British medal hopes crash to earth

Suddenly the glory of Amy Williams' skeleton gold looked, well, skeletal as Britain's Winter Olympics slid away on what had looked the most promising of the ice.

The denouement of David Murdoch's much fancied world champion curlers was excruciatingly slow, over three hours of lost authority as a young Swedish team edged them out of the semi-finals with a 7-6 victory that came in an extra end. That of the bobsledders Nicola Minichiello and Gillian Cooke came in several missed heartbeats as they survived a crash hair-raising even by the standards of their hazardous sport.

For Minicheiello and Cooke, though, there was the satisfaction of going beyond their limits in a desperate attempt to fight back into contention.

Murdoch was bitterly disappointed by his, and his team's, failure to put down the precocious young Swedes led by the rumpled-haired 24-year-old Niklas Edin, whose shot-making produced an early lead and whose nerve held as Murdoch and his much more experienced team attempted to scheme their way back.

Minichiello could only regret the need to push so hard in a third run that saw Cooke injure her leg and the sled damaged as the possibility of a fourth run was wiped out. She said: "We threw everything into that run. Unfortunately, it didn't come off."

Part of the problem was the superbly confident form of the Canadian gold medal winners, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. A series of stunning descents left them winning by the yawning margin of nearly a second.

Murdoch's wounds are likely to linger rather longer. He lamented: "It's heart-breaking. We had our backs to the wall and just didn't finish off matters the way we used to."

The British bobsledder Gillian Cooke suffered an injury following a 'hair-raising' crash

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