Great Britain’s women’s curling team squeezed into the Olympic semi-finals by ten centimetres as Eve Muirhead fashioned a great escape at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing.
Muirhead, a bronze medallist in Sochi in 2014, went into the last match of the round-robin phase against the Russian Olympic Committee requiring at least three results to go her way in order to book a top-four spot.
The 31-year-old kept her side of the bargain with a brilliant double take-out in the penultimate end to score four and sink the Russians 9-4, then waited nervously while Sweden beat South Korea in order to guarantee their place.
Locked together with two other teams on a 5-4 win-loss record, Muirhead’s team advanced by virtue of the ‘draw shot challenge’ system – an average of the accuracy of the final pre-match draw shots played prior to every round-robin match.
It placed Muirhead in third place, ahead of Japan and Canada, the latter being eliminated, and set up a semi-final against Sweden on Friday.
“We had to win that game today and that was the first thing we went out there to do,” Muirhead told BBC Sport.
“We fought our hearts out, nothing was in our control apart form our own game. Of course, we maybe had one eye on the other games but I see we managed to get a semi-final spot on the draw shot.”
Meanwhile, Bruce Mouat’s men’s team will play for a place in the Olympic final later on Thursday after brushing aside Canada to finish top of their round-robin standings.
Mouat’s side claimed a 5-2 win to end an impressive group stage with an 8-1 record – but next up they must meet the United States, the reigning champions and the only team to get the better of them so far.
However, Mouat is in no doubt his side have moved on since their 9-7 loss last Friday, and believes the setback in what was only their second game in the competition will not prove a decisive factor.
Mouat said: “We’ve learnt a lot about the ice in the last four or five days. We know what kind of throws we need to make shots.
“The second game that we had was against the USA, which we did lose, but we’ve learnt so much from that point that I’m really confident we can come out and play better.
“We will just have to relax into the game and try and not feel the extra pressure that the semi-finals is going to put on and just try and enjoy ourselves which is when we play our best.”
Mouat and his team-mates Hammy McMillan, Bobby Lammie and Grant Hardie came into the tournament as the world’s number one-ranked team and runners-up in last year’s World Championship to Sweden.
The Swedes, skipped by veteran Niklas Edin, whom Mouat’s men defeated earlier in the competition, face Canada in the second semi-final.