On the ice Britain’s mixed curlers endured their worst performance of these Beijing Games as they were thumped 6-2 by Norway in their penultimate group match. Off it they discovered they had secured a place in the semi-finals on Monday despite this defeat. Funny old game, curling.
Bruce Mouat and Jen Dodds were in the changing rooms when news of their qualification filtered through. Their first reaction was to give each other a hug. The second was to remind themselves that their job is only half done.
So far they have played in fits and starts. They know that will no longer suffice in the business end of the tournament. “We found out when we were in the changing room. Jen was looking at her phone when she got a text saying we’d qualified, so we had a wee hug and tried not to get too excited,” said Mouat.
Team GB have four potential semi-final opponents – Italy, Canada, Sweden or Norway – depending what happens in the final group games but Dodds insisted they did not mind who was next. The key, she stressed, was finding the highest notes.
“I think we still have a wee bit to go until we hit our best,” she said. “We have not yet strung eight ends together. We had a couple of good ends here or there or poor ends. We are pretty confident we will do that. The knockouts are a new competition.”
Meanwhile Australia’s curlers won two games back-to-back on Sunday – just a “crazy” few hours after being told they had to leave China due to a positive Covid test.
With their bags packed after Tahli Gill returned a series of positive Covid-19 tests, she and her partner Dean Hewitt were given a dramatic reprieve. After racing to the venue they went on to beat Switzerland 9-6 before toppling Canada 10-8 later on Sunday.
“It has literally been the craziest, craziest 24 hours,” Gill said. “My bags are still packed. I only just had time to pull out my uniforms. I was ruffling through my bags and ripping clothes out left, right and centre. I played with only one glove on – and it was the wrong one.”
The reprieve came after the Chinese public health system changed their minds after determining the CT values in her PCR tests fell into an acceptable range.
Gill had been showing no symptoms and the Australian team said medical advice was that it was at the end of the infection cycle, which meant she was free to board a flight later on Sunday and would be permitted through customs in Australia.
“It was really devastating, given that I wasn’t infectious, but after review I’m so incredibly grateful to the medical team to get me out on the ice and I’m able to compete and finish off our campaign on a really positive note,” Gill said. “We put our hearts and souls into that game, to be able to come back with the win was really awesome.”
Hewitt confirmed that the pair were readmitted to the competition just as they were preparing to leave for the airport. “We had a couple of phone calls that maybe there could be a chance. I was like, ‘Aw, don’t do this to us, please.’ Then we got the official call and we were like, ‘Are you serious?’ We had 15 minutes to get in the taxi.
“It was just crazy, mayhem, getting the uniforms on. The excitement in the room was unbelievable. It was so exciting to be able to get back out on the ice and play these last two games. I’m just so proud of Tahli being able to step up in that game, because I don’t know how I would have been able to get through it myself.”
Another Australian, Jakara Anthony, was also happy after winning a gold medal in the women’s mogul skiing. But there was joy, too, for Britain’s Makayla Gerken Schofield, who finished in what she called a “mind-blowing” eighth place.
“I’m still speechless,” Makayla said. “I can’t really believe it, I don’t know when it’s going to sink in but I think there’s going to be a lot of tears. I wasn’t expecting it to go this well. To say that I’m top eight at the Olympics, I think that is pretty special.”
In the men’s 30km skiathlon Andrew Musgrave could finish only 17th in a race won by the Russian Alexander Bolshunov. “It was ridiculous,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling too bad but in the classic section, Livo Niskanen and Bolshunov went so ridiculously fast that I had to push a bit too hard.
“In altitude like this and on such abrasive snow, if you push a bit too hard, you’ve got no chance to recover. I didn’t feel too bad but it took me three laps to recover after going too fast in the classic section. I was so far behind.”
Musgrave, who will next compete in the 15km Classic on Friday, also admitted: “It’s one of the slowest 30kms I’ve ever done. It felt horrifically hard but I just blew up after three laps there! It was a bit of a wild race.”
He also praised the Russian gold medallist: “I wasn’t feeling too bad but the form Bolshunov is in at the moment is absolutely wild. We’re going to have to do something miraculous to beat him.”
The final Team GB athlete in competition on Sunday, Rupert Staudinger, in the luge singles, finished 23rd overall. “It was good, I finished on a high,” he said. “I think today was my best run of the whole competition, so I’m really pleased with that.”