His selection as British skip may have raised a few eyebrows but Kyle Smith is proving doubters wrong – just as he promised he would.
Selectors opted to go with Team Smith – made up of Kyle, brother Cammy, Kyle Waddell plus brothers Thomas and Glen Muirhead – over David Murdoch’s silver-medal winning rink for these Winter Olympics.
The decision was one based on future promise – overlooking Team Murdoch in favour of the up and coming young guns.
Performances at last year’s European Championships, where the team claimed silver, suggested those decisions were not without basis.
But competing under the glare of the world at an Olympic Games is an altogether different prospect.
However, Smith appears to be taking it in his stride, guiding his rink through the round robin stages with relative ease. A three-match winning streak coming into this morning’s clash with the USA had left them within one victory of the play-offs and the chance to bid for a medal – although they are guaranteed a tie-breaker for the play-offs regardless.
“A big shout out to Kyle as this was his best game,” said coach Viktor Kjell after yesterday’s impressive 10-3 victory over 2010 silver medallists Norway, where Smith overshadowed his opposite number and 2014 world champion Thomas Ulsrud.
“The most important thing was that it was a good confidence boost for the team’s feeling on the ice and also for Kyle. Not that his confidence had been low by any means but it’s always nice for your skip to nail a couple of good shots.”
Smith was also bullish in his assessment of their ability.
“We always believed in ourselves. These performances just give everyone else a bit of confidence in us as well,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of games where we haven’t played our best but we’ve still managed to come through and win.”
If it’s confidence that is getting Team Smith through then it’s experience which is coming to the fore for the women’s team.
Bronze medallists four years ago, the rink has endured a rollercoaster tournament so far, including controversy over a hog-line violation for skip Eve Muirhead.
But the women, like the men, had their destiny in their own hands in the early hours of this morning. Victory against Canada would have seen them straight through to the play-offs but a tie-breaker game was still guaranteed.
“Our experience has been shining through,” said vice-skip Anna Sloan following yesterday’s 8-6 win over Japan. “I feel we have had a pretty tough run. We were at the wrong end of the inch in a couple of games that could’ve easily gone our way. And it left us in a we have to win situation. I also think it’s important not to lose perspective and not to change too much and appreciate that we have been close in all of these games and we have been building.”
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