SOCHI, Russia — The small, rural Scottish town of Lockerbie forever will be remembered as the place where a plane exploded in the skies in 1988, killing all 243 passengers, 16 crew members and 11 people in their homes below.
David Murdoch was 10 years old at the time. He was sitting in the back of his father's car not far from home when he witnessed a wrecked Pan Am 103, which was on its way from London to New York, coming down.
“I was about 300 yards away,” Murdoch recalled recently of what remains the deadliest terrorist attack on British soil.
Murdoch had just started to play curling but his hobby had to be put on hold. The ice rink where he used to throw stones was used as a temporary mortuary.
Twenty-five years later, Lockerbie is making the headlines for another, more joyous, reason. And Murdoch is the reason why.
The British team that Murdoch skips is in the men's curling final at the Sochi Olympics, and will take on Canada for the gold medal Friday. Murdoch will get his pre-Olympic wish — returning to his home town with a medal around his neck.
“That's my home,' Murdoch said. “That's where I grew up and that's where I did all my practicing when I was young. It's an incredible place. It's just dished out champions year after year throughout all the different age groups.
“It was the anniversary recently and you can't forget what happened . I'm sure we're going to have them all cheering us on.”
Murdoch is one of the most popular guys on the curling circuit and has achieved plenty of success in his career, notably becoming world champion in 2006 and '09 and winning three European titles.
“He's been a phenomenal curler for a long time,” Canada curler Ryan Fry said.
But the Olympics Games is where it really matters, where people who have never heard of curling can be lured to a TV screen and become engrossed in a sport sometimes harshly labeled as “Housework on Ice.”
And it is at the Olympics where Murdoch has failed to deliver, until now. He lost the bronze-medal game against the United States in 2006 and a tiebreaker for the semi-finals in 2010 when Britain was the world champion.
He thought his chances of an Olympic medal were gone, especially when he suffered a bad shoulder injury and underwent surgery in 2012.
“I thought that was probably it, to be honest,' Murdoch said. “I didn't think there would be any way back. You don't get the chances very often to go to the Olympics and there was probably a bit of my head that wasn't in it anymore.”
Murdoch, a farmer's son, didn't give up. He moved to Stirling in central Scotland, the main training headquarters of British curling, and revived his career under his coach, Soren Gran.
“He brought me to Stirling to train, to throw every morning, to practice harder than I've ever done in my life and he's pushed me right to the edge,” Murdoch said. “We're now getting the rewards from that.”
In a sense, Murdoch already has played his Olympic final. The game-clinching deuce he made to beat Sweden in the semifinals guaranteed him and teammates Scott Andrews, Greg Drummond and Michael Goodfellow a medal.
Whereas Canada is under huge pressure from back home to win a third straight men's gold for its curling-mad country, Murdoch can afford, to some extent, to just enjoy the experience.
“Twelve years of dedicating your life to a sport, to get your body up, to go through injuries, to train hard, to make a lot of sacrifices,” Murdoch said. “I still can't believe, after all these years, we are in the final now.”