FORGET the stone of destiny; David Murdoch produced the shot of a lifetime to secure a place in the Olympic curling semi-finals.
It’s usually the snowboarders here in Sochi that talk about ‘going hard or going home’ but Murdoch has clearly been listening and was certainly ‘stoked’ to produce the goods under the most extreme pressure.
Team-mate Greg Drummond described his final end, final stone double take-out – which secured a 6-5 victory over
Thomas Ulsrud’s Norway – as a “one-in-50 shot” and Murdoch admitted the odds were certainly stacked against him.
Canadian rival Brad Jacobs had criticised the former double world champion for being “too defensive” in the build-up to the Olympics but the British skip maintained there was no point to prove.
Indeed, he claimed it was a shot to nothing, insisting the odds of pulling it off were as slim as the odds of winning the match had they settled for a single and given Norway the final-stone advantage in the resulting extra end.
“We’ve had World Championship wins but when it’s the Olympics and you’ve been here before and never quite done it and that shot gets you into the semi-finals, I think that has to rank No 1,” said Murdoch, when asked to assess the shot’s importance in his career.
“It will certainly go up there as one of my best shots ever. I just had to trust myself and have the courage to go for it. We never think about failure as a team, we only think about winning.
“It’s a shot you don’t make very often but we were confident. We’ve played these guys 100 times and knew the chance of stealing a point in the extra end was pretty slim.
“As hard as the shot was we just had to go for it. There was no margin for error; you couldn’t be an inch wide. We just got everything right and it was a fantastic team effort. Curling is a game of millimetres at times and we just hit the sweet spot at the right time.”
Coach Soren Gran insisted he knew Murdoch would take on the shot as soon as he saw him study the angles and give a wry smile. “It was a spectacular shot for everyone watching, especially with so much on the line and so much to lose,” he said. “I asked the guys what they thought the best chance was to win the game and we all agreed it was our best chance. We came here to reach the semi-finals and it’s fantastic to deliver on that ambition – but we’re not done yet.”
Norwegian skip Ulsrud, who is likely to call time on his career after next month’s World Championships, admitted he wasn’t surprised that Murdoch attempted to seal the win in such dramatic fashion.
However, he confessed he was impressed to see him execute the shot under such pressure.
“It’s feels pretty sore because we were leading from the very first end until the last rock,” he said.
“As soon as I saw the angle was there I knew he’d take the shot on. He’s the sort of guy that is going to make it because he doesn’t crack under pressure.
“I would have definitely taken the shot, in men’s curling if you don’t have the hammer in the extra end your chances of winning are slim and nine out of ten times you will probably lose.
“It was a really good shot when you think of what was on the line, if you miss it you’re out the Olympics. He’s got to think he’s pretty invincible after that.”
Four years ago it was a very different Murdoch to the skip who laughed his way through yesterday’s post-match analysis, joking at sending hearts a flutter on Twitter with his new sex- symbol status and the nation’s sudden excitement about his sport.
While Eve Muirhead remains focused and intense – despite promising “she’s having fun” – Murdoch is clearly enjoying himself, with a small knot of supporters turning a corner of the Iceberg Curling Centre into an enclave of the Tartan Army, bemusing security guards with their songs.
In Vancouver, Murdoch lost a tiebreaker to reach the semi-finals on an extra end to Sweden’s Niklas Edin, the skip he faces again today.
Edin’s rink have looked the ones to beat in Sochi, themselves smarting from their fourth place finish in 2010.
However, Murdoch believes his team of Olympic newcomers – Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow – have nothing to fear as they look to avenge a defeat to the Swedes over a week ago.
“Sweden are having a great tournament but it’s knockout now and we’ve got a lot of confidence and the guys are really settled and playing well,” he added. “It doesn’t matter how you get into the semis, as long as you do. You don’t want to go into the semis on a loss but we’re going in on a big win that’s got the heart pumping.”
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