Eve Muirhead secured herself a place in the Winter Olympics curling semi-finals – and a guaranteed match for a medal – with a brilliant 6-5 victory over Canadian world champion Rachel Homan.
Muirhead’s British rink, including Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray and Anna Sloan, now face Sweden on Friday for a place in the gold medal match.
And they’ve been here before, losing the semi-final in Sochi to Canada four years ago, only to rebound just hours later to secure bronze.
Muirhead still labels that loss the toughest and most sobering of her career but this time the Canadians won’t be around to inflict it. Since curling returned to the Olympics in 1998, Canada have made the podium in every men’s and women’s competition. It’s something close to a national tragedy that Homan is going home before the knockout stages.
“The last few days we’ve been getting better and better and it’s all about building momentum for when it matters, these are the matches where we’ll be judged,” said Muirhead.
“Canada are a top nation but curling is a global sport now and any one of these team are capable of getting a medal. It’s not really for me to comment about Canada – all we can do is concentrate on our performance.
“Our aim was to book that semi-final slot and we’ve shown a lot of determination and patience and we’re in a good place.
“We loved playing under pressure, we thrive at this level and we’ve been here before. We won’t panic and we’ll stay focused and clinical.”
If Muirhead isn’t panicking, over in Canada the inquest has begun – and it’s already getting nasty.
Team GB’s Canadian coach Glenn Howard saw the word ‘traitor’ added to his list of four world titles on Wikipedia and trolls even turned on Homan’s husband, who sat through her matches here with his hand never far from a pint of lager.
Muirhead’s rink started their campaign slowly but are now unbeaten in three matches, the perfect response to defeat from fellow semi-finalists Korea and Sweden, the latter now standing between them and the chance to upgrade their medal from four years ago. Canada have never finished off an Olympic curling podium since the sport was reintroduced to the Games in 1998 – four years ago they won both men’s and women’s gold medals in Sochi.
But Korea’s self-styled Garlic Girls – named after their garlic-producing hometown – are now the ones to beat. Curling’s equivalent of a K-pop sensation, their nicknames are Yogurt, Pancake, Steak, Cookie and Sunny.
“I’ve not been surprised by them,” insisted Muirhead, aiming to become the first British skip to win gold at the Games since Rhona Martin in 2002.
“They’ve been a good team for a while and they’ve got all that home support.
“They beat us in the round robin and we’ll have to lift our game if we play them again. The get the crowd very excited and it’s a great atmosphere to play in, even if it makes communicating hard.”
Meanwhile, Mica McNeill cemented her reputation as one of bobsleigh’s rising star drivers – now she needs a push start to match.
McNeil and Mica Moore recorded Britain’s best-ever women’s finish with their eighth place at the Olympic Sliding Centre.
And, after crowdfunding their campaign in South Korea, believe they’ve done enough to get the investment needed for Beijing. We’re buzzing about that result,” said McNeil, who was the quickest driver on the course in her early runs, only to see her times slowed by a pedestrian push start.
“We want to go to Beijing 2022 and absolutely smash it and be among the medals. We’ve got four years to work on things, get faster on the start and improve my driving skills.”
Elsewhere, snowboarder Billy Morgan qualified for first-ever men’s big air final on Saturday while Scots Andrew Young and Andrew Musgrave just missed out on making the team sprint final in the cross-country skiing.
“I was feeling a little bit better but I’m still not the best I’ve ever felt physically,” said Musgrave, who is now left with Saturday’s gruelling 50km mass start, contested over his less favoured classic skiing technique.
• See Eve Muirhead’s semi-final live on Eurosport 2 at 11am tomorrow. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games at Eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app