February 22, 2002
MORE than six million Brits stayed up after midnight to watch four women with brooms sliding a 42lb lump of granite across an ice rink.
At the end of a nail-biting contest in Salt Lake City, curlers Rhona Martin, Debbie Knox, Janice Rankin and Fiona MacDonald had collected Britain’s first gold medal winners at a Winter Olympics since Torvill and Dean skated the Bolero 18 years earlier.
They were also the first Scots to win gold at a winter games since 1936.
It was an unlikely triumph of four apparently ordinary women, all full-time mums or
in full-time jobs before the Games.
To most English people – and quite a few Scots – curling was “bowls on ice” and not a sport they’d have considered watching on TV.
Yet watch they did, and the mood of the nation was summed up by PM Tony Blair, who told the team: “You captured the imagination of the UK.”
Flag-waving crowds welcomed them at Heathrow, Richard and Judy’s sofa awaited, as did MBEs.
Team skip Martin had arrived in Salt Lake City having just recovered from illness. However, she and her team-mates won five out of their first seven round-robin matches before beating Canada in the semis.
Fittingly, it was Martin who clinched the title against the Swiss team, knocking out an opponent’s stone with the last play of the final end – her “stone of destiny” –
to clinch a 4-3 victory.