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Daily Telegraph

THE British women’s curlers, once derided, are now just one game away from becoming the golden British girls of this Olympics. They carry Britain’s only hope of a gold in these Winter Olympics when at 9 o’clock tonight British time they take on Switzerland, who they have already beaten in the round robin.

In a classic semi-final against Olympic champions Canada, the all-Scottish team had the most satisfying of wins with the last roll of the stone by skip Rhona Martin just edging them to a 6-5 victory.

Four years ago in Nagano the Britons lost to the Canadian women in the sudden death when the then Canadian skip Sandra Schmirler, with the last stone, rolled Canada to victory. Schmirler died two years ago from cancer and the Canadians’ campaign in this Olympics was dedicated to her memory.

Martin, the British skip, said: “We were not thinking of Nagano, but there’s no doubt that the defeat four years ago, and the fact that nobody outside the team gave them much of a chance, made the victory all the sweeter.”

The turning point came in the fourth end. At that stage the teams were level, Britain having pulled back in the third end the one-point lead Canada had taken in the first.

But in the fourth end the Canadian skip, Kelley Law, wicked on the front guard while attempting to draw and pushed in another British stone, allowing the British to steal two points in the fourth end.

The British were now in front and this gave them an advantage that was psychologically important and, in the context of the match, crucial.

Even after this, the match swayed dramatically. Canada got back to level by the sixth end, Britain went ahead again in the seventh end, leading 5-3, but Canada drew level by the ninth end. Afterwards Martin said that she found the ninth end “scary”.

Her fright was due to the fact that though Canada got one point, had it not been for misjudgements by Canadians and good defensive play by the British, the tally could have been four. Had the Canadians done so at that stage, it would have been decisive.

However, their skip, Law, misjudged the ice and opened the door for Martin to make her grandstand play in the 10th end.

When Martin’s turn came, and with the crowd hushed, she rolled the stone further than the Canadians and was immediately swept up in an euphoric huddle by her team-mates.

Martin said: “I’m just very happy. We did really well. We’ll have a team talk and a debriefing and then catch up on sleep. The game against Switzerland will be hard, but I’m glad our match is in the afternoon and not at nine o’clock in the morning, so I can have a lie-in.”

The Swiss, who played their semi-final against the United States in the next sheet while the British were playing the Canadians, had a more comfortable win. The margin of 9-4 was so overwhelming that the US conceded the 10th end and the match ended just as Britain and Canada were tied 5-5 in the ninth end.

Although Britain have beaten Switzerland, the Swiss are coming back to form. Martin, though, is aware that not playing the United States means the crowds will not be against her. “We did get booed when we played USA. But I don’t think it makes any difference.”

Asked how she felt about critics who had described her and her team as looking like electricians’ wives, she smiled and said: “That’s different.”

Should Martin and her team go on to claim gold, she will no doubt be able to give a more appropriate response.

© Mihir Bose

      

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