Eve Muirhead eyeing curling glory for Britain at Winter Olympics | James Riach

Britain's best chance of gold in Sochi is taking inspiration from London 2012 and could become the face of the Games

It would be a struggle to find anyone more Scottish than Eve Muirhead. Britain's best hope of a medal at next year's Winter Olympics has curling in her blood, as well as golf and the bagpipes.

"I don't think I could do three more Scottish things," says the 23-year-old, who will lead Britain's curling campaign in Sochi having captained Scotland to World Championship gold already this year. "Scotland has a good tradition for curlers, it is a very Scottish sport, along with Canada. 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."

Muirhead's team were the first British athletes selected for Sochi, and it easy to see why. While medals may be scarce in Russia, Britain's curlers will once again lead the nation's chances on the ice and go into the event as leading contenders.

Currently coached by the 2002 gold medallist Rhona Martin, Muirhead led the British team in Vancouver three years ago aged 19, having previously won three world junior titles. Her father, Gordon, was an international curler and twice took silver at the World Championships. However, Muirhead could have taken up a career in golf, playing off a scratch handicap until recently.

"I'm not off scratch at the moment, I'm two just now but this year my clubs are sat gathering dust. I just don't seem to have the time," she says. "I think it's too late [to turn professional]. I had chances when I was younger but I realised I had such good opportunities in curling so I stuck with that.

"I would class myself as pretty stubborn when it comes to learning something and not giving up until I'm good at it. That's what I did with my golf."

Muirhead concedes that her bagpipes are also currently under-used – "it was the same in 2009 leading up to the Vancouver Games" – as preparations for Sochi are stepped up. Muirhead's team rarely had the opportunity to train on ice during the summer in Stirling but used that time to focus on their physical conditioning, before honing their tactics and technique over the autumn and winter during training trips to the US and Canada.

She was hooked on the sport aged nine, and last year's summer Olympics in London have only fuelled Muirhead's appetite for success. If Jessica Ennis-Hill was the poster girl for London 2012, then Muirhead is certainly capable of becoming one for Sochi 2014.

"I was lucky enough to go down to London for the summer Olympics and for me that was a massive inspiration," she says. "It was the boost I needed and a kick up the bum that I needed, things like needing to train more and practice more and that's what I've done. I've made so many sacrifices over the last year to make that happen.

"Jess Ennis is one of the girls that I really look up to, she was the poster girl and had so much pressure on herself to win. I remember being in the Olympic Stadium and the atmosphere was just unbelievable. I don't know how she zoned out of it all but when you see someone do that and come away with the gold medal, it just shows you the work that she put in – that was a massive inspiration for myself.

"It's great to know that you could be the face of the Games and that your team could be medal hopefuls. It's good that we've had a successful season leading up to it and we probably couldn't have the worlds in a better year."

Britain have missed out on curling medals at the past two winter Games and Muirhead admits that she underperformed in Vancouver. At Turin 2006, Martin's team failed to defend the title they secured in Salt Lake City four years previously.

Muirhead is determined to not fall on the biggest stage again. Her World Championship title has given the team a fine platform on which to build, but she has unfinished business.

"I know the curlers have been medal hopefuls at the last few Olympics and we've kind of fallen at the last hurdle," she says. "We always seem to be successful at world and European championships and then it comes to the Olympics and we don't seem to get it going. We just need to treat it as a normal championships.

"I have got a lot of good memories from 2010. Obviously the results were disappointing, we went in as medal hopefuls and didn't get one, but when you look back we think there are a lot of things we could have done better. There are little regrets. I personally don't think I did enough.

"We're going to have a big target on our back being world champions but I think we can change that to a positive. Other countries know they are going to be up against a tough team and we know that other countries have stepped up."


James Riach

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Winter Olympics 2014: Eve Muirhead out to win curling gold for GB
Eve Muirhead, Great Britain's women's skip, has said she is heading for Sochi fired by the example of Jesica Ennis at London 2012

Owen Gibson

01, Feb, 2014 @11:00 PM

Article image
'I'd love to walk through Lockerbie with an Olympic curling medal'
Team GB's David Murdoch tells Owen Gibson he aims to bring Sochi gold back to the ice rink in the town where Pam Am flight 103 came down

Owen Gibson

30, Jan, 2014 @11:00 PM

Article image
Sochi 2014: Curling Team GB's long road from Vancouver to the final
Skipper David Murdoch on how their coach, Soren Gran, reignited his love of curling after the dark days of the last Winter Olympics

Owen Gibson in Sochi

20, Feb, 2014 @5:31 PM

Article image
Britain's women slip up but make Olympic curling semi-finals
Britain's skip, Eve Muirhead, has promised her rink will peak for the semi-final against the unbeaten and imperious Canadians

Owen Gibson in Sochi

17, Feb, 2014 @10:32 PM

Article image
Norway men's curling team take early gold for dodgy fashion sense
The Norwegian men's curling team have been the US media's darlings all week for wearing outfits that make them look like fugitives from clown school

Mikkel Harbo Mousten

24, Jan, 2014 @10:26 PM

Article image
Sochi 2014: David Murdoch admits Britain let chances go against Norway
David Murdoch, the Team GB skip, admitted his team could have been more clinical in the 7-6 defeat to Norway

Owen Gibson in Sochi

16, Feb, 2014 @8:25 PM

Article image
Sochi 2014: day 13 of the Winter Olympics – in pictures
The best images from Sochi on a day packed with action including medals in curling, women’s ice hockey and women’s free skating.

20, Feb, 2014 @10:01 PM

Article image
Sochi 2014: the Winter Olympics guide for Americans at home
Everything you need to know for 18 days of curling, figure skating and skiing – and which you can forget shortly afterward

Amanda Holpuch

06, Feb, 2014 @7:38 PM

Article image
Sochi 2014: British curlers let it slip and Jack Whelbourne slides out
Team GB's curling men and women both lost to Sweden while Jack Whelbourne fell in the 1500m short track speed skating final, with three laps to go

Owen Gibson in Sochi

10, Feb, 2014 @10:12 PM

Article image
Sochi 2014: Winter Olympics highlights for Sunday 21 February
Great Britain have two teams in the four-man bobsleigh and Andrew Musgrave goes in the cross country skiing mass start on Sochi 2013's final day of action

Guardian staff

22, Feb, 2014 @6:10 PM