EVE MUIRHEAD pulled the trigger on her “pistol shot” to eliminate hot favourites Canada and guarantee Great Britain’s women a match for a curling medal in Pyeongchang.
Muirhead played a raised double take-out in the penultimate end – effectively a plant which took out two of her opponents’ stones – to swing the match in her favour and ultimately seal a 6-5 win.
Not only does Great Britain’s win seal a semi-final slot, it also dumps Canada out of the competition – the first time one of its men’s or women’s curling teams has failed to reach an Olympic podium.
“It came at a pretty critical time,” said Muirhead. “I jumped up and I was just glad I landed with both my feet firmly on the ice and not flat on my face.
“Canada are not in the semi-finals for the first time ever but it is all about concentrating on what we can do. It showed we have the determination and patience to see it through.”
The Canadians’ demise was inspired by one of their own, the current GB women’s coach Glenn Howard, whose reputation as a quadruple world champion for his nation has not spared him from criticism.
Within minutes of Muirhead’s superb win, Howard’s Wikipedia page had been altered to brand him a “traitor curler” – but Howard said there was no doubting where his loyalties lie.
“I’m not naive enough to think it’s all roses,” admitted Howard. “It’s tough and it’s too bad that it came to us knocking out Canada.
“I’ve had the Maple Leaf on my back and I’m proud to wear that, but I was hired two years ago and proud to put GB on my back, and I was 110 per cent here for Great Britain today.”
Both sides went into the game knowing it was a pivotal fixture, with defeat likely leading Muirhead into a play-off situation at best, while a loss for Canada would guarantee their own piece of unwanted history.
Muirhead was chasing the game through many of the early ends but it swung her way in the sixth, when Homan made a mistake when attempting to blank the end, handing the initiative to Great Britain.
Muirhead capitalised superbly, her ninth-end shot restricting Homan to a one -point lead going into the last, before she packed the house on the final end and secured the two she needed for victory without having to use her final stone.
“The last four ends were the best four ends that we’ve played this week – and that goes to show me that we’ve got what it takes when it comes to the crunch time,” added Howard.
“We put the pressure on, we got a few half-shots out of them when we needed it, Eve made that ‘pistol’ at nine, then we played the 10th perfectly. It was a fantastic win.”
While Muirhead’s rink will have a day off on Thursday, Britain’s men face a play-off against Switzerland after slipping to a 10-4 defeat against the USA.
Kyle Smith’s men knew a win would be enough to send them straight through to the last four but a poor display saw them beaten after just eight ends.
The result left Great Britain in a three-way tie for third place, with the Americans sent through on account of their better head-to-head record between the three teams.
Smith said: “We didn’t create enough chances and they were sharper than us.
“The ice was running a bit quicker today than it has in the last couple of games and I certainly wasn’t sharp enough on that and missed a few slack ones.
“We’ve still got a chance of making the semis so it’s kind of the same situation we were in today – win and we’re in – so we’ll be back and we’ll be playing better.”