Thomas Muirhead keeps it in the family
The Scottish curler and Winter Youth Olympian is one of three siblings going for gold in PyeongChang.
Some athletes stake out new ground from their parents. Thomas Muirhead, though, is very much his father’s son. Gordon Muirhead, Thomas’s father, won medals of every colour at the World and European Curling Championships during the 1990s. Indeed, Thomas’s middle name is Brandon, named after the Canadian city in which his father was competing when Thomas was born.
Thomas has followed in Gordon’s footsteps, and he’s not the only member of the family to do so. There are three Muirhead siblings in PyeongChang, all doing something their father never did – competing in an Olympic medal event. Gordon’s lone appearance at the Olympic Winter Games came in 1992, when curling was a demonstration sport. His children have all gone one better, and will be battling for gold in PyeongChang.
A YOG initiation
Although PyeongChang represents Thomas’s Olympic debut, it’s not his first Olympic experience. In 2012, aged 16, he was a member of Great Britain’s mixed curling team at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Innsbruck, finishing 10th.
“[The YOG] definitely helped me [going into PyeongChang],” says Thomas. “It’s almost like going to the senior Olympic Winter Games, because it’s the same set-up and process. You get your kit, you’re competing against different countries, there’s media involved… and some of the curlers I competed against at the YOG are now our opposition in PyeongChang.
“I think it’s a huge advantage for athletes who get the opportunity to go to the YOG, because it’s a stepping stone and gives you an insight of what to expect.”
The Athlete Role Models for the Winter YOG curling competition in 2012 included Eve Muirhead, Thomas’s elder sister, at that time the European champion and a veteran of the Olympic Winter Games in 2010. A year after the Winter YOG, Eve became world champion, then won bronze at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.
Eve will be making her third Olympic appearance this week, while Glen Muirhead, Thomas’s brother, is also in PyeongChang. But although mixed curling is appearing at the Games for the first time, having been pioneered at the Winter YOG in 2012, the Muirheads will be competing separately – while Eve is skip of the women’s team, Tom and Glen are both part of the men’s squad.
Building a career
Since his Winter YOG appearance in 2012, Thomas has steadily built his curling career while doing a demanding job off the ice – along with Glen, he co-runs a sheep farm in the heart of Scotland.
Perhaps the two highlights of his sporting career are his gold medal from the 2013 World Junior Curling Championships, and the silver he won in November’s European Curling Championships. In both those teams, he competed alongside brothers Kyle and Cameron Smith, and Kyle Waddell – and it’s this same line-up who are competing for Great Britain in the men’s curling competition at PyeongChang.
Will they go one better than the British men’s foursome who won silver in Sochi? Stay tuned to find out.
The men’s curling competition begins on Wednesday 14 February.