Curling: Last-stone wonder shot denies Muirhead European gold

Eve Muirhead and her Scotland team lost 5-4 against Sweden in yesterday's final in Helsingborg. Photograph: Celine Stucki
Eve Muirhead and her Scotland team lost 5-4 against Sweden in yesterday's final in Helsingborg. Photograph: Celine Stucki
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A miraculous final shot from Swedish Olympic champion Anna Hasselborg, on her home ice, snatched the gold medal from Eve Muirhead’s grasp in a 
nerve-jangling European Championship final in Helsingborg yesterday.

Having trailed early on, the Perth curler and her team-mates Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds and Lauren Gray hit the front for the first time when they stole a single at the penultimate end to lead 4-3.

Backed by a raucous home crowd, defending champion Hasselborg still held the crucial advantage of throwing the last stone, but the Scots played a textbook final end after calling a timeout and taking advice from national coach David Murdoch, himself a double world champion.

Muirhead’s perfect second delivery saw her lie one to bring her within touching distance of a third European title in her seventh final. To her dismay, Hasselborg then produced an intricate reply which promoted her own stone and removed two Scottish rocks, leaving Sweden with the two they needed to win 5-4.

Late lapses in concentration had cost Muirhead dearly in her previous two meetings with Hasselborg, in Canada last month and again in the round-robin section last Monday, but this time the 29-year-old and her team were utterly blameless.

Hasselborg’s wonder shot gave her sweet revenge for her 6-3 defeat by the Scot in the 2017 final, but Muirhead sportingly admitted: “What a fantastic shot to win a championship. We always thought it might come down to the last shot at the last end. It’s tough for us to take, but we put up a good fight. I’ve got a lot of silvers [six] at the Europeans and that’s added to my collection, unfortunately.”

Nine medals in ten years is still a phenomenal achievement, especially as Muirhead missed out on the podium in 2018 following hip surgery last summer.

“It’s been a tough couple of years for me, but the girls have supported me all the way,” she said. “We didn’t win the tournament but we’ve shown this week that we can still do it.”

The signs had been ominous when Sweden led 2-0, but Scotland drew level with two at the fourth end and it was still all-square at the half-time break. A series of blank ends ratcheted up the tension until Muirhead broke the deadlock with back-to-back singles, the latter handing her that precarious 4-3 lead.

Hasselborg’s dramatic comeback completed an historic Swedish double in Helsingborg after 
four-time world champion Niklas Edin trounced Swiss skip Yannick Schwaller 9-3 in yesterday morning’s men’s final.

Edin lost last year’s final to Murrayfield’s Bruce Mouat. Fellow Scot Ross Paterson finished third this time after defeating Denmark’s Mikkel Krause 7-2 in Friday night’s bronze medal play-off.