Scottish skip, Eve Muirhead, a stone’s throw from gold
Eve Muirhead, who will skip the Great Britain women’s curling team in Sochi, is part of a long line of elite Scottish curlers. After leading Scotland to the world championship crown, she is confident of following in the footsteps of compatriot Rhona Martin, whose team won gold at Salt Lake City 2002.
Eve Muirhead has curling in her blood. Her father Gordon competed for Great Britain at Albertville 1992 and won a gold medal with Scotland at the 1999 World Championships. It is a family tradition which she has maintained in determined fashion. “I would class myself as pretty stubborn when it comes to learning something and not giving up until I'm good at it,” explained the charismatic Muirhead, who is also a fine exponent of two other Scottish traditions, golf and bagpipe playing.
The Scot first burst onto the international scene as a precocious 16-year-old in 2007, when she claimed the first of her four world junior titles (the others came in 2008, 2009 and 2011).
Just three years later Muirhead was selected as the skip of the British team at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. After a good start, she and her team-mates succumbed to five defeats in a row, failing to qualify for the play-offs. “I don’t think I was too young,” she reflects. “I gained so much experience in Vancouver. I’ve got a lot of good memories from 2010. Obviously the results were disappointing; when you look back there are a lot of things we could have done better, but I think we can turn it into a positive.”
Inspired by London
As the lynchpin of Scotland’s women’s team, she went on to win medals at the next four European Championships (gold in 2011 and silver in 2010, 2012 and 2013). In March 2013 in Riga (LAT), the 22-year-old became the youngest female skip in history to claim gold at the World Championships, producing a marvellous shot with her final stone to help Scotland overcome Sweden 6-5 in the final. Consequently, Muirhead and her rink of Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton were the first Team GB athletes to be selected for Sochi 2014.
Back in July 2012, Muirhead travelled down to London to experience the Summer Games, where she witnessed Jessica Ennis’ memorable success in the heptathlon in front of a raucous crowd in the Olympic Stadium. That proved to be a fantastic source of inspiration to the curler, encouraging her to work harder on her overall approach to her sporting career.
“It would mean the world”
At the end of November 2013, Muirhead, Sloan, Adams and Hamilton went on a remarkable run at the European Championships in Switzerland, racking up 10 victories on the trot before losing 10-5 to Margaretha Sigfridsson’s Sweden. But the Scot is happy to focus on the positives. “Our preparation is for Sochi,” she explains. “It would have been nice to come away with the gold medal, but we had such a great week. I think we're in a really good place and I'm happy with the way things are going. We've got a lot of good things to take away from this week. We just have to keep playing well and training hard.”
Muirhead is confident she can lead her team to Olympic gold 12 years after current Team GB coach Rhona Martin did the same in Salt Lake City. “We’ve trained really hard leading up to this and we’re capable of winning major championships – we’ve proven that,” she says. “It’s important we break the Olympics down into two parts – the qualifying then the play-offs and semi-finals are like a new event. In terms of winning gold, I’d say there’s us, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden and China, so there’s a good number in contention. Luck doesn’t really come into it. But to get the chance to represent Great Britain is extra special. An Olympic medal is the only one I'm missing. It would mean the world.”
Information on tickets for Sochi 2014 is available here: http://www.olympic.org/news/sochi-2014-olympic-winter-games-tickets/190291