Mixed fortunes for British curlers

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The Independent Online

Great Britain's curlers endured a disappointing day as the men were forced into a make or break play-off and the women bowed out with a fifth straight defeat.

David Murdoch's men needed to beat Norway to clinch a semi-final spot but lost 9-5 and now face a play-off clash with Sweden on Wednesday.

A win against the Swedes would book a semi-final showdown with Kevin Martin's unbeaten Canada team on Thursday so the men's Olympic medal dreams are still alive.

But the Olympic adventure is over for 19-year old women's skip Eve Muirhead, a 6-5 defeat against Canada sealing their fate.

Murdoch remained upbeat about the men's chances after he, Ewan MacDonald, Pete Smith and Euan Byers lost out to Thomas Ulsrud's team.

"At least we're not out of it," he said. "That's the main thing. "We play Sweden and hopefully win that.

"If we win we would play Canada. We like playing them, it always brings the best out in us. It is not something we are scared of and if we played Kevin it would be one almighty game."

Sweden skip Niklas Edin beat Murdoch's men 6-4 in their round robin opener but he warned: "We need to play all 10 ends and be even better. They're a tough team and they get better at the end of competitions."

Edin's men had to beat Denmark to force a play-off and the British quartet watched the Swedes clinch a 7-6 victory after conceding their own match against Norway following the eighth end.

Murdoch was frustrated that Britain had not taken their chances against the Norwegians.

"It was a great opportunity for us and we didn't take it," he said. "We had some slack shots.

"But the score didn't reflect the game. We just have to bin that and come out again (against the Swedes).

Muirhead shouldered the blame for a disappointing end to her Olympics curling debut after the loss against Canada.

"I missed a few crucial draws out there that let us down," she said. "I put the blame on myself because there were a lot of shots that I should be making and they didn't come off.

"You feel really bad, that you've let the team down and let a lot of people at home down.

"But I've had the experience of a lifetime and hopefully for myself, only 19 years old, you can look forward and have many more to come.

Lockhart, 44, has no doubt that Muirhead will be back.

"It's a huge learn for her and hopefully she'll recover from this and move on because she has so many years in front of her," said the 2002 World Championship winning skip.

"She's got fantastic potential considering that she's 19 years old. There's many people who wouldn't have reached that level until they're 30, never mind 19. She's still got lots more in her and I think we should keep an eye on her."

Muirhead, Lockhart, Kelly Wood and Lorna Vevers were left to rue a disappointing end to the women's round robin campaign.

Light-weight hammers from Muirhead gave Canada steals in the first, sixth, seventh and eighth ends to leave Cheryl Bernard's side 5-2 up with two ends to play.

Muirhead claimed two points in the ninth and got the point they needed in the 10th to force an extra end but Bernard held her nerve to take out the British stone nearest the innermost circle (button) with her final stone (hammer) and seal victory.

Nicola Minichiello's hopes of claiming Olympic gold on the same Whistler track as Amy Williams suffered a blow when she trailed in 10th place after the first two runs of the women's bobsleigh.

Minichiello struggled to get to grips with the track in blizzard conditions and stands almost a second behind Cathleen Martini's German bob in third place.

Their overnight position will come as a crushing disappointment to Minichiello and her brake-woman Gillian Cooke, who won the world title last year and headed to Vancouver insisting nothing less than gold would do.

Minichiello hid that disappointment well, insisting: "Until we cross the finish line after the fourth run we are still shooting for the gold medal."

Minichiello admitted a mistake on the first bend had cost her dear on both runs and she held on to 10th place only 0.19 seconds ahead of team-mate Paula Walker.

"Overall I'm driving most of the track really well but I'm just making a mistake on corner one and it's killing our speed," she said.

"But on tracks like this anything's possible and we'll bring it back tomorrow."

Walker and brake-woman Kelly Thomas stood 14th after the first run but enjoyed a hugely improved second run which moved them up to 11th and close to their aim of a place on the top 10.

The Canadian bob piloted by Kaille Humphries stood in the gold medal position half-way through the programme with a 0.13 advantage over Erin Pac's USA2. Martini was a further 0.27 adrift.

Jenna McCorkell suffered an unfortunate fall during her routine in figure skating's ladies short programme and had a score of 40.64 placing her 29th out of 30.

Edinburgh's Andy Noble won the mini-competition between the three British team-mates, placing 36th just ahead of 37th placed Ed Drake, while Dave Ryding survived an early slip to finish 47th.

Noble, on his Olympic debut, finished 7.02 seconds behind winner Janka and one place above Drake, competing in his last event after three previous events.

Sarah Sauvey disappointed in qualifying for the women's ski-cross at Cypress Mountain.

Needing to finish in the top 32 from a start list of 35, Sauvey negotiated the course in the second slowest position, beating only Switzerland's Sanna Luedi, who crashed.