GREAT Britain’s men’s curling team missed out on a gold medal at the Winter Olympics following a crushing defeat by Canada in the competition final yesterday.
Team GB brushed and slid their way into second place and lifted the silver medal at the Ice Cube Curling Centre in Sochi after they lost 9-3.
The team was skippered by David Murdoch and included Greg Drummond from Forfar, Stirling’s Michael Goodfellow and Scott Andrews from Prestwick.
Speaking minutes after the game, Murdoch, from Lockerbie, said: “It feels so difficult not winning the Olympic gold medal, but a silver medal is so cool and that will probably sink in later.”
Silver means Team GB have won four medals in Sochi, matching their best ever Winter Games haul in 1924.
It follows Lizzy Yarnold’s skeleton gold and bronze medals for snowboard slopestyler Jenny Jones as well as the women curlers, who took bronze on Thursday.
Earlier in the week, the men’s curling team guaranteed themselves a medal with a last-gasp 6-5 semi-final win over Sweden.
However, their dreams of lifting a gold medal were over following yesterday’s disappointing final.
The signs were ominous for Great Britain from the start when they found themselves 2-0 down after the first end, which became 5-1. An interval break failed to revitalise their fortunes as they slipped 8-2 behind before conceding defeat with the score at 9-3.
The only time GB’s men have won curling gold was at the first Winter Olympics in 1924.
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “Congratulations to our men’s curling team as Team GB secure silver medal in the final against Canada.” Scots cyclist Sir Chris Hoy wrote: “Silver may not be what they wanted, but on the day it seemed the better team won. Congratulations @teammurdoch on a massive achievement.”
Yesterday, Lockerbie residents turned out at the town’s ice rink, where Murdoch learned to curl, to watch the match.
The town has already enjoyed medal success at the Olympics, with Anna Sloan and Claire Hamilton, both from the area, picking up bronze medals as part of Eve Muirhead’s rink on Thursday.
Their 6-5 win over the Swiss was the British women curlers’ first Olympic medal since Rhona Martin skipped GB to gold at Salt Lake City in 2002.
Despite missing out on gold, the curlers remained heroes in the eyes of their home fans. “Curling parties” were held across Scotland to watch the men’s team.
At the team’s main training base at The Peak in Stirling, around 50 new and experienced curling fans gathered to watch the match on big screens.
Despite disappointment, the team were described as heroes for making it to the Olympic final and inspiring a new generation of curlers.
Logan Gray, ice development officer at Active Stirling, said more than 300 first-time curlers had taken to the rink at The Peak in the last fortnight.
“It’s great – it’s the one time every four years where we don’t have to go out and try to find people, they just come to us,” he said. “From the point of view of getting people playing, I don’t think the gold really would have made much difference. Both teams have played well and there’s been great exposure this week, and people are finding out and trying the game.
“There was little expectation on the guys going in and they hadn’t been on great form, but Dave Murdoch has a knack of finding a way to win and pulling off the right shots at the right time. But when you’re trailing by three or four shots in the Olympic final, you have to take more risks, and a bad start was the difference.”
Among those watching in Stirling was Provost Mike Robbins. He said: “Expectations were high, but silver is still a great achievement and the girls did well with their bronze, so we’re looking forward to welcoming them back to Stirling.
“This is their home turf on the ice here, so we’re incredibly proud of their efforts.”
Mr Robbins added: “They’re already heroes for the numerous world and European titles they’ve won, and this is only going to make them and the sport more popular.”
Standing-room only as Lockerbie gathers to cheer on its heroes, writes Martyn McLaughlin
HUNDREDS of supporters gathered at Lockerbie ice rink to watch the town’s son and British skip, David Murdoch, lead his teammates into action. Eight rows of chairs, two TVs and a big screen were not enough to cope with the 200 spectators, and by the time the match began, it was standing-room only in a room festooned with flags, bunting and posters with messages of encouragement.
An improbable nexus for world-class athletes, the humble facility on the town’s Glasgow Road was built in 1966 to fulfil the fancy of local farmers. During the long winter months, they reasoned, it would allow them to hone their skills at curling.
It was a prediction that has come true in spectacular fashion. Along with Murdoch’s silver medal performance, Lockerbie’s residents had reason to cheer on Thursday when the British women’s contingent skipped by Eve Muirhead claimed a bronze medal, the first podium place for Team GB’s women since Rhona Martin famously hurled her stone of destiny 12 years ago.
The delegation led by Muirhead included Lockerbie’s own Anna Sloan and Claire Hamilton, each of whom is now assured a glittering place in local history books. As such, one corner of the rink’s function room boasted a large banner supporting “Team Muirhead”, alongside a framed and signed jersey from Murdoch.
It was the 35-year-old farmer’s son who was the subject of most patriotic shouts yesterday. Having honed his skills on the rink under the watchful eye of his mother, he carried the hopes of the rink and the entire town.
In the end, fate did not allow for a fairytale ending. The game was not easy to watch as the Canadians gradually took control, with nothing seeming to go in favour of Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow. Still, the pride and pints flowed, with those in attendance shouting messages of encouragement.
As the match wore on, however, the shouts became fewer. By the halfway point, with the Britons trailing 6-1, there was growing realisation that silver was the only outcome. Not that anyone in an attendance felt disappointment at the prospect.
One viewer, Mike Stevenson, spoke for many when he assessed the performance. “I think the British team was a bit nervous even though David was able to pull them out of trouble of times,” he said. “They just had an uphill struggle to face as the game wore on.”
Thomas Sloan, the brother of Anna Sloan, also watched with a glow of pride. “It’s been a nerve-wracking few days but I’m very proud – not of Anna but everyone,” he explained. “It’s unbelievable for such a small town, and it’s important to be hopefully recognised for something a bit more positive than has been the case in the past.”
To mark the Sochi Games, officials in Lockerbie are offering free sessions to accommodate those inspired by the success of Murdoch, Sloan and Hamilton.