Great Britain’s hopes of a first medal at these Winter Olympics crashed as their mixed curlers lost their bronze-medal match 9-3 against Sweden.
It was so one-sided that Britain’s Jen Dodds and Bruce Mouat conceded with two ends remaining as a mark of respect. It was arguably their best move of the match.
In fairness to Dodds and Mouat, their Swedish opponents Oskar Eriksson and Almida de Val had a blinder. De Val, in particular, was sensational as she recorded a 100% success rate.
The two also combined well together. It was Eriksson’s superb take-out in the second end which set up partner De Val to chip out Britain’s stone for four. Sweden then stole three more in the third end to go 7-1 ahead.
“The Swedes came out firing today, that shot that she played in the second end was an amazing shot in a bronze-medal game,” said Dodds, whose 56% success rate was well down on her 73% tournament average. “And I can’t even think of a shot Oskar missed all game so they just played great out there and we just couldn’t keep up with them.”
The sentiment was shared by Mouat, who said: “It’s pretty raw, obviously very gutted. We’ve put in a lot of effort in the last two months to really try hard and to get to this point. It’s going to be gutting to leave this mixed doubles tournament without a medal because it really felt like we were on form to win one.”
That might be overplaying it. On the surface, Britain’s curlers looked to have qualified easily. But there was a sense that, while nicking some very close games, they had never quite hit the highest notes that took them to a world title last year.
And with the score 9-3 after six ends, Team GB decided to call it day. “It’s almost a sign of respect to them for playing so well,” Mouat said. “We would love to battle on. It’s just when you are six down without the hammer and the last shot, I would say you have about a 0.01% chance of winning.
“When you’re at that point it’s a sign of respect and sportsmanship to shake hands. They really do deserve that medal.”
Mouat is widely regarded as one of the nicest people in the sport and his concession was a measure of the man. Regardless, it heaps additional pressure on Team GB, who have targeted between three and seven medals in Beijing.
“I don’t think either of them made a mistake,” Dodds said of the Swedish pair. “It’s hard to fight back when your opposition is playing that well. Congratulations to them for winning the bronze they played amazing.”
Both British players now have to pick themselves up before the men’s and women’s tournament start on Thursday.
“I don’t think I’ll cry,” Mouat said. “I’ve been in the men’s team for five years now and we have trained unbelievably hard for this moment. I don’t want to let my team down feeling sorry for myself for one event that has not gone right for us. Both of us are going to turn it around and we’re both going to play amazing next week.”
Later Italy won the gold medal, beating Norway 8-5 in the final. It was an extraordinary victory given Italy had no tradition to speak of in the sport they referred to as “bocce on ice” before being granted an obligatory spot in the 2006 Turin Olympics as the host.
Even now, Italian officials say, there are only three curling clubs and about 400 participants in the entire country.