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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 11:48 GMT

GB curlers bask in golden glow

Britain's victorious women's curling team are coming to terms with their new-found fame - after they won their country's first Winter Olympic gold medal for 18 years.

Tributes have been pouring in for the triumphant five-woman team, who were unknown before their thrilling win on Thursday.

An audience of 5.7 million people watched live on BBC TV as the team beat Switzerland with the very last throw of the final.

And now skipper Rhona Martin is being hailed as Britain's latest sporting star.

"Rhona and her team have beaten the odds to give Team GB their best winter Olympics result since 1948"
Sports Minister Richard Caborn

Asked how she would cope with her new celebrity status, Martin said: "I'm sure I'll manage.

"We're not home until Tuesday evening so we'll have time to think about it.

"I'll still be a housewife, a mother of two from Dunlop in Ayrshire, that will not change. It's a small village."

PM's support

The curlers' achievement captured the imagination of the British public - with the biggest celebrations in Scotland.

Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a good luck message to the team which they read moments before they were led onto the ice, to the Salt Lake Scots pipe band's rendition of "Scotland The Brave".

Princess Anne, a former Olympian herself and now a member of the International Olympic Committee, was watching from the stands.

"Rhona Martin has written herself into British sporting history," said Britain's Chef de Mission Simon Clegg.

While back at home, Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, led the tributes.

"This is a fantastic achievement for Scotland," he said.

"Curling is a popular Scottish sport and these women have filled us all with pride."

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell congratulated the Olympic champions and invited them to be guests of honour at a reception for women at Edinburgh Castle.

She said: "The success of the all-Scottish team is a victory that I am sure all of Scotland will be proud of."

And Scottish National Party leader, John Swinney, added: "I congratulate the curling team on their success and I'm sure that everyone in the country will be delighted that they have struck gold at the Winter Olympics.

"They have been great ambassadors for the sport of curling and for their home country."

The five-woman team, including one reserve, also included Margaret Morton, 33, from Ayr, Fiona MacDonald, 27 from Inverness, Debbie Knox, 33 from Fife and Janice Rankin, 29 also from Inverness.

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