Olympics: Medal in sight for Martin's curlers

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While the men are struggling badly, Britain's women curlers, led by a 35-year-old housewife from Dunlop, are determinedly keeping alive their dream of an Olympic medal here.

Rhona Martin's squad stayed on target for a semi-final place with a nerve-racking 7-4 victory over the unbeaten Swiss team and an 8-6 win over Denmark yesterday. They now have a record of five wins and two losses, which puts them in third place in the 10-team contest and in excellent shape to reach the semi-final.

They had to go the hard way about their victory over the Swiss with Martin needing steady nerves to execute perfectly a last-stone take-out to snatch the win. "A win was vital to regain confidence and maintain our semi-final chances," she said afterwards. "Going 3-0 up in the first end was great but it is a long game and it was important for us to retain our focus. Losing one at the ninth end was disappointing but at least we were still one up and we kept hold of that advantage."

Well though they are doing, the British are still behind the pace-setting Canadians. Kelley Law's squad pounded Germany 8-4 and Sweden 7-5 to remain the only unbeaten team in either men's or women's competitions. They now have a perfect record of six wins from six starts.

The Swiss, despite their loss to the British, are in second place in the standings, with a 5-1 record, having played one fewer game.

The British men's campaign has been nothing like as successful as the women's, and defeats by both Finland and Denmark put the lights out on any realistic hope of qualifying for the later stages.

Hammy McMillan, the 1999 world champion and skip of the team, sidelined himself for the last three matches because of his poor form, but the gremlins which had afflicted him so badly latched on to his replacement, Warwick Smith, who blew a last-stone advantage on the last end against Denmark to leave Britain with a distinctly unimpressive record of one win and five losses from six matches.

Britain went into the eighth end with a 4-2 advantage but lost three stones when Danish skip Ulrik Schmidt completed a triple take-out before Smith's mistake cost them their last chance of victory.

In the game against Finland, the British team pushed Markku Uusipaavalniemi to last rock in the 10th end before the Finn broke through with a great final takeout to score three and take the match 6-4. Finland themselves then tumbled 6-5 to Norway.

As in the women's event, Canada continued to lead the standings, beating Germany 9-7 to register their sixth victory in seven outings.