Scotland gave up their title and had to settle for silver when Eve Muirhead and her women’s team went down by 5-6 to Russia in the extra end of yesterday’s final of the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships in Sweden.
The lead changed hands five times, with mistakes costing the Scots dear.
After improving all the way through the week-long competition, including a good win on Friday against favourites Sweden, Muirhead and her team – third Anna Sloan, second Vicki Adams and lead Claire Hamilton – chose this game to go off the boil.
The Scottish problems started in the first end, when poor set-up play left skip Muirhead with an almost-impossible task and they gave Russia a steal of one shot. In the fifth, Muirhead was attempting an open take-out to blank the end and keep last stone advantage, but she just nudged her Russian target instead of removing it, to hand Russia their second steal and a 3-2 half-time lead.
In the ninth, it was another Scottish mistake – this time a draw from Muirhead that came up short – that gave Russia their third single steal of the game for a 5-4 lead. The Scots could only hit and stay for one shot in the tenth to tie the game and put it into an extra end.
In this end, the Russians had the crucial last stone advantage, and for once, the Scots set things up well, managing to get two front guards in place, but Russian second player Margarita Fomina produced the shot of the game to clear them both and take out a Scottish counter on the four foot for good measure. This shot put an end to Scottish hopes and Russian skip Anna Sidorova hit and stayed for the one shot needed to claim the title.
This is only the second time that Russia has won this title, the last time being in 2006, and shows they are making good progress for when Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Afterwards, Muirhead said: “You know, not an awful lot went wrong there. It wasn’t our best performance and we’ve played better this week. We just had one or two slack shots here and there, but they played well. But we had a few chances and I thought we were in control.”
She added: “Anyone would be happy in a European final to be going into the extra end with last stone, it just wasn’t to be for us. That last end could have gone either way – their second made a fantastic double and took out one in the house too, so we just knew they were going to make that final shot”.
This was Muirhead’s third successive European final and she said: “We’ve worked so hard, so it’s disappointing to let ourselves down when it mattered”.
Scottish third Anna Sloan added: “It’s safe to say we’re all pretty gutted. We played solidly throughout the week but it was just one of those games – these things happen, I suppose. But we had a good week, we’re obviously disappointed right now, but I think when we look back we will realise that it was a successful week and we’ve gone home with a silver medal.”
She added: “They just played better than us. Now we just need to keep working hard, win the Scottish Championships, and make sure we beat them when it comes to the Worlds.”
Sweden beat Denmark by 9-3 to take the women’s bronze medals while Sweden’s men beat Norway 8-5 to take gold and the Czech Republic took men’s bronze, the country’s first international championships medal.