Olympic medallist. World champion. European champion. Multiple Grand Slam winner. Eve Muirhead’s won just about all there is to win in curling, but is still on the hunt for more.
She is skipping Scotland at yet another World Women’s Championship from Saturday in Swift Current, Canada, looking for a second gold medal after previously topping the podium in 2013.
The Roaring Game Blog recently spoke to Muirhead about the championship, the team’s preparations and her memories of Swift Current.
Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) won all of their matches at the Scottish Championships in Perth last month to qualify for this event.
They thoroughly dominated most of their games, and avoided any round robin defeats (having lost to Teams Gina Aitken and Hazel Smith in 2o15).
I asked Muirhead what the biggest positives were from that event, and what they could take from it for Worlds.
“Going through the Scottish Championships unbeaten is something that’s not done a lot, and I think what we did well is we were consistently good from the start to the end,” she said.
“I’m not saying we were at our best; we know we can play better at the World Championships, and we are going to have to play a little bit better, but we’re definitely capable of that.
“So what we take from the Scottish is our consistent play and our attitude – we’re a team that never gets complacent one bit, and we’re very structured and organised.”
The team’s coach, Dave Hay, told me in Perth that they had the option of preparing for Worlds by playing in the Uiseong Masters event in Korea – but as it ran from March 4 to 11, it would have meant a great deal of travel in a short period of time with little to no recovery time.
Muirhead said: “I think it was an easy decision to say no. You do a calendar at the start of the year, you pick out the major events, the events you really want to play well in. You want to peak at those events.
“With Korea, if we were to go, I think it would put a big question mark on whether we were preparing correctly for the World Championship.”
However, next season could be different.
“I guess you could look at the big picture – if that event carries on we’ll definitely look at maybe attending next year if we can schedule it in right. But it all depends on what we can plan.
“With the Olympics being in Korea in 2018 and our team looking to be in the running for those, you’d want to get the chance to play a little bit in Korea to work out how to acclimatise, how many days before you’d need to go, that kind of thing.”
But for now, the focus is purely on Swift Current – a place with fond memories for Muirhead, as the place where she won her first Worlds medal.
Having missed out on a medal with Great Britain at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, she won silver in Swift Current – Andrea Schöpp and Germany pipping her to gold.
I asked whether she had been back, and what her memories of the city were.
“I have been back once, not for a tournament though,” she said.
“My team-mate back in 2010, Kelly Wood, met the local mayor, that kind of kicked off and she now lives in Swift Current, has a kid and everything! So we stopped by once to see her.
“It brings back lots of good memories – I won my first Worlds medal at Swift Current. That was a silver so I want to go one better.
“It’ll be great to see Kelly again as I curled with her for a number of years.
“For her to move away was obviously a massive step but it’ll be good to see her again and relive some good memories.”
In terms of the difference between the Eve Muirhead that went to Swift Current in 2010 and the one competing in 2016, she said it was ‘huge’.
“Back then I would say I was a curler, not an athlete,” she explained.
“Now I’m more an athlete. I realised after the Vancouver Olympics, where we wanted medals and were capable of medals but didn’t [get them], we came back and I realised what I needed to do.
“It was a kick up the butt to train harder and practise harder, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
“I realised what it takes to be a top class curler, and that’s what I’ve been doing the last few years.”
Another developing curler is Rachel Hannen, who was Team Muirhead’s alternate at the European Championships in November and – having been at the World Juniors at the time of this interview – will travel with Muirhead’s rink again for Worlds.
Muirhead was full of praise for their fifth player, saying: “Rachel was fantastic at the Europeans.
“She played the [European playdowns] as Sarah unfortunately had an injury, so we know Rachel really well.
“She’s currently at the World Junior Championships, so it’s good for her to have Scotland on her back again before she comes with us.
“She was a pretty automatic [choice for Worlds], as she seemed to fit in really well with the team and she’s a great player as well, so if we ever needed to use her she’s definitely capable of stepping in.”
Muirhead knows there are tough matches ahead in Swift Current, especially having kept a close eye on the teams who qualified.
“When we were playing the Scottish Championships, the Swiss nationals were on, and you’re always checking the scores,” she said.
“When the [Canadian] Tournament of Hearts was on I think I watched just about every game.
“You always watch the other championships, how they’re going and who you’ll be competing against.
“You get a lot of people who say they don’t really mind who they play, but you do really.
“Secretly you’re watching every game, and you’re looking to see who your competitors are going to be when it comes to the major championships.”
But ultimately, when play gets underway against those competitors, the only thing Team Muirhead can affect is their own performances and how they handle the pressure.
“Every year as a team we’re getting better and better,” Muirhead said.
“All the time, as Scotland, you’re going to have a target on your back and that’s just the nature of the game. But we’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves.”
And to win gold?
“It’d be huge – we’ve won World Championship medals before but you always want more, it’s what we work so hard for.
“And [for 2018] we want to make sure the Olympic selectors have no choice but to pick us.”
The World Women’s Curling Championship takes place in Swift Current from March 19 to 27 – event website here.