Team GB's curlers celebrate on flight back from Beijing after late Winter Olympics success

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Team GB may have just missed their target of winning at least three medals at the Winter Olympics but there was plenty to celebrate for the curling teams in Beijing.

On the penultimate day of the Games, Britain’s men team grabbed the nation’s first medals in China when they collected silver following their defeat in the final by Sweden.

But if there were any bittersweet feelings over the final loss, the women’s team made up for it on the final day on Sunday when they claimed gold after seeing off Japan in the final. 

Eve Muirhead, Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds, Hailey Duff and Mili Smith were the heroines of the hour at China’s National Aquatics Centre in taking gold for Team GB, while the team of Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan Jr, Ross Whyte earned silver for the men as they boarded a flight home together on Monday.

Flying back from Beijing, both teams were in the mood to celebrate as they chinked champagne flutes while mixing together on the flight having helped prevent Team GB from going without a medal at the Games for the first time in 30 years. 

Muirhead, of Stirling, looked relaxed on the flight while sitting down with her glass having finally achieved her dream of taking Olympic gold. 

The 31-year-old had failed to medal before in three previous appearances as captain and in Beijing used her experiences in leading a team to the top step of the podium.

Eve Muirhead drinks from a flute glass as she celebrates her gold medal for Team GB during the Winter Olympics as she flys back with her team-mates from Beijing

Eve Muirhead drinks from a flute glass as she celebrates her gold medal for Team GB during the Winter Olympics as she flys back with her team-mates from Beijing

Muirhead and her team-mates gather in celebration having taken Team GB's only gold

Muirhead and her team-mates gather in celebration having taken Team GB’s only gold

After taking gold she said: ‘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.

Curlers Milli Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead of Team Great Britain pose for pictures with their gold medals after winning the Women's Curling final

Curlers Milli Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead of Team Great Britain pose for pictures with their gold medals after winning the Women’s Curling final

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.

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.

Bobby Lammie, Bruce Mouat and Hammy McMillan of Team GB react during their final against Sweden where they would go on to take Britain's first medals of the Beijing Games

Bobby Lammie, Bruce Mouat and Hammy McMillan of Team GB react during their final against Sweden where they would go on to take Britain’s first medals of the Beijing Games

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.

UK Sport labelled Team GB’s performances at Beijing 2022 as ‘disappointing’ – but insist they will not slash their £28million funding for winter sports.

After setting a target of three to seven medals at these Winter Olympics, the British contingent failed badly beyond the gold and silver won respectively by Eve Muirhead and Bruce Mouat’s curling teams.

They did not win any medals in the skeleton, though, and fell short of their overall target haul

They did not win any medals in the skeleton, though, and fell short of their overall target haul

That has given rise to questions about the level of lottery backing handed down by UK Sport, with the most glaring deficiencies coming from the £6.4m skeleton department and GB Snowsport, which has had £9.5m for the Beijing cycle.

Asked specifically about whether the £28m of funding would adjust downwards, Munday said: ‘We are committed to winter sports and want to have an ever greater footprint. Exactly what those figures look like will be determined this summer but I certainly don’t expect us to be decreasing our investment in winter sports.’

The stance will raise eyebrows with those who question the ability of winter sports to inspire physical activity in a country that lacks both the natural and artificial facilities.

Of 50 athletes on 53 start lines, there were only 15 top-10 finishes from Team GB, compared to 17 outside the top-25 or failing to finish.

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