Britain's women curlers, resigned to an Olympic exit after losing their final round-robin match to Germany, last night made the most of what their skip, Rhona Martin, described as "a second lifeline" as they won two play-off matches in the space of less than eight hours against Sweden and Germany to earn a semi-final place today against the world and Olympic champions, Canada.
The Germans, who had created an unexpected opportunity for Martin's team to rejoin the tournament by losing their final match against Switzerland, conceded to Britain at 9-5 down with an end still to play. It was the climax of a sustained display of concentration from the British team, for whom Janice Rankin, who celebrated her 20th birthday at the Games, was outstanding.
Martin's team, who defeated Sweden 6-4 in their early morning match, now have the opportunity to avenge the narrow defeat Canada inflicted upon Britain at the same stage of the Nagano Games four years ago, after which the British were beaten in the bronze-medal play-off.
The Germans, who had celebrated victory over Britain only a day earlier, were left utterly dejected after losing control of a tightly fought game in the ninth end, where a complete miss from their skip, Natalie Nessler, with the last stone left Martin's team holding three shots.
Martin had been resigned to failure after the 6-7 round robin defeat by Germany "we're out", she had said gloomily. But last night the stony expression on her face was replaced by one of barely contained glee.
"We were pretty dejected after yesterday's performance against Germany and thought we had completely blown it," Martin said. "But the Swiss victory against the Germans gave us extra hope and we came out here today and performed.
"This was a second lifeline and we knew we had to play well. It's been a great day all round. We knew a win against Germany was within our capability, and although we had a few anxious moments we remained on top. It's all in our own hands now. Tonight we will re-focus on the semi-final up until now all our concentration has been on trying to qualify. Canada are tough, but they can be beaten."
Whatever happens, Britain will have played more matches than any other at these Games, having had to play two extra games to rejoin the main draw.
Martin had vowed before the German match that she would play better than she had in the original meeting, and she was as good as her word.
Earlier in the day she had excelled in the win against Sweden, who like Germany had also beaten her side in the round-robin matches. Her concluding shot in the ninth end, which bypassed a Swedish guard stone and replaced the Swedes in the centre of the house, transformed what would have been a 3-0 deficit into a 1-0 win which sent Britain into the final end 6-3 up. The British players restricted the Swedes to just one shot in the concluding end.
* The American speed skater Derek Parra set a world record whilst winning the 1,500m speed skating gold last night, finishing in 1min 43.95sec.
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