Winter Olympics 2014: Team GB men's curlers prepare for final, with David Murdoch ready to show noisy rivals that silence is golden

Team GB are certain to secure a fourth medal on Friday afternoon - but will it be silver or gold?

sochi

It will not take long for the contrast to become clear. On one side, with that now familiar wry smile playing across his face, will be David Murdoch and his three British team-mates, as reserved off the ice as they are quietly composed on it. On the other side will be Brad Jacobs and his Canadian rink – loud, proud and over here to win gold. And if feelings are trampled  en route then that’s too bad. Welcome to curling’s culture clash.

On Friday the two rinks face each other for gold in the Ice Cube. Canada expects it – curling is second only to ice hockey in the sporting pecking order – and are determined to own the top podium for a third successive Games. GB have won the gold only once, in the first Games of 1924.

The real contrast though comes in how they play the game. Both teams are fit – the days when a string of ash trays were laid alongside the ice are long gone – but Canada play with an aggression that has not won them many, or indeed any, friends. They are loud on the ice, bang brooms when a shot goes wrong or first-pump vigorously when things go right.

“The aggressive style we have seen from the Canadians, that’s something I don’t like about the sport,” said Soren Gran, Britain’s coach. “I don’t think it helps anyone. It doesn’t help the player or his team-mates. I tell my guys to work a different way.”

Not that the Canadians care a jot about what others think. “What works well for us is when we bring a lot of intensity,” said Jacobs. “That’s our style. That’s the type of people we all are. It’s almost like that switch that goes off in your head when you step on to the ice. You become a different person. Professional sports tend to bring that out in a  lot of people.”

Not, it would seem, in Murdoch, although he is a different person to the one who came home from the last Winter Olympics. This is Murdoch’s third Games. He met his wife-to-be in the build-up to Vancouver 2010 but there was nothing to make the trip memorable in sporting terms.

In both his previous Games he was expected to deliver a medal and when, tense and tentative, he failed in Vancouver, he admits, “I was very low. We really believed we were going to win. You know when you come away from that and you’ve given absolutely everything and you think, well, if we’ve done all that and you still don’t achieve it, it puts you in a pretty dark place. It was over a year until I was over that.”

The arrival of Gran, once Sweden’s coach, provided the foundation for better times. He persuaded Murdoch to move from the family farm in Lockerbie to Stirling, where the rest of today’s team were training at the Scottish Institute of Sport. Gran had a plan. He liked what he saw in Murdoch – and in Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow he had three promising curlers. It meant taking the harsh decision to ditch their skip, Tom Brewster – here as a reserve – and replace him with Murdoch. Under Brewster, Scotland had twice won world championship silver. It was a gamble.

Gran has encouraged Murdoch to relax, and over the last two years the tension has gone out of his game. He is enjoying being on the ice again. “I try to encourage them to like and enjoy what they are doing and to believe in themselves,” said Gran. “They should make it happen rather than be worried about what might happen.”

On Thursday Murdoch could not stop smiling. He chatted happily after practice before watching the GB women win bronze, then pedalling back to the athletes’ village. He is guaranteed the Olympic medal he has wanted since he first curled at his father’s rink in Lockerbie.

“It’s the most incredible feeling, to do all that work and dedication and sacrifice and to finally realise your dream of getting there – it is actually hard to for your brain to take,” he said. “You never think you will ever get that chance. Now there’s the opportunity to go one better and that’s an even more mind-boggling thing.”

Murdoch’s career has had plentiful ups and downs – his bronze-medal match in 2006 was interrupted by a streaker with a rubber chicken as a loincloth – and his path to this final has been similarly erratic. The Brits lost their last three round-robin games, which meant a play-off against Norway. Murdoch won that with his “shot of the century” then the semi-final with the last stone of the match. This is a man in his moment.

“I got a tweet from Andy Murray today, which is pretty cool,” he said, and shook his head at the madness of it all. Then he looked up, grinned and added one more word: “Surreal.”

Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor