BEIJING — Eve Muirhead led Britain to the Olympic women’s curling gold medal — the first for the sport’s homeland since 2002 — pulling away with a four-ender in the seventh on Sunday for a record-setting 10-3 victory over Japan.
One day after the British men took silver, losing to Sweden in the final, the women picked up two points in the first end and controlled the scoreboard from there. They essentially clinched it in the seventh after Japanese skip Satsuki Fujisawa failed to keep her last stone in the scoring area.
That left just one red Japanese rock and three yellow British ones in the house. Muirhead easily picked off the Japan’s lone stone and scored four to take an 8-2 lead, bringing the biggest cheer yet from the British fans in the crowd.
Japan could only manage one point in the eighth. When Muirhead tallied two in the ninth, Fujisawa slid over to bump fists and conceded. Another roar arose from the crowd, which included the men’s silver medalists.
It was the most lopsided women’s final in Olympic history.
Muirhead, who also won a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Games, was paired this time with Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds and Hailey Duff – a team that was put together only in November for a last-chance Olympic qualifier after the British stumbled at the world championships and failed to earn a spot in Beijing.
It was the second straight medal for the Japanese team of Fujisawa, Chinami Yoshida, Yumi Suzuki and Yurika Yoshida, who took bronze at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. The Swedish women won bronze on Saturday night, beating Switzerland.
Both teams in the final had completed the round-robin – and perhaps their Olympics – when Sweden beat South Korea in the final match of the round-robin to create a three-way tie for the last two playoff spots.
It was settled by the second tiebreaker: the distance from the button in a pregame, two-throw challenge. Britain and Japan finished eighth and ninth in the 10-team field to edge Canada, which was 10th.
Women’s curling was a demonstration sport at the 1998 Nagano Games and made its official debut at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Rhona Martin won the inaugural gold with a last-shot draw to the button, known in Britain – and especially Scotland, where the sport and all the British curlers were born – as the « Stone of Destiny. »
But since then, the country has only made one appearance each on the men’s and women’s podiums, with Muirhead winning bronze alongside three different teammates in 2014.
Britain scored two in the first and took a 3-1 lead in the fourth with one point. Muirhead stole a point in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead into the break.
Japan got one in the sixth, missing a chance at two. Then, in the seventh, Fujisawa attempted a fairly hit-and-stick routine with her last stone that would have left two Japanese stones in the scoring area and made it difficult for Britain to eliminate them both with its last rock.
Fujisawa made the hit but rolled the shooter out of the house. Muirhead easily picked off the lone Japanese rock, four leaving of Britain’s on target.