19 Feb 2014

Another last-gasp win for Britain’s men’s curlers?

Team GB’s men’s curlers, led by David Murdoch, made it through to the Sochi finals thanks to a last-stone win after beating Sweden, guaranteeing gold or silver on Friday.

Curling originated in Scotland in the sixteenth century and was first played on frozen ponds and lakes in winter, writes Becky Horsbrugh.

It was included in the programme of the inaugural Winter Olympic Games in 1924 in Chamonix. However, it was only a demonstration sport at the 1932, 1988 and 1992 Olympics before it was finally included as an official sport in 1998.

The game is played between two teams, composed of four players apiece. Played on ice, competitors deliver a 19.96kg stone toward a circular target area called the “house”. The opponents alternate their play, and the objective is to get the stone closer to the centre of the house than any member of the opposite team.

A game consists of 10 “ends” in which each team steers eight stones. Team members deliver the stones in a set order with the skip, or team leader going last. Points are given for each stone located in or touching the house that is closer to the centre than any of the opposition’s stones.

The score is determined after 16 stones have been delivered and the winner is the team with most points. In Sochi there are eight days of round-robin matches, with the best four teams qualifying for the semifinals on 19th February. Both men and women compete in curling.

In the family

A Lockerbie native, David Murdoch began curling at the age of ten, and like his compatriot and fellow curler Eve Muirhead, the sport runs deep in his family.

His brother Neil is a former European champion, while sister Nancy is a former Scottish curling champion and was the British women’s coach for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

David claimed the world junior title in 1995 and 1996, and took silver in 1998. In 2005 he went to his first ever World Championships where his team won silver. The 35-year-old was less successful at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, when his team lost in the bronze medal match to the US. However later that year he went on to take gold at the World Men’s Curling Championship.

Overall David has won two world and three European titles but that Olympic medal remains elusive. He went into the 2010 Games in Vancouver as the reigning world champion but his team could only finish fifth.

Winner of a bronze medal at the last world championship in 2013, Murdoch will be hoping Sochi will give him his lucky break and finally, a place on the Olympic podium.

Men's curling at Sochi

19 February - men's semifinal

21 February - men's bronze medal game

21 February - men's gold medal game

Becky Horsbrugh is a producer for Channel 4 News