Canada beats Britain 9-6, US close to elimination
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — As one of the most aggressive curlers around, Eve Muirhead lives and dies by her high-risk strategy.
The British skip perhaps was too ambitious for her own good Wednesday.
With the clock running down and her team behind 8-6 to Canada at the women’s Olympic tournament, Muirhead could have played an easy draw to the button with her last stone to take a tense game to an extra end at 8-8.
Instead, she gambled on removing three tightly bunched Canadian rocks to pick up three points for the win. The move backfired, and Canada clinched a 9-6 victory to stay unbeaten in three round-robin games.
“It was a gamble but ... that’s the skip,” Muirhead said. “They get the glory when they make them or the slack if they miss them.”
It consigned Britain, one of the favorites for gold, to a second loss in three games and left Canada atop the standings with Switzerland.
At least the world champion Brits still have a decent chance of qualifying.
The same can’t be said of the United States.
Erika Brown’s rink lost its fourth straight, 7-4 to China, and likely will need to win all five of its remaining round-robin games to stand a chance of reaching the semifinals.
“We are going to stay upbeat whatever happens,” Brown said. “We worked really hard to be here. We are doing our best out there and we’ll keep fighting.”
In other matches in the afternoon session, defending champion Sweden beat Korea 7-4 and host nation Russia lost to Japan 8-4.
China, Japan and Sweden are all 2-1.
As Muirhead pondered what might have been after her game-defining shot went awry, Canada skip Jennifer Jones shuffled down the ice toward a small band of Canadian fans and gave them a round of applause.
It was as much a celebration of relief as happiness.
Jones — the form skip in Sochi — played another great game, making 93 percent of her shots, and generally outshining Muirhead.
Still, Britain had the hammer going into the final end and was left with a shot — albeit a difficult one — for victory. Muirhead couldn’t resist going for it but failed to catch the first Canadian stone at the right angle.
“I probably would have thrown the draw to go to the extra end,” Jones said. “It was a tough triple to get everything to spin out, but I guess she makes them a lot.”
Muirhead had no regrets.
“We like to call an aggressive game,” she said. “I don’t go for shots if I don’t think they are there, I’m not one of those glory hunters. I thought it was there.”
All is not lost for the British. They have played — and lost — arguably their two toughest round-robin games against Sweden and now Russia. They should still pick up enough wins to make the top four.
“It would have been nice to get a win against one of them but at the end of the day, we are not down and out,” Muirhead said. “We have to make sure we don’t drop too many more.”
For Canada’s women, seeking a first gold medal since the Nagano Olympics in 1998, Sochi just gets better and better. They have crushed China and Sweden, and now they’ve toppled the world champions.