EVE Muirhead and the Scottish women are reigning world champions, but they may just be setting a new standard for themselves with the level of their play at the Le Gruyère European Curling Championships.
Muirhead’s rink, who will represent Great Britain at a second Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year, swept aside Switzerland in their final round-robin game yesterday, winning by 13-3.
This win means the Scots have maintained a 100 per cent record through the complete round-robin and Muirhead admitted that their form did bode well for their ambitions of Olympic gold, quite apart from their hopes of winning a second European title here in Norway.
The Scots rank first overall and they now go into the Page one versus two game, where a victory would take them directly to the final.
Their opponents in that game will again be Switzerland. Below these two, three teams are tied in third place – Denmark, who beat the Czech Republic by 10-5 in this session, Russia – 11-5 victors over Italy, and Sweden, who beat Germany by 7-5.
Among these, Sweden, with the best draw shot record of the three, have ranked third and will play the Page 3-4 game against the winner of a tie-breaker between Denmark and defending champions Russia.
As they came onto the ice to face Scotland, Switzerland too were undefeated, but they simply could not cope with the Scottish performance.
The Swiss had last stone in the opening end, but the Scots stole two. Switzerland managed to respond with a two of their own in the second end, but after that, it was all Scotland. Three shots in the third end were followed by a steal of one in the fourth and a steal of two in the fifth for an 8-2 halftime lead.
Switzerland put their third point on the board in the sixth and then, when Muirhead’s last draw in the seventh came beautifully into position as the Scots cruised home.
After the game, a delighted Muirhead said: “I can’t remember going unbeaten in a round-robins before, so it really does mean a lot to us. It really stamps down a marker, not just for this tournament but going to the Winter Olympics in February, that we really are firing for the top.
“I’m really delighted with that win. We all played so well, there’s lots of support going on for each other. We played our usual aggressive game and, if we play like that, it’s hard for any team to keep up with us.
“We really showed that we are the strongest team in the round-robins. If we can just keep that going, it’s going to be a tough game for Switzerland tomorrow.
“It’s been really, really good so far with nine wins from nine games, but we know we have some crucial games to come, so we just need to keep the head and keep focused.”
Scotland will resume at noon today against the Swiss, with the winner of that securing a place in tomorrow’s final and being guaranteed at least a silver medal. Because there had to be a tie-breaker between the defending champions, Russia, and Denmark, for the right to play Sweden in the third-versus-fourth game last night, the Scots had a rare night off last night.
“It’s going to be good to have a night off,” Muirhead added. “We were maybe going to be playing tonight, but they can keep scrapping while we’ll have a nice, relaxing night.”