Great Britain – at last – has secured a Team GB gold medal of the Winter Olympics early Sunday in emphatic fashion – a day before the Games ended.
The women’s curling team took the country’s only gold for this Olympics and it was against Japan 10-3. A silver was won by the men’s team on Saturday.
Eve Muirhead, Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds, Hailey Duff and Mili Smith were the heroines of the hour at China’s National Aquatics Centre.
The 50-strong Team GB faced flying home on Monday without podium honors to show for their efforts, but within the space of 24 hours, the curlers showed how it is done.
Skip Eve Muirhead, Vice Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds, Hailey Duff and Mili Smith celebrate after winning the match Sunday.
Men’s captain Bruce Mouat told Mail Online that even while waiting to board his flight to Beijing, he had been asked whether curling really could be regarded as a sport.
But both curling teams are bringing home the only country’s two gongs – and interest in the sport is likely to increase massively following the two medals.
For Muirhead, 31, of Stirling, who has captained Britain at three Olympics, the gold was a fitting prize after failing to medal before and using her experiences in leading a team of Olympic debutants at these games to a gold medal.
‘I have waited a long time. Dreams do come true, and it’s all thanks to these girls who have helped me get here, and helped me become a better curler, a better person.
‘Finally we have managed to get that Olympic gold and yeah, it just doesn’t feel real.’
She said she appreciated the support back in Britain and hoped the sport would find new favor. ‘Thank you for everyone’s support. It’s support that we’ve never felt before. We love to get curling out there.
Wright, 28, also from Stirling, stepped away from the road to Beijing and went back to the NHS frontline to help with the battle against Covid-19 as a staff nurse in the Forth Valley. ‘It hasn’t sunk in at all yet. I got really emotional at the end there, it’s a dream come true’, she said.
In Beijing, Dodds became the first woman to represent Britain at two disciplines at the same Winter Olympics as she partnered Mouat in the mixed doubles event.
Vicky Wright of Team Great Britain competes during the Women’s Gold Medal match with Japan in Beijing
The team and alternate (sub) Smith were only formed in December last year. Rhona Howe, who skippered, joked: ‘It took them 20 years…what took so long?’
Vice Vicky Wright of Britain and Hailey Duff of Britain celebrate after winning the game
She had been dreaming of competing at the Olympics since the age of eight and gave up her job as an office assistant to train full time at Gogar Park Curling Club in Edinburgh.
Duff, 25, from Forfar was born in New Zealand and was introduced to the sport by her father.
She worked as a buyer for a furniture company before enrolling on a sports and fitness degree with the Open University.
Former Olympic curler Jackie Lockhart, who at the match, told the BBC: ‘The Japanese girls just came up against a team who were on fire today. They brought their A game.
‘Just believe, just keep trying, Eve Muirhead has never stopped.’
The team and alternate (sub) Smith were only formed in December last year.
Rhona Howe, who skippered Team GB to its last curling gold in 2002, joked: ‘It took them 20 years…what took so long?’
She added: ‘Look what this team has achieved in less than a year. It’s phenomenal.’
Dodds said she was grateful to those who stayed up into the early hours to watch the gold medal victory. ‘Can I just say thank you to all our friends and families supporting us. They know how much this means to us and I’m sure they’re all jumping up and down in front of their TV screens just now.’
Dodds said: ‘ I don’t really know what’s happened. I don’t think it’s going to sink in for a while. I’m speechless.’
Japan’s Yurika Yoshida walks off the ice as Britain’s athletes celebrate at the end of the women’s curling final match between Japan and Britain Sunday in Beijing.
Britain’s Eve Muirhead celebrates winning gold after the women’s curling final match with Japan in Beijing.
But she added: ‘I’m so proud of these girls and the way they played in that final and the whole week.
‘Losing our first game at the Olympics was not ideal, but we knew we played well and we just came back out fighting for the next game.”
‘I think we’ve just shown our grit and determination out there today because even in that final when we knew we were up in the game we knew we had to keep strong out there to get the win.’
Muirhead said: ‘It’s going to take a long time to sink, I think, because I’m not sure it has yet.
‘What a performance out there today. We saved our best game till last. It’s been a long time coming and I think for us as a team we’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m just so proud of them all.
‘It feels bizarre, to be honest. To think it was 20 years ago when Rhona made history in Great Britain by winning that gold medal. We’ve followed in her footsteps and done it 20 years later. It’s incredible, it really is.’
Wright added: ‘We were really confident going into that game. We prepared the exact same way we had prepared for every game and we just went out there and gave it our best.’
Team GB coach David Murdoch said: ‘It was a perfect performance, the composure and the calmness. What we discussed through the week was evident today and you could see all the girls were so relaxed. It was really the key to success today.’
‘Somethings are in the stars, right? They worked so hard and they deserve every moment of this because of the hard work they put in every day, the sacrifices they made, they deserve the moment.’
Sweden took the bronze after beating Switzerland 9-7.