THE curling medals at the Winter Olympics in Sochi might not be handed out for another four days but British men’s skip David Murdoch insists that their final is today.
Murdoch’s rink looked so impressive in responding to defeat to world champions Sweden on the first day of the tournament, racking up four straight wins to put them on the verge of the play-offs.
However, successive defeats, first to reigning Olympic champions Canada and then 2010 silver medallists Norway yesterday with the very last stone, have put Murdoch’s once good- looking campaign in serious jeopardy.
That’s because they face a Chinese rink, who had only lost to Sweden’s Niklas Edin by the time Murdoch had been seen off 7-6 by Norwegian Thomas Ulsrud, today in their final round-robin match.
Lose and Britain will need favours elsewhere to ensure Norway don’t leapfrog them into fourth place, while a tiebreaker could be a possible outcome between the two nations.
China have already qualified for the play-offs but that doesn’t make it any easier for Murdoch, who admits the equation is simple – win or wave goodbye to their medal hopes and Sochi.
“For us the match against China is like a final. If we win, we’re in, if we lose, we are out. It’s do-or-die time,” he said. “These guys are technically excellent but if we play our ‘A’ game we can certainly beat them.”
On the defeat to Norway, he said: “We settled very well and put them under pressure. It was a game of missed opportunities for us and we had some good chances. It’s disappointing and it was a really good chance for us to get into the semi-finals. It is still possible. It would have been nice to have got that win and secured our play-off place but you just have to move on, that’s curling.
“We showed that we are playing some good stuff in our first five and certainly our last five we played some decent stuff as well. We are going to have to come out tough.”
It could so easily have been different for Murdoch. In the defeat to Canada, after all, he was forced to play a double takeout with his last stone and missed by a matter of millimetres.
Murdoch might also have a rink of Michael Goodfellow, Greg Drummond and Scott Andrews that is new to the Olympics but his fortunes don’t appear to be changing.
He was fourth at Turin 2006 and fifth at Vancouver 2010, both when well fancied. However, Murdoch is remaining upbeat and is adamant that his rink can defeat China today. “To be honest, I fancy our chances, I really do. We have got a good record against the Chinese team,” he added.
“Obviously they are playing well but so are we and we have only lost a couple of games by a few inches and we need to take the positives from that.
“Previous [Olympic] Games aren’t something you think about when you are playing. You are very focussed out there and you have got objectives at each end that you are trying to achieve and so many other things to think about.
“You don’t ever think about past Olympic campaigns that is something to reflect on at the end, so we have got to bin that and make sure we win. If we do that we are still in.”
Murdoch’s message is being echoed around the camp, with lead Goodfellow saying that, if they fail to defeat China, they might as well pack up and go home straightaway.
A silver medallist at the 2011 and 2012 World Championships with a bronze won last year, Goodfellow came into the Winter Olympics as a realistic prospect if not as hyped up as much as some of the women.
Eve Muirhead’s women’s rink are the reigning world champions but are also finding life tough at the Winter Olympics. Like them, though, Goodfellow doesn’t want to go home just yet.
“We know what we need to do now, it is win or bust, pretty much, and, hopefully, we can get to the tiebreaker or maybe even straight to the semi-finals. If we lose, that will be it about over,” he said.
World champions Sweden and defending Olympic gold medallists Canada booked their places in the semi-finals as their round-robin campaigns concluded yesterday.
The Swedes beat Russia 8-4 in the morning and then the US 6-4 in the later session, finishing in first with a record of eight wins from nine games.
Canada were also in action twice, defeating the US 8-6 and then securing a 9-8 extra-end victory over China, which left them second with seven wins from nine. The Chinese are third with a record of six victories from eight. Norway are in joint-fourth along with Great Britain on five wins from eight.