Eve Muirhead’s trigger finger deserted her as Great Britain’s curling team were beaten 10-5 by Sweden in their Olympic semi-final at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Muirhead had deployed her ‘pistol’ to sink favourites Canada on Wednesday but two days later it was more a case of shooting herself in the foot as a calamitous seventh end signalled an emphatic defeat.
For the second consecutive Games the 27-year-old Muirhead will now face the tough task of raising spirits ahead of Saturday’s bronze medal match against their fellow last-four losers Japan.
Muirhead, who has often described her 2014 semi-final loss in Sochi as the most difficult of her career, said: “I definitely don’t think what we went through four years ago can harm us.
“We dealt with a serious loss and came back strongly to win a bronze medal. We’ll move on from the loss and focus on the next game and will go out there to get that bronze.”
Muirhead’s fate hinged on a pivotal seventh end in which it first appeared that Great Britain, trailing 5-3 at the time but with the all-important hammer, would benefit from an uncharacteristic mistake from Swedish skip Anna Hasselborg.
But Muirhead’s bid to draw her final stone to set up at least a two back-fired spectacularly when she clipped one of her own guards, setting up the Swedes to steal a three and with it effectively the match.
Muirhead said: “If my first shot had passed I think we’d have looked good for three but it didn’t and it was a tough draw.
“You’ve got to make these shots, and if you don’t make them against these strong teams like Sweden, you’re going to be on the back foot.”
While the seventh end may have come down to matter of inches, Muirhead’s team were always struggling to assert themselves after falling two down in the second end, and seldom looked like booking a place in their first Olympic final.
Muirhead was badly in need of the same magic which saw her eliminate the Canadians on Wednesday with a raised double take-out, but none was forthcoming from a player who would be the first to admit she has struggled to consistently fire at this tournament.
GB’s Canadian coach Glenn Howard, who received some social media criticism after masterminding his home nation’s demise on Wednesday, said he had no doubts Muirhead’s team would bounce back in the bronze medal match.
“It came down to a couple of shots in the seventh end,” added Howard. “It went from a (possible) 5-5 to an 8-3 and that’s a pretty big hill to come back.
“These girls give their heart and soul in every game they play. Obviously they wanted to get in the gold medal game but the bottom line is they are going into the bronze medal and it is not going to be hard to get them back into shape.”
Japan’s hopes of reaching the gold medal match ended in a comparatively thrilling clash with hosts South Korea on the adjacent rink, home skip Eun-jung Kim drawing the final stone of the extra end to seal an 8-7 win amid tumultuous scenes.
Earlier, Canada’s curling calamity continued when the men’s team followed the women in failing to win a medal, Kevin Koe’s team falling to a 7-5 defeat to Switzerland in their bronze medal match.
Unheralded Germany dethroned two-time defending champion Canada 4-3 in an Olympic men’s hockey semi-final shocker on Friday, advancing to their first gold-medal game against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
A German league all-star squad collected the nation’s biggest hockey victory by stunning the Canadians while the Russians, seeking their first hockey gold since 1992, blanked the Czech Republic 3-0 to reach Sunday’s championship contest.
The Germans, familiar with one another from world championship play and coming off over-time playoff triumphs over Sweden and Switzerland, are assured of an Olympic-best result — their only prior medal being bronze in 1932, plus a bronze for West Germany in 1976.
Canada’s nightmare defeat added to the misery of a hockey-mad nation a day after the women’s team, seeking a fifth consecutive gold, lost the final to the United States in a shootout.
The Russians, with players off the nation’s two top clubs, hope to collect their first gold since the Unified Team won 26 years ago at Albertville — just weeks after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
“It would just mean everything to us,” said Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko. “It’s huge for the players and the country.”
An Olympics without NHL talent for the first time since 1994 lived up to its billing as a wide-open affair as Europe-based talent produced surprises, none bigger than the lineup from a handful of German clubs that has improved with every game.
Germany’s Brooks Macek fired a power-play goal 14:43 into the game past Canada goaltender Kevin Poulin, who started after Ben Scrivens was benched with an injury suffered in a quarter-final victory over Finland.
Matthias Plachta and Frank Mauer followed early in the second period for a 3-0 German lead. Canada answered on Gilbert Brule’s power-play goal but Patrick Hager responded for a 4-1 Germany edge.
Mat Robinson nudged Canada closer with a goal early in the third period and Poulin stopped Dominik Kahun on a penalty shot to swing momentum Canada’s way.
Derek Roy netted a power-play goal to lift Canada within 4-3 with 10:18 remaining, Canadian supporters roaring with delight as the comeback continued.
Canada pulled Poulin for an extra attacker in the final seconds, but could not manage the equaliser despite a 15-1 shots edge in the third period, Canada matching what Germany had in the entire game.
Danny aus den Birken made 28 saves for Germany and when the final horn sounded the bench cleared to mob the netminder in celebration, as the Canadian team and fans watched in silence.
Earlier the Russians, who boast the Olympics’ most prolific attack, got second-period goals 27 seconds apart from Nikita Gusev and Vladislav Gavrikov and a late clincher from Ilya Kovalchuk, while goalie Vasili Koshechkin made 31 saves.
“He has been our best player every game,” Grigorenko said of Koshechkin. “He has been making a lot of saves. He made some huge saves.”
It sets up the first Olympic final involving Russians since they lost 1-0 to the Czechs 20 years ago.
“It’s going to be a good game and a test of our will,” Kovalchuk said. “We deserve to be there and the best team will win. We’ll be ready for sure.”
The previously unbeaten Czechs, who will play Canada for bronze on Saturday, were denied a chance at their first Olympic crown since 1998.
“It’s disappointing. One minute cost us the game,” said Czech star Martin Erat. “They played a good game. A couple of mistakes cost us.”
Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva has tested positive for a banned substance at the Winter Olympics, Russia’s bobsleigh federation said on Friday.
“A doping test by the pilot of the Russian team Nadezhda Sergeeva on 18 February gave a positive result for a heart medicine that is on the banned list,” the federation said in a statement, adding that a previous test on February 13 was negative.
It was the fourth positive doping case of the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
The statement came a day after Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his Pyeongchang Winter Olympics bronze medal after admitting to doping.
A source close to the Sergeeva case said that the banned substance was trimetazidine, a medication used to treat heart pain or vision problems.
The source said that an A sample had tested positive and a B sample from the athlete would be tested on Saturday.
Sergeeva and Krushelnitsky are among 168 Russian athletes who passed rigorous testing to compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang after Russia were banned over a major doping scandal.
The athletes allowed to come to Pyeongchang are competing as neutrals under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAS).
The latest doping case comes as the International Olympic Committee are considering whether to lift the Russian ban and allow their athletes to march under the Russian flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.