Winter Olympics 2014: Team GB win fourth medal in Sochi after Eve Muirhead's women curlers clinch bronze

Eve Muirhead's team beat Switzerland in the bronze medal match

ice cube curling centre

When Eve Muirhead rolled the final stone of a tumultuous dozen days to a gentle halt in the middle of the button, covering the Olympic rings painted on the ice, it won her a bronze medal and secured her and her team-mates a place in British Olympic history.

Britain is now guaranteed four medals at this Games and that matches the number collected 90 years ago at the very first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, their highest tally. If David Murdoch wins gold in Friday’s men’s curling final then it will be the first time Britain has won two gold medals at a Winter Olympics and so make it their greatest Games.

Four appears a modest haul, certainly compared to the 65 amassed in London in 2012, but it is four times as many as four years ago and for a nation with a limited winter sport history it is a significant step. There may be more too; on Friday evening Elise Christie will contend her best event, the 1,000m, in the fast-forward lottery that is short-track speed skating and over the weekend Britain’s four-man bob will seek to transfer their speed in practice – they were fastest on Thursday – into competition. Muirhead is competing in a winter sport where Britain has history. Sitting up in the coaches’ box was Rhona Howie, gold winner a dozen years ago. Muirhead arrived here with hopes of following Howie to gold but bronze was a creditable achievement and one greeted with no little relief.

The night before, in the wake of that day’s crushing semi-final defeat by Canada, the four, Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Anna Sloan and Claire Hamilton, gathered in the team’s apartment and let the emotion out.

Great Britain's Anna Sloan, Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton celebrate after winning the Women's Curling Bronze Medal Game at the Ice Cube Curling Center Great Britain's Anna Sloan, Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton celebrate after winning the Women's Curling Bronze Medal Game at the Ice Cube Curling Center

“We went back and had a chat with the coaches about an hour later,” said Adams. “We all cried. We were all really upset, just devastated and we had to let it out. There was no point bottling it up because that would have taken it into the game.”

There were more tears after the bronze medal match against the Swiss. It was a tense, tight affair that Britain never led until the eighth end. The closing out of ends has been an issue for them here. In their final round-robin match they gifted Denmark three shots and the match, which meant a semi-final against the Canadian favourites – who duly won gold – rather than the more beatable Swedes.

Team Muirhead got it right. They took two shots on the eighth end, handed the hammer over and restricted the Swiss to a single shot on the penultimate end. It meant the scores were tied for the final end but Britain had the hammer and Muirhead did the necessary to take a 6-5 victory.

She has displayed little emotion throughout the Games but after turning to wave at her parents and then hugging her team-mates, it came out.

“It’s huge relief, maybe I come across as a bit stern faced, quite focused – but I am,” she said. “Inside though maybe I’m not as hard as everyone likes to think I am. It’s tough out there – mentally and physically – but as a team what a fantastic show we put on. Relief is an understatement.”

Eve Muirhead in action in the bronze medal match, which Team GB won, beating Switzerland Eve Muirhead in action in the bronze medal match, which Team GB won, beating Switzerland  

Her rink have an average age of 23 – the youngest here – and will seek to improve on bronze in 2018. But they will not be defending their world title next month. In an oddity of the sport, it is not possible to compete in the Olympics and the Scottish championships because of fixture and training clashes. It is the Scottish champions who go to the worlds and Muirhead’s rink no longer hold that title. An Olympic bronze is no little consolation.

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