Britain's men's curling team, favourites for the gold medal before the start of the Olympic tournament, suffered their fourth defeat in Vancouver yesterday and will now face a play-off against Sweden for a place in the semi-final.
That will be testing enough – the skipper David Murdoch and his squad lost to the Swedes in their first match in Vancouver – but victory for the British would see them come up against Canada, their long-time rivals and so far the only unbeaten team in the Olympic tournament. The two teams, who played each other in last year's world championship final, won by Murdoch and his men, had been expected to contest the gold medal match.
With the Canadians emerging victorious from the group stage meeting with the British team last weekend, and with the home crowd raucous in support of their heroes, it is hard to imagine anything other than a Canadian victory.
Murdoch, the reigning world champion, was in no mood to concede inferiority to any opponent but, at the very least, he must know he and his squad will have to improve on the standard of play that has been one of the major surprises of the British effort at these Olympics. Yesterday's meek surrender was indicative of their performances. Needing a victory over Norway to secure an automatic spot in the semi-final, Murdoch instead conceded defeat to his opposite number Thomas Ulsrud after eight ends. The lead switched several times during an error strewn match but turned decisively in the seventh when the British team conceded three points despite having the final stone.
The result left Murdoch standing on the sidelines watching Sweden play Denmark in the final match of the afternoon session. Victory for the Danes would have given the British team an automatic place in the semi-final but the Swedish skipper Niklas Edin took the match 7-6.
Meanwhile in the women's tournament the British squad led by Eve Muirhead lost to the Canadians in what was to be their final match of the tournament. A succession of mistakes by the Scottish teenager saw her lose four shots against the hammer and the team succumbed 6-5 in the first extra end.
Muirhead ended with a record of three wins and six losses. "It would have been fantastic to end on a high against Canada today but it didn't come off, although we played pretty well at times. It was a solid performance by us, but I missed a few crucial draws," the British skipper said.
"We didn't want it to end here on three and six. You feel bad, you feel you have let people down but at the end of the day it is just another championship. Hopefully for myself there will be many more opportunities to come."