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Women’s British Curling Team – A Modern Day Miracle

Women’s British Curling Team – A Modern Day Miracle

One doesn’t have to be a fan of sport to remember a feat like the 1980 USA Men’s Hockey Team and their defeat of the Soviets en route to a gold medal in the Winter Games.

It was one of those situations where the Soviets were so dominant in hockey that even the world’s combined talent of professionals couldn’t beat their amateurs.

While curling might not be as popular of a sport, you have to understand that women’s curling was dominated by the Canadians even more so than the Soviet men dominated hockey. Curling belonged to Canada, and when the British women came along in 2002, no one gave them a chance.

Meet the Team

The Great Britain National Curling Team consisted of Skip Rhona Martin, from Ayrshire, Scotland; Third Deborah Knox, out of Denfermline, Scotland; Second Fiona MacDonald, from Paisley, Scotland; Lead Janice Rankin, also from Scotland; and Alternate Margaret Morton, the 5th Scottish-born curler on the GB team.

For a team representing the whole of Great Britain, these 5 Scottish lasses were plucked from relatively the same area. It wasn’t exactly by design, but it worked out well. Scotland wasn’t known for their curling prowess, but they did participate in the sport, and the camaraderie of the 5 women would help them through some tough matches.

The 2002 Winter Games and an Upset for the Ages

When the Canadian National Team was last seen in Nagano, Japan in the 1998 Winter Games, they had handed the Olympic field a beating in curling that no one could soon forget. Although curling still wasn’t a very popular sport, and even the Olympic channels didn’t air many matches, the competitors involved in the sport outright feared going up against Canada. It was their sport, and they were truly in a class all their own. Since ’98, Canada had dominated every single competition, big or small, en route to the ’02 Games in Salt Lake City. And they were doing this despite the death of Skip Sandra Schmirler.

The GB team was really under a lot of pressure going into the Games. Of course, they were all but expected to lose to Canada easily. That was a given. But there were other teams at the Games also expected to crush Great Britain, like the Swedes, the Swiss, and the ladies of Denmark – all of whom had better curling statistics on their sheet.

Everything was going as predicted, with Canada easily topping the round-robin stage of the tournament. They had won 8 out of 9 matches, with their only defeat coming at the hands of the Swiss and by a single shot. That meant Switzerland and Canada were in; now it was down to 2 more spots for the semi-finals, and things were looking bleak for team GB.

To make matters worse, GB lost their last 2 RR matches and gave up their standing to the USA, who now sat in 3rd position. If the Germans could beat the Swiss, they would earn the 4th and final spot. If the Swiss won, however, team GB, Sweden and Germany would face off in a playoff.

What started to spiral downhill for team GB quickly picked back up, as the ladies gained some much needed momentum by winning 2 separate tie-breaks and ultimately clinching a semi-final meeting with Canada -- #4 vs. #1. In the first semi round match, the Swiss dominated the USA, leaving the floor wide open for the match everyone wanted to see: Canada vs. Switzerland in a final. However, the British team had other plans.

Kelley Law of Canada misfired on her final shot of the fourth end, pushing a GB stone into the ring, which would surrender 2 shots to GB. The last shot and advantage was Britain’s, and they did not disappoint. In a match that caused every TV station across the UK to air curling footage, team GB beat Canada in the most unexpected turn of events since 1980.

Great Britain played another fantastic match against the Swiss, fighting back hard after being down to lead 3-1 after the 7th end. Going into the 10th end, the score was tied up 3-3, and Skip Rhona Martin needed a perfect stone with the last shot to claim gold. Hitting a Swiss stone and caroming into the center for a point, the British ladies were Olympic Gold Medalists in an upset for the ages.

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