Four years ago, the women’s curling teams of Japan and Great Britain met in the bronze medal game. This week, Great Britain prevailed against Japan for an even bigger medal.
In 2018, Japan got the better of Great Britain in the 10th after captain Eve Muirhead erred on the last pitch to give Japan a steal of one and a 5-3 win that prevented the Great Britain team to get on the podium. This year, Muirhead made sure not to rely on one last blow this time.
In Saturday’s women’s curling gold medal game, Great Britain was so dominant that the match lasted just nine ends. Muirhead’s side scored two points in the first, four in the seventh and two more in the ninth on their way to a 10-3 win over Japan.
The victory is the first British Olympic women’s curling championship since 2002.
“It’s a moment I don’t think I’ve had yet, but it’s a moment I know I’ll never forget,” Muirhead said after the game. “I think it’s something I dreamed of as a young kid, was to get that Olympic gold medal and get on that podium and it came true. I must really cherish this moment and love every second.
Both teams came in after coming through these Olympics with a similar style of play – aggressive, calm and confident, working to fill all 4 feet every set.
Great Britain maintained that level of play in the final game, but Japan weren’t as ready.
With a two-point lead, Great Britain put the game aside in the seventh with a 4-point end that gave the team an 8-2 lead. On Japan’s final throw, Satsuki Fujisawa knocked down the rock on a takedown attempt and rolled his rock out of the house. All Muirhead had to do next was get rid of the single elongated Japanese stone, which she did on a hit-and-roll that left her team at four.
Muirhead helped his team to an early lead in the first with a takedown that tapped a Japanese rock against one of his own. The angle grabbed the opposing rock just enough to knock it down and hold Great Britain’s rock in place for two runs.
Japan struggled with knockdowns and overcurls the rest of the night, and never managed an end of more than a point.
“I think today we played a fantastic game,” Muirhead said. “For my whole team to come out and play so well under all the pressures was just fantastic. We had a lot of fun there. Vicky (Wright) told me during the game that she was having so much fun and when you Hear that, you’re having fun too. I can’t thank everyone and our support staff enough.
“We talked about it last night and this morning. We said let’s go and have fun,” said Vicky Wright of Great Britain. “And when we’re having fun, we always do our best…I said to Eve, ‘This is the best game I’ve ever played. I don’t want this to end. I was just like, this is just amazing. That’s what we did, go out there and have fun and see what happens.
Muirhead is one of seven curlers to have competed at four or more Olympics, but her team at those Games hasn’t been together that long. Muirhead and Wright are the only players who returned to the team in 2018, and Muirhead, Wright and Jennifer Dodds are the only ones who were together for the final World Championships in 2021. Hailey Duff was added just months before the Games . .
“I really think it’s just our bond together,” Duff said. “We really bonded as soon as we formed a team and we can really trust each other and be open and honest, and I think that’s really important and that’s what got us here.”
The team of Muirhead, Wright, Dodds and Duff helped Great Britain win its third Olympic women’s curling medal of all time. It was also Britain’s second medal at all the Games in 2022. The other was the silver won by the men’s curling team a day earlier.
With the silver medal, Japan finished with their best Olympic result in the country’s history. It is only the second Olympic medal ever won by a Japanese curling team.
“We lost for sure,” said Japan’s Yurika Yoshida. “But being here with all my teammates… The Japan team has become the best. I’m just super grateful for everything.
“Despite the silver, it is indeed a meaningful medal for Japan,” added Japan’s Yumi Suzuki. “We have regrets, of course, but there were so many people supporting us along the way. We are only here thanks to the Japan team.