Eve Muirhead delivered the stone of these Games to deny Canada the opportunity of maintaining their 100 per cent record of finishing on the podium since curling was introduced to the Winter Olympics 20 years ago.
Canada skip Rachel Homan had declared it was “do or die” going into the contest only for her GB counterpart to turn the contest on the penultimate end. Muirhead jumped up in a rare show of celebration at her double-raised take-out, joking afterwards she was happy not to have fallen on the ice as she landed back on her feet.
It was the pivotal moment as Britain sealed their fourth straight victory with a 6-5 win that ensured their passage into Friday’s semi-finals.
There was a poignancy that four-time world champion Glenn Howard, the British coach and a Canadian, should be the architect of his countrywomen’s downfall. His Wikipedia page briefly described him a “curling traitor” and the 55-year-old admitted there had been mixed emotions following the captivating finish.
“I’m not naive to think that it was all roses,” said Howard. “It’s tough. It’s too bad it came down to us knocking out Canada. I’ve had the Maple Leaf on my back and I’m proud to wear that, but I was hired two years ago and am proud to put GB on my back.
“I was here 110 per cent for Great Britain. I root for every other Canadian athlete out there but I couldn’t root for Team Canada against my girls.”
As the game hung in the balance, Howard (right) came on to the ice for a timeout with two stones left apiece in the ninth end. He downplayed his contribution, saying merely he had backed the team’s shot selection.
Two stones later, Muirhead went for her game-changing manoeuvre, using her stone to knock two other GB stones forward and also taking the Canadian stones out of contention, which gave the Brits the all-important hammer as Canada led 5-4. Muirhead and Co dominated the final end, Emma Miskew living up to her name and misjudging her shot to knock a Canadian stone out of position. Her subsequent stone only succeeded in leaving four GB stones in the house.
From then, it was a case of damage limitation for the Canadians, Muirhead and her team scoring two and winning the match with a stone spare.
Afterwards, the GB skip said: “We love playing under pressure, we thrive on that. We’ve got better and better.”
Muirhead admitted her mother Lin, a nervous viewer at the best of times, would have no nails left after another tight tussle. And mum’s viewing was no less nervy when son Thomas took to the ice later for the men. For a time, the contest was tight before the United States turned the screw for a 10-4 win with two ends remaining.
The British men still have a chance of making the semi-finals via the play-offs but need to beat Switzerland tomorrow to do so. Skip Kyle Smith said: “It was a disappointing performance. Sometimes it’s just not your day.
“We struggled to create anything. But we’ve still got a chance of making the semi-finals, so it’s exactly the same situation as today: we have to win. Win and we are in.
“I don’t see it as pressure.These chances are what we all play for.”