SOMETIMES fate is a stronger force than anything else in sport and David Murdoch is hoping that fate is finally on his side.
After two disappointments, missing out on a medal by millimetres in Turin and flattering to deceive four years ago in Vancouver, Murdoch thought his Olympic dream was dead.
The Lockerbie man fell out of love with curling, got injured, stopped playing and thought about doing something else.
But last night he booked his place in the Olympic curling final, guaranteeing at least silver alongside his youthful rink of Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow, and thereby securing a third medal for Great Britain in Sochi – making this their most successful Games since 1936.
Two-time world champion Murdoch kept a cool head as the tension increased in a dramatic semi-final against Sweden’s reigning world champion skip Niklas Edin. He started the final end down one but outsmarted his rival, who blew his late chance for a takeout to give Murdoch what he described as a regulation shot to secure a 6-5 win. “I hope it’s our time,” he said. “The curling gods have been looking down on me this week and it makes a change. We have to go out there with confidence and no fear, go for it and believe it.
“That’s a reward for 12 years of dedicating yourself to a sport, to beat your body up, go through injuries and train hard and make sacrifices. After all that time, I’ve proved it pays off. Having the experience of the near-misses in Turin and Vancouver has helped me keep my head and settle my play. This team believes in itself, I can’t believe the confidence we have, and now we’re in the Olympic final.
“I want the gold, you get this opportunity once in a lifetime and it’s up to us to seize the day and make some incredible history. I’m delighted at getting the medal I’ve worked so long for but we want the gold now and we’ll be pushing everything to get that.”
Murdoch paid tribute to his Swedish coach, Soren Gran, for giving him the motivation to rediscover his love for the sport and commit to a third Olympic campaign.
Canada – skipped by Brad Jacobs – will certainly start favourites in the final, especially after they dominated China 10-6 to book their progress. But Murdoch claims he and his rink have nothing to lose, while his rival plays under the groaning weight of national expectation.
“After Vancouver I thought that was it and I’d never get back,” he admitted. “You don’t get the chances to get to the Olympics very often.
“I went off the boil and my head wasn’t in it because I thought Vancouver was my chance. Then I got a bad shoulder injury and I honestly thought that was me done.
“But credit to my coach Soren Gran, he changed the course of my life and I moved to Stirling to train full-time and I’ve practised harder than I’ve ever done in my life.”
It wasn’t such a rewarding day for Eve Muirhead, but she vowed to bounce back and secure Olympic bronze after the GB women’s curling semi-final defeat to Jennifer Jones and her unbeaten Canadian rink.
Muirhead, alongside Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton, had a nightmare start after some debris on the ice forced her stone to pick, meaning she surrendered a soft two that gave Jones a flying start.
Canada made their advantage count, though the match wasn’t decided until the final stone, Jones securing a final with Sweden, while Muirhead’s rink now play Mirjam Ott’s Switzerland for bronze this morning.
The world champion said: “I am gutted and so are all the girls. I came into this tournament saying I wanted no regrets and we gave everything we could in that game. That pick up in the first end was brutal and losing a two off the bat from something you can’t control against Canada, it was going to be tough. There is nothing you can do when you get debris on the ice.
“We’ve still got a chance of a medal. I don’t want to come away without a medal around my neck. We played well as a team out there and we gave it everything. We can’t be too harsh on ourselves, we’re a young team and countries know we are here now.”
Coach David Hay backed them to bounce back and win Britain’s first women’s curling medal since Rhona Howie’s gold in Salt Lake City 12 years ago.
He said: “The first thing they said afterwards is ‘we’re going to get that bronze now’.”