports psychologists and specialist coaches in a bid to secure gold medals in Sochi.
As it stands, both the British men’s and women’s teams could fail to reach even the semifinals.
Heading into the final day of round-robin play at the Ice Cube Curling Center, Eve Muirhead’s women’s rink (4-3) needs to win one of its remaining two games — against Russia and Denmark — to be assured of at least a tie-breaker. Two wins would see the team definitely reach the playoffs.
Britain’s women are world champions and will be favorites to win both games. But things haven’t gone to plan so far this tournament.
“We need to come back strong against Russia and Denmark,” Muirhead said after her team’s latest defeat, 8-6 to Switzerland on Saturday.
“We are not down and out. We have a long way to go. It is in our hands so we’ll be really pushing hard.”
There are two semifinal places up for grabs alongside the already-qualified pair Canada and Sweden. The teams still in contention are China (4-3), Switzerland (4-4), Japan (3-4) and the British.
Canada will become the first women’s team to go through the round robin undefeated if it beats South Korea in the evening session.
Britain’s men’s team, under skip David Murdoch, is in more trouble than Muirhead’s rink.
The British are involved in a three-way fight with China and Norway for the two remaining spots in the playoffs. Two-time defending champion Canada and world champion Sweden qualified on Saturday.
Britain plays China and will be eliminated with a defeat and if Norway beats Denmark in their final match. If Britain and Norway, win, then they and China will be on 6-3 records and a tie-breaker will be needed to separate them.
“It seems to be like that for me at the Olympics, always leaving it to the hardest way possible,” said Murdoch, whose rink lost to Sweden in a tie-breaker for the semifinals in 2010.
“To be honest, I fancy our chances, I really do. We have a good record against the Chinese team. Obviously they are playing well but so are we.”
Sweden (8-1) is already assured of being the No. 1 seed for the semifinals.