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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 February 2006, 15:43 GMT
Hopes fade for curling champions
British skip Rhona Martin looks on anxiously against Japan opposite number Ayumi Onodera
Anxious times for GB skip Martin (top) against Japan
Great Britain's women's defence of their Olympic curling title is in the balance after they were beaten 10-5 by Japan with just one group match left.

Debbie Knox, a 2002 gold medallist replaced out-of-form Jackie Lockhart, but it did not stop the British errors.

Japan built a 6-1 lead at the halfway stage and though Britain clawed back four points, they must win their final match and rely on results elsewhere.

Rhona Martin's team play the USA at 1800 GMT on Monday in their last game.

Britain are now fifth in their group, with only the top four qualifying.

We're not playing well enough at the moment, and that is the bottom line
Rhona Martin

The best Martin's side can now hope for is a deciding tiebreaker on Tuesday although even that will be beyond their grasp if Canada win one more match.

Norway had also been within Britain's reach on Sunday but they wrapped up their semi-final spot when they thrashed Denmark 8-1 on Monday.

Martin admitted the odds were now stacked against her side.

"I would put our chances of qualifying at very low at the moment," said Martin.

"We are relying on other people, and they are very unlikely to lose. We're not playing well enough at the moment, and that is the bottom line.

"We have to look hard at what we're doing because we've still got a very tough game against the Americans."

I was surprised and disappointed
Jackie Lockhart on her demotion from the team

British vice-skip Lockhart admitted she was stunned to be dropped from the team.

"I was surprised and disappointed," she said. "I had a couple of slack shots [in Saturday's defeat to Norway]. Guess that was it."

Martin defended the coaches' decision to axe Lockhart in favour of Knox.

"We are a mix and match team," said the 39-year-old. "It didn't work out there today."

Martin found herself in a similar situation in Salt Lake City before a suprise Swiss victory in the final round of matches put Britain in the play-offs.

Then, Britain contested two play-offs in one day to reach the last four, where they went on to take a dramatic gold.

But if history repeats itself, Britain must conjure more team spirit and attacking play than they showed against Japan.

After a blank first end, Japan seized control, taking two points thanks to a well-crafted shot from skip Ayumi Onodera.

A missed draw from Knox and another error by Martin let Japan steal another point to move to 3-0.

Onodera confidently took out all of Britain's stones to capture three points and a strong lead in the fifth end.

Martin's side immediately responded with three points of their own at 6-4 but they could not lift their game again.

The skip threw down a complete miss in the final stone on the ninth, handing Japan three points and the match.




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SEE ALSO
Third loss for GB women curlers
18 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
GB women curlers lose to Canada
17 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
British women suffer curling loss
15 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
Curlers snatch last-gasp victory
14 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
Champion curlers seal opening win
13 Feb 06 |  Winter Sports
Martin to defend title in Turin
22 Dec 05 |  Winter Sports


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