Ahead of the members vote for the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, we asked members of the SJA Academy to make their case for contenders to win sportsman, sportswoman and team of the year. ALP SALFUR with the case for Team GB’s Olympic gold medal winning women’s curling rink.
In a Winter Olympics campaign that saw great disappointment for all of Great Britain, the curling stars of the nation shone the brightest with the women’s team roaring to a gold medal at Beijing 2022.
With other national hopes either falling below expectations heading into the last day, as only the men’s curling team had managed GB’s sole medal after a painful loss in the gold medal match, hopes of the first and only win fell on Eve Muirhead and her determined squad to deliver.
Off the back of their gold triumph in the 2021 European Curling Championship, the women overcame Japan in the gold medal match 10-3, after a thriller past Sweden in a semi-final that went to extra end, vanquishing their demons from Pyeongchang 2018.
This was Great Britain’s third gold medal in curling history, replicating the women’s 2002 team and the men’s 1924 team, matching their place as one of the greatest nations in the sport.
The last Winter Olympics performance ended in a medal-less agony, as GB lost to Sweden in the semi-final before the same fate occurred again in the bronze medal, making 2022 all the more vindictive.
Team skip and captain Eve Muirhead was not only the figurehead of the team, but also of all Team GB in Beijing, carrying the flag during the opening ceremony.
Despite always being ranked among the top curlers in the women’s game, there was a huge sense of redemption from Pyeongchang for the Perth native, making up for struggling four years ago against those very same Japanese and Swedish sides.
The Scot bowed out of the sport this year, finishing her illustrious career in the best way possible.
While Muirhead was in her fourth tournament, the rest of the team were all taking part in their first Olympic run, where they excelled.
Team second, Jennifer Dodds, has been a part of Team Muirhead since 2018-19 and competed for gold glory in the mixed doubles curling event, with the men’s curling captain Bruce Mouat.
They came agonizingly close to a bronze medal, but Dodds rebounded instantly from the disappointment to help Team Muirhead fight to the gold in the women’s event.
Vicki Wright, the team’s third, pulled off a gold medal performance while also taking on responsibility as a nurse during the pandemic, carrying both the sport and the health of many on her shoulders in impressive fashion.
The 28-year-old returned to Forth Valley Hospital in Larbert in the Falkirk Council area as a hero, with cheers and tears from all her co-workers.
Hailey Duff was the team’s lead, and became an Olympic gold medalist only a year after making her senior international debut as part of Muirhead’s squad.
The New Zealand-born Scot grew up with father, John, who also had his own history in curling, leading to Duff pursuing the sport since the age of eight.
Milli Smith was the team’s alternate, who proved to be a massive support to the squad, despite not having played in the tournament.
Being the youngest member of the squad, Smith is well poised as the future figurehead of Team GB’s curling ambitions, with her gold medal experience and skill to lead the way.
Full members can vote here for their full choice.