'Dream come true': Women's curling team claim Great Britain's first Winter Olympic gold

20 February 2022, 09:28 | Updated: 20 February 2022, 14:44

Team GB have bagged their first gold after the women's curling team beat Japan
Team GB have bagged their first gold after the women's curling team beat Japan. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Great Britain have won their first Winter Olympics gold medal in the women's curling after beating Japan in the final.

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The Queen has sent her congratulations to the team shortly after Buckingham Palace announced she had tested positive for Covid, sending her "warmest wishes" to the team after their "outstanding performance".

"I send my warmest congratulations to the Team GB Women's Curling team on your outstanding performance in winning the Gold Medal at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, following the Silver Medal achieved by the Men's Curling team yesterday," read a statement from the Queen posted on Twitter.

"I know that your local communities and people throughout the United Kingdom will join me in sending our good wishes to you, your coaches and the friends and family who have supported you in your great success."

Britain skip Eve Muirhead acknowledged her elation at finally securing a long coveted Olympic gold medal to add to her Sochi bronze in 2014.

"It is a dream come true for myself, and for the rest of the girls," she told the BBC.

"The journey to get here, I think it shows how strong we are.

"We have so many people to thank.

"It is something we'll never forget."

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There were tears for Muirhead on the rostrum during the medals presentation ceremony and she added: "It is a moment I have wanted for so many years."

Eve Muirhead (right) was reduced to tears during the medal presentation
Eve Muirhead (right) was reduced to tears during the medal presentation. Picture: Alamy

A jubilant Jennifer Dodds, who missed out on a mixed curling medal earlier in the Games, said: "I don't think it is going to sink in for a while. I am so proud of the way these girls played in the final.

"We grew in confidence with every game. Thanks to our family and friends.

"They know how much this means to us."

Team-mate Hailey Duff added: "We just focused on what we needed to do."

Meanwhile Vicky Wright paid tribute to the backing the British team has had.

"We have all had amazing support," she said.

"Thanks to everyone who has helped make this dream come true."

Eve Muirhead (centre) with the stone as Hailey Duff (left) and Jennifer Dodds look on during Sunday's game
Eve Muirhead (centre) with the stone as Hailey Duff (left) and Jennifer Dodds look on during Sunday's game. Picture: Alamy

The game's defining moment arrived with the final stone of the seventh end when Muirhead delivered a brilliant raised take-out to score four and give Great Britain a virtually unassailable 8-2 lead.

Japan needed a big response and they failed to get it, with Fujisawa sending her attempt at a two drifting through the house at the end of the ninth, giving Muirhead back the hammer with an 8-3 advantage.

When Muirhead rolled in for two in the ninth, Fujisawa conceded the match with one end to spare, with Muirhead confirming a 10-3 win that meant her wait for Olympic gold was over.

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Boris Johnson is one of many to congratulate the team, posting on Twitter: "Fantastic to see @Team_Muirhead win gold! Massive congratulations to the women’s curling team."

The team's Olympic curling coach David Murdoch hailed Great Britain's newly-crowned Olympic champions.

Still at the age of just 31, Murdoch believes Muirhead, who already has two Olympic medals and a world title behind her, has confirmed her status at the top of her sport.

"She could be one of the greatest ever," said Murdoch.

"She's been around so long, she's won a World title and Europeans, and she's one of the most dedicated athletes you'll ever see.

"Never a day goes by when she doesn't commit 100 per cent to training, and if you do that you get your rewards."

Murdoch paid tribute to the way Muirhead and her team battled adversity, from failing to secure initial qualification to teetering on the brink of elimination from the tournament after the round-robin phase.

"Sometimes it's written in the stars," Murdoch added.

"It was a perfect performance.

"The composure and calmness was evident today and you could just see the girls so relaxed, and I think that was the key."

Left to right: Mili Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead celebrate with their gold medal
Left to right: Mili Smith, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Eve Muirhead celebrate with their gold medal. Picture: Alamy

Murdoch admitted the team had some "tough conversations" after their disappointing display at the world championships, where, competing as Scotland, they finished in eighth place after the group stage and were eliminated.

"They were tough and they needed to be tough," said Murdoch.

"It was probably the most important thing we've ever done, because what's come of it is ultimately this.

"Credit has to go to them for picking themselves up, coming out and working hard to get this gold."

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Rhona Howie, who led Great Britain's last gold medal-winning curling team in 2002, paid tribute to Muirhead's fierce determination that drove her to Olympic success at the fourth time of asking.

"Twenty years has been long enough," said Howie.

"It was emotional. I've known Eve for so long and I coached her for the Sochi cycle, and I'm just so happy for her.

"Eve is very driven and very determined. Her resilience to just keep fighting - she's got that temperament that leads her team so well.

"They never had it easy here, they had to fight all the way. That's where the true grit and determination Eve has comes in.

"She'll never stop fighting. Like we did 20 years ago - you get given that chance and my goodness you take it."

British Curling performance director Nigel Holl explained how his organisation "broke the rules of curling" in order to fashion the team that would become Olympic champions.

The governing body established a pool system which was reduced to nine contenders, all of whom were pushed through an internal qualifying procedure until the best five athletes were selected for the task.

"The tradition of curling is you stay in your team of four and you play as your team as four," said Holl.

"They had to play for their places. It was very stressful and challenging for the coaches. We changed the team around and played the nine players in different combinations each week.

"We failed to qualify at last year's World Championships and we came home and had to have a totally radical re-think.

"We've broken the rules of curling really, by creating the squad system in early autumn. Huge credit to the nine players who threw themselves at it and went significantly outside their comfort zone."