Winter Olympics 2014: David Murdoch swept away in curling final as barb at Canadians backfires, meaning Team GB claim silver

David Murdoch's team were outclassed throughout the curling final

Ice Cube Curling Centre

It was over long before the four Elvis impersonators started singing. Britain’s bid for an unprecedented second gold medal at a Winter Games was brushed ruthlessly aside by a relentless Canadian quartet on Friday. There were still two ends to play when David Murdoch decided enough was enough and conceded the match.

By then the Elvis quartet were in full voice – they were Canadian fans – on what was a dire night for Murdoch’s men. Even an attempt by their supporters to display a Scottish saltire was quashed as officials took it down – only flags of competing nations are allowed to be displayed at Olympic Games. It finished 9-3 but the writing had been on the ice as early as the third end, when Britain found themselves trailing 5-1. The Murdoch team looked shellshocked, Canada pumped even by their standards.

Before the game, Soren Gran, the Swedish coach of the British team, had questioned the Canadians’ aggressive style of play. The Canadians were duly made aware of Gran’s feelings.

“That definitely lit a fire under us,” said the Canada lead, Ryan Harden. “It doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t make us mad or any of that. It actually makes us play better.

“It was all over the news. I don’t know if it affected them, but we saw it and we’re the type of team where if we see something like that it lights a fire under us.”

Long before the Canadian quartet leapt en masse onto the podium Britain had been left burnt, their tactics swept aside from the start.

The aim was to restrict Canada to one shot on the opening end, when they held the hammer: two were conceded. Murdoch never hit his slide. On the second end he missed a straightforward shot to take two back immediately and then came the disastrous third end, when three shots were conceded via a slack final stone from Murdoch.

“It’s like a kick in the teeth,” said Murdoch. “I’m disappointed. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“We did everything we could to try and start well, but we just had a poor start and that gave them a lot of confidence as well. Going 5-1 down there was always going to be an uphill struggle and it didn’t matter what we did in the second half.

“They play with a lot of adrenaline and passion and that’s what works for them. It doesn’t work for a lot of guys. We like to stay cool but they like to be pumped up and it’s worked for them.”

Greg Drummond and Michael Goodfellow get their heads together to sweep the ice under instruction from GB skip David Murdoch in yesterday’s curling final in Sochi Greg Drummond and Michael Goodfellow get their heads together to sweep the ice under instruction from GB skip David Murdoch in yesterday’s curling final in Sochi (Getty Images) It will not have felt like it as they trudged downcast out of the Ice Cube, but Murdoch’s men of course have a consoling silver lining – they will receive their medal on Saturday night in a ceremony that will also include Eve Muirhead’s rink collecting their bronze – and for the sport to come home with two medals is no small achievement. Since curling returned to the Games in 1998 Britain had managed only one medal, Rhona Martin’s gold in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Martin – now Rhona Howie after her divorce – was in the audience on Friday. Britain’s Olympic royalty was out in force – between Sebastian Coe, Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, David Hemery, Howie and the latest addition to an illustrious rank, Lizzy Yarnold, they could boast 14 golds. Winter golds are rarely won by Britons. Yarnold was only the 10th, hence the level of support for Murdoch and his men. But it never looked like becoming an 11th.

“We were struggling with our game, absolutely too much, and then the few chances we had, we didn’t take any,” said Gran. “I’m very, very disappointed. It felt a little bit like giving up, sadly.

“I don’t blame anyone on my team for this loss, absolutely not. I take more blame on myself for not preparing them in the best way for the finals. Not any specific reason, we were very happy to come to the final. But then you have to mix it up with a little bit of relaxation, to say ‘OK, enjoy the moment, guys’ and then get them on fire.”

 

This was Gran’s team. He had persuaded Murdoch to leave the family farm in Lockerbie and move to Stirling to train with Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow, who had previously curled for Tom Brewster. Brewster sat next to Gran last night as the team’s reserve but the decision to parachute Murdoch in to skip this team has to be judged a success despite Fridays crushing disappointment.

After the heart-stopping heroics of their play-off win over Norway and final shot success over Sweden in the semi-final, the final was a curling car crash for the British rink.

Goodfellow received a ticking off from the referee after he forgot to change from his warm-up T-shirt to his match strip with his name on the back. It had no bearing on the game but summed up a night when Britain failed to match the lofty standards set earlier in the week. It was a messy, error-strewn performance. They were surprised by the speed of the ice and by the time they had adapted it was far too late.

“Let’s be honest, we didn’t give ourselves a chance out there,” said Drummond. “We really struggled in the first few ends and just couldn’t come back from it.

“We’ve played many big games in our career and the pressure has never fazed us before. I don’t think it can be put down to pressure; the fault is on us for not adapting to the conditions.

“It wasn’t the result we were hoping for, but we’ll definitely wear our medals with pride.”

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