Curling: Final proves game too far for Muirhead

DESPITE going into their final as the only undefeated team in the tournament, Scotland’s world champions, skipped by Eve Muirhead, had to settle for silver at the European Curling Championships when they lost yesterday’s women’s final 10-5 to Sweden.

Scotland skip Eve Muirhead shouts to her sweepers in the European Championship final. Picture: Richard Gray/WCF
Scotland skip Eve Muirhead shouts to her sweepers in the European Championship final. Picture: Richard Gray/WCF

At the same time, the Scottish men took bronze, beating Denmark by 7-6.

Afterwards, Muirhead admitted: “That was pretty sore. We just didn’t seem to be as sharp as we had been for the rest of the week. But, give them their dues, they played well.”

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Moments after coming off the ice, though, Muirhead’s thoughts were already turning elsewhere. She added: “This is not the big one this season, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. Our preparation is for the Sochi Winter Olympics. It would have been nice to come away with the gold medal, but we’ve had such a great week, the girls played great all week. I’m happy with the way things are going. We’ve got a silver medal – it’s easy to forget that. We’ve got a lot of good things to take away from this week but we just couldn’t finish it off today”.

Muirhead’s team of Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton had comfortably topped the round-robin before beating Switzerland easily in the play-off game to reach the final, but they struggled from the first end when Muirhead had a complete miss with her attempted take-out to hand Sweden a steal of one point.

The Scots recovered in the second end, scoring one point of their own, but Sweden fourth player Maria Prytz promoted one of her own stones and knocked out a Scottish counter to score three in the third end for a 4-1 lead.

It wasn’t until the sixth end that the Scots got back on terms with a single steal for 4-4. But Sweden responded with two points in the seventh for a 6-4 lead. To make matters worse the Scots started to run out of time on the match clock.

They were forced to rush in the last end and eventually Muirhead was left with an impossible shot, which she played with only 12 seconds left, giving Sweden a steal of three from the end and a 10-5 victory, and their country’s 19th women’s European title.

In the bronze medal game between the Scottish men and Denmark, the game came down to the tenth end and, when Danish skip Rasmus Stjerne was heavy with his final draw to leave two Scottish counters in the house, the Scots – skip David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow – won without the need for the last stone. Like Muirhead, Murdoch had a bittersweet reflection on his performance and his Olympic plans. He said: “We know what the real goal is this season and this week was all about working hard as a team, having some good performances and playing well and I think we’ve done that. It’s all about keeping that good form now and training hard.”