Sochi Winter Olympic Games Poised

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games will be staged on Friday 7th February, and the curling action gets underway at 9.00am local time (5.00am at home) on Monday 10th February, with the first three sessions of round-robin play at the Ice Cube Curling Centre.

The men are first into action, and David Murdoch’s Great Britain team have been given the honour of opening against Games hosts Russia.  Eve Muirhead’s women open their campaign with a re-run of November’s European Championships final and last year’s World Championships final, against Sweden, while Murdoch’s men go back onto the ice for the evening session, when they too will be facing Sweden, the current world champions.

Each of the men’s and women’s events have ten teams in the field, and with only four sheets of ice available, there will be occasions throughout the round-robin when two or more teams will sit out sessions.  The round-robin concludes on Monday 17th February.

Both British teams will travel to Sochi direct from their final training camps in high spirits.  Speaking about her opening game, Muirhead said, “We open against Sweden, but I’m happy with that. Every game is going to be tough – there will be no walkover games at all, and you’ve got to give every nation respect.  It’ll be good to kick off with one of the top favourites”. Contemplating his opening day, Murdoch said, “We’ve got Russia to start with, so it’s going to be pretty noisy.  Then it’s the world champions, so it’s a big opening day for us.  If we can get a couple of wins there, then we’re off to a flyer”.

Team GB Female CurlersMore generally, Muirhead said, “I feel really, really good about going into Sochi.  A lot more relaxed, a lot more confident – quietly confident – than I was for Vancouver.  I’ve got a team of four behind me who have put in just as much work as me.  We’ve all got the same goal, we’ve all trained together, we’ve all given up a lot and made the choice to do what we do.  Dave our coach has made a huge difference – he’ll give anything to the team and he’s made a big, big difference.  That’s all made this campaign slightly more relaxed.  We know we had a really successful season last season and, truthfully, this season couldn’t have gone much better, so we’re desperate for it to come around now “.

She added, “This is a team that has grown up together.  We are four best friends but we’re work colleagues as well, and I think we work that partnership very well.  We know how to win major championships, we know we’re one of the favourites, we know we’re one of the top nations, so there’s not a lot of excuses, but If we can come away with no regrets, I’ll be happy”.

For Murdoch, this is a third Olympic appearance and he is all too aware that he still doesn’t possess an Olympic medal.  He said, “You look at all the medals I’ve won and not one is an Olympic medal, so this is unfinished business”.  He explained further, “when you train like you do for an Olympic Games, and you sacrifice all sorts of things, like your career, your social time, your time away from wife and family, you want to get something for that.  I’ve never got that medal – it pulls away at your heart all the time, because you know you should have and you still never got it.  So this is a big, big thing.  It’s something I think about a lot”.

Reflecting on his chances this time round, he said, “We’ve just got to have belief in what we can do.  We know that when we play well, we can take down any of these teams – we’ve beaten them all in the past year.  We know what we’re capable of, and when we’re on form, we’re dangerous”.

Once the round-robin is concluded, Tuesday 18th February is set aside for tie-breakers.  The Olympic format uses semi-finals rather than the Page Play-off system.  In the semi-finals (Wednesday 19th February), the top-ranked round-robin team will play the fourth, while the second and third-ranked teams play each other.  The semi-final winners then go on play the gold medal final (women- Thursday 20th February, men – Friday 21st February, each at 17.30 local time) before which the losers face each other for bronze medals (12.30 local time).
This website will feature full reports, reaction and up-dates shortly after every session of play throughout the Games.

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Report: Mike Haggerty
Photos: PA Images (Andrew Milligan), BOA.

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