It doesn't get more exciting than this when it comes to Olympic curling.
The final spot in the men’s medal rounds of the curling competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi came down to a round-robin tiebreaker between Great Britain and Norway. Both teams finished with 5-4 records through the nine scheduled games.
Interestingly, Norway defeated Great Britain in the head-to-head contest earlier in the Games, but the only tiebreaker at the Olympics is another match.
It’s not the first time these two countries have faced off with plenty at stake, as Norwegian curler Haavard Vad Petersson told Associated Press writer Steve Douglas: "We've had about 200 battles against Murdoch. It's always close."
The Murdoch Vad Petersson was discussing is Great Britain's skip, David Murdoch.
As to be expected, this tiebreaking contest was close as well, with Great Britain winning on the final throw 6-5.
|Men's Curling: Tiebreaker Result|
With so much riding on the contest between Great Britain and Norway, getting off to a quick start took on an added importance.
That is exactly what Norway did in the first end with an early point.
To Great Britain's credit, it battled back immediately to tie the match at one through two ends, as the official Twitter page of Great Britain's Olympic team pointed out:
It set the tone for a back-and-forth affair, as the squads once again traded points in ends three and four:
The first potential game-changing end came in end five, as Norway picked up a critical two stones to grab a 4-2 lead. The good news for Great Britain was it had the hammer in the sixth end and a chance to respond, but it was blanked and it went into the seventh end still trailing by two.
Another scoreless end in the seventh set up a crucial eighth end with Great Britain controlling the hammer:
Great Britain handled the pressure brilliantly and tied the match at four with two critical stones.
The stage was set—tie score in a tiebreaker match with a mere two ends separating one country from a spot in the semifinals of the Olympics.
Norway took advantage of the hammer in the ninth end and picked up a point. Great Britain held the ever-important hammer in the 10th frame but found itself trailing 5-4:
It got tenser as the final end progressed:
Great Britain had a decision of Olympic-sized proportion to make on its last toss—go for the tie and force an extra end or go for two stones and the win, which was a riskier ordeal. The British elected to go for the win, and it was absolutely the right call.
It was arguably the shot of the Olympics so far and set up what should be a thrilling semifinals. Ollie Williams of the BBC certainly thought it was a historically excellent throw:
Great Britain won 6-5.
Game Within the Game
It’s one thing that Great Britain won the match, but the game within the game was what type of pants Norway would be wearing for the tiebreaker.
The team has thrilled the crowd with colorful patterns and even knee-high socks throughout the tournament. Andrew Catalon of CBS Sports and NBC Olympics alerted us to the Norwegian pants of choice for the match against Great Britain:
If the pants weren't impressive enough on their own, consider the fact that they caught the eye of BBC Sport even though the opponent was Great Britain:
Alas, the pants did not bring Norway luck in the tiebreaking match, but they certainly left an impression in Sochi.
With the victory, Great Britain will match up with top-seeded Sweden on Wednesday in the semifinals. The winner will face off against the winner of the Canada and China game in the other semi.
Beating Sweden will be a tall task, as it finished with an incredible 8-1 record in the round-robin portion of the Olympics. It has looked like the best team throughout the tournament and will try to carry that momentum into the medal rounds.
If Great Britain was to get past mighty Sweden, a date with either Canada or China will be difficult as well. Outside of the pressure that comes with a gold-medal match, both the Canadians and the Chinese finished with 7-2 marks in round-robin play and have the talent to land atop the podium.
It’s time for the medal rounds.
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