Winter Olympics: Britain hope to add bronze to tattoos

THE British women's curling team were not regarded as likely medallists at these 18th Winter Games, but they have now put themselves into a position where they are just one victory away from a bronze.

Such was the commitment of Britain's Scottish quartet that three of them - skipper Kirsty Hay, Katie Loudon and Fiona Bayne, had made their Olympic ambitions tangible by having tattoos of the Olympic rings applied to their backsides.

Jackie Lockhart, who did not feel moved to do the same thing, said yesterday: "The tattoos were `very discreet', measuring one centimetre by three centimetres.''

Asked if there was any likelihood that these tattoos would see the light of day, perhaps if the British quartet made sure of a medal by winning Saturday's semi-final, she replied: "Yes, we can hope.'' Whether the hoping was connected to the results or the tattoos was not clear.

Britain's medal hopes in the curling competition had appeared to rest with the men's team of Dougie Dryburgh, Ronnie Napier, and brothers Philip and Peter Wilson. But they were left hoping that fortunes would go their way on the final day after mixed fortunes yesterday. A 9-5 victory over the hosts in the morning was followed by a 4-7 defeat by the European champions, Germany.

It means that Britain must win their final match with the USA today and hope that the team above them in fourth place, Sweden, lose. That would give them the opportunity to progress to Saturday's semi-final by way of a play-off.

The women, however, are safe in fourth place, having secured their fourth win with a 6-5 decision over Germany. The other semi-finalists are Canada, Sweden and Denmark.

The game against Germany was a tight affair with Britain allowing a 4- 2 lead to turn into a 4-5 deficit before Hay, a 26-year-old medical sales rep from Perth, drew the last stone of the last end into the house to secure two points and a semi-final place. "We are delighted to have got this far,'' Hay said. "We do not have any preferences for the semi-finals. Against Canada it would be tough but we had a reasonable game against them. The semi-finals are different anyway because every team is a little bit more nervous and the expectations on Canada are huge. I think we are in as good a position as we could have hoped for.''

Those sentiments were echoed by Lockhart. "The men got more publicity then us beforehand but if people had looked at our record they would have seen that we have played well at world championship level.

"We started slowly in this tournament, gradually settling to the ice, but we were quietly confident hopefully we will be peaking at just the right time.''

Britain's sole figure skater at these Games, Steven Cousins, finished sixth in the first section of his competition - the short programme - marred only by one slight stumble.

Cousins has given himself the chance to finish in a respectable position following tomorrow's concluding freestyle programme. "It felt great,'' he said. "I was so happy to be out there giving it my best.''

Cousins, who was disappointed with his seventh place at the European Championships, had vowed to take risks here at what will be his last Olympics. But he was only able to produce a triple-double combination last night, while the top four managed back-to-back triples.

Cousins' training partner, Elvis Stojko, seeking an Olympic gold to add to his world titles, led the standings after receiving one perfect six. But he faces tough competition from the American challenger Todd Eldredge and the Russians, Alexei Yagudin and Ilia Kulik.