Eve Muirhead’s Scottish women took gold in yesterday’s final of the Le Gruyere AOP European Curling Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland when they beat Sweden 6-3, but Kyle Smith’s men had to settle for silver when they lost 10-5 to a Swedish team led by Niklas Edin, who won their fourth successive European crown.
Despite Smith’s obvious disappointment at falling at the final hurdle, both of these performances show that, when these teams wear British colours in February’s Olympic Winter Games in Korea, they will be real medal contenders.
Both finals were tight affairs. At the start of the second half of the women’s game, Sweden led 2-1, but Muirhead hit out a Swedish stone in the sixth end to score the only two of the game and take a 3-2 lead.
Sweden’s skip Anna Hasselborg then hit out a Scottish stone in the seventh end to level the score at 3-3.
A real turning point came in the ninth end when Hasselborg was heavy with her final-stone draw, handing Scotland a single steal and a two-shot lead for the first time in the game, 5-3.
The Scots went on to win 6-3 when Hasselborg was heavy in the tenth end, giving Muirhead and her team the chance to celebrate their second European gold and making this the eighth European Championships in a row in which they’ve gained medals.
Afterwards, a delighted Muirhead said: “European champion sounds pretty nice. It’s been a tough week and we’ve played really well. We’ve been working hard all season,
and to come out on top and be European champion is really, really special.
“That was my eighth consecutive European medal, but only one before was gold. That’s me got two and every one is just as good. This feels extra-special with everyone talking about the Olympics now.”
Reflecting on the game itself, she said: “When we knew we were facing Anna [Hasselborg] we knew we’d have to play our game of the week.
“We made a lot of good shots – the girls were fantastic. I love having such a fantastic team behind me, they make my life very easy.”
Muirhead reckoned the turning point came in the fifth end.
“What was really important was that we got the hammer turned around in the fifth end and we knew we wanted to get a good two in the sixth end, and that’s exactly what we did. And we were strong in eight, nine, and ten.”
In the men’s final, the Scots were up against it from the start, with Sweden scoring two points in the first end following a Scottish mistake and then stealing one point in the third. By the time he came to play his last stone in the fourth end, Scottish skip Smith, pictured inset, was already down 3-0, but he played an open draw to score two points to reduce Sweden’s lead to 3-2 and bring his team into the game.
In the seventh end, with the score tied at 3-3, Sweden’s skip Edin played a soft tap into the house to score one point and take a 4-3 lead. The Scots responded in the eighth when Smith played a hit-and-stay with his last stone to score two points and take the lead at 5-4 for what turned out to be the only time in the game.
Sweden then took the lead again at 6-5 with two points in the ninth and, in the tenth, Smith was heavy with a final draw attempt for one point that would have forced an extra end.
Instead, his stone sailed through the house to give Sweden a steal of four and a 10-5 win.
Afterwards, a subdued Smith said: “I’m very disappointed to be honest. It’ll take a while to be pleased with a silver medal. I was focussing on the weight that the boys asked me to throw on that last stone but it was obviously far too much. They’re a really good team but I thought we might have had them today.”