Posted: Feb 18, 2014 1:57 AM
Updated: Feb 18, 2014 1:58 AM
SOCHI, Russia (AP) Britain advanced to the semifinals of the men's Olympic curling tournament by beating Norway 6-5 in a tiebreaker Tuesday that went to the final shot.
British skip David Murdoch made a superb double takeout with the last rock to leave two British stones nearest to the button for the win.
"It is going to rank up there with the best shots I have ever played," Murdoch said. "To stay in the Olympics or be out of the Olympics in one shot."
Britain will now face Sweden in the semifinals on Wednesday, while Canada plays China. Norway and Britain came out of the preliminary schedule with 5-4 records, forcing a tiebreaker.
Britain lost a tiebreaker at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, where Norway won the silver medal and its players earned global recognition for wearing flamboyant pants during games. Their elimination leaves the tournament without its biggest crowd-pleasers, who wore pants with a red-and-blue paint-splattered pattern for the tiebreaker.
Norway skip Thomas Ulsrud said he feared the worst when his final shot left Murdoch with the ideal angle to play the double takeout.
"As soon as our last one was played, I thought, 'This is not good,'" Ulsrud said. "It was there for him."
It leaves Murdoch with a chance to make up for near misses at the last two Olympic tournaments he lost the bronze-medal game in 2006 and a tiebreaker for the semifinals in 2010 when Britain was the world champion.
Despite being one of the hotbeds of curling, Britain has not won a medal in the men's tournament since the sport returned to the Olympic program in 1998. The women's team is also through to the semifinals.
The ninth end when the score was 4-4 proved to be crucial as Norway fluffed a series of attempted takeouts to give Britain the initiative. Ulsrud made a draw to the button for one point and 5-4, but the British had the last stone in the 10th.
Ulsrud slammed his broom to the ground and an approximately 50-strong band of British fans cheered loudly inside a mostly empty Ice Cube Curling Center.
When Murdoch made his winning shot, Ulsrud slumped to the ground near the hoardings at the end of the sheet of ice.
"I thought, 'This is not happening. Tell me it's a dream,'" he said.
Murdoch invited the Norway players to his wedding in Scotland last year and knows them well from their time together on the world curling tour. He won't be borrowing their pants for the medal round, though.
"I don't think they've got some with the Union flag on," he said, laughing.