CANADA. Too good. Unbeatable. We’ve blown it. Rhona Howie has heard it all before and has an Olympic gold medal to prove there really are as many opinions as there are experts.
Eve Muirhead faces unbeaten Canadian skip Jennifer Jones today for a place in the Olympic curling final, a difficult match set-up by her surrendering of a final end lead of three in her last round-robin clash with Denmark.
It’s exactly 12 years tomorrow since Howie took on Canada’s Kelley Law in an Olympic semi-final, few experts thought she could win – and duly upset the form book with a shock final end victory. And she hopes it’s all just a little bit of history repeating here in Sochi.
“It’s always tough to play Canada in a semi-final. We had to do that and it didn’t turn out too bad,” said Howie. “Great Britain or Scotland against Canada in curling is always a big game for the players and everyone else involved. It’s the game that everyone wants to watch. If we want a medal we have to win big matches now, it doesn’t matter who the opposition is.
“It’s what the four of you do on the ice that it’s important. If you can control that, then the results will take of themselves. That is what we did in 2002; we came through two play-offs to get to that semi-final and we weren’t going to throw it away there. It didn’t matter that it was Canada we were playing. For us, we controlled what we could do and just performed and that worked.”
Muirhead lost narrowly to Jones in the round-robin stage but beat her convincingly in their previous meeting, winning 12-2 at the Continental Cup in Las Vegas just a few weeks before the Games. Jones is making her Olympic debut in Sochi and would be best advised to stay away from the internet if she wants to avoid the weight of expectation being heaped upon her from a nation where curling is a national obsession.
Canada’s Kevin Martin is the only other curler to go through the Olympic round robin undefeated and he won gold four years ago. Losing is quite simply not an option.