VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- The noise was deafening as 19-year-old British curling sensation Eve Muirhead reached back to release her final stone.
Muirhead's failure to convert that routine shot in the do-or-die 11th end lifted the U.S. women's curlers to a thrilling 6-5 victory Saturday -- and gave them a glimmer of Olympic hope, too. Skip Debbie McCormick's foursome won its second straight match following an 0-3 start, and the victory followed up the men's 8-7 victory over Sweden earlier in the day.
Muirhead covered her face with her left hand, fighting the emotion of her overwhelming disappointment. Although the noise certainly affected her, she blamed only herself.
"There's nothing you can do. Half the time you can't even hear yourself think out there in the racket. It's not really right when you're setting and playing your last shot," she said. "It came down to a pure shot by myself, and it cost us. These things happen, and that's going to be a hard one for myself to take."
All the whooping and clamor has created a bit of a stir here. Many fans attending these games are unaware that screaming when someone is about to throw their rock is a faux pas in curling circles.
Still, the Americans certainly didn't mind.
"Oh, we love it!" U.S. second Nicole Joraanstad said. "The louder the better. I'd rather it be screaming craziness out there than dead silence."
McCormick is a veteran of two previous Olympics, and she's never seen a competition environment quite like this.
"It's not like in golf where they have people hold up the signs that say 'Shhhh,"' she said. "We don't have that. I don't know if curling's ever going to come to that. ... It's loud out there, I won't lie. But it was great today, because we had a lot of American fans. I heard USA chants a lot. It was very fun. It's always fun to play in front of a crowd."
Part of it is fans at the intimate 5,600-seat venue aren't far off the ice. And the crowd has forced some curlers to change strategies, turning to hand signals, or singing like Chinese skip Wang Bingyu so her voice will better carry.
"It's changing the game doing that," Muirhead said. "I think a lot of people out there I would have to say are non-curlers, because I'm sure if it's curlers out there they know what it's like."
The Vancouver Olympics and the medals race both finished in spectacular fashion for North Americans. The United States won 37 medals and Canada finished with 14 gold medals. Both are the best of these games and part of the greatest hauls ever at a Winter Olympics.
With one more perfect run down sliding's most difficult track, Steve Holcomb drove USA-1 to the Olympic gold medal in four-man bobsledding on Saturday, ending a 62-year drought for the Americans in the event.