Eve Muirhead aims to go one better in Swift Current

Eve Muirhead - Tom J Brydone
Eve Muirhead is leading Scotland into another World Championship (photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydone images))

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.

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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.”

Team Muirhead with Coach David Hay - Tom J Brydone
Team Muirhead with coach Dave Hay (photo: Tom J Brydone)

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.”

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The World Women’s Curling Championship takes place in Swift Current from March 19 to 27 – event website here.

Stay up to date with Team Muirhead’s progress through the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter, plus the Royal Caledonian Curling Club website.

BT Sport Panel: Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch explain curling

In the wake of their success at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Eve Muirhead and David Murdoch appeared on BT Sport to explain some of the nuances of curling.

Both skips will be hoping to triumph at this coming week’s Scottish Championships in Perth – thereby earning the right to represent Scotland at the World Men’s Championships and World Women’s Championships.

Things to look out for include some comments from Muirhead on evolving broom technology/sweeping techniques (ahh, those days of innocence), and one of the least adept blank ends ever played.

Find out how Murdoch and Muirhead – and their rivals for the men’s and women’s titles in Perth – get on this week via the Royal Caledonian Curling Club event page here, or keep an eye on the Roaring Game Blog’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Stockholm Ladies Curling Cup: Team Muirhead take second spot

Team Muirhead defeated both 2015 Women’s World Championship finalists on their way to the Stockholm Ladies Curling Cup final, where they were beaten by the in-form and firing Team Homan of Canada.

Muirhead’s runners-up spot brought with it prize money of 60,000 Swedish Krona (around £4,700) and indicated that they are steadily building into the season, having made the quarter finals of the first Grand Slam of Curling event of 2015-16 earlier in the month.

The team (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) were one of three Scottish rinks to participate in the Curling Champions Tour event.

However, neither Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Lorna Vevers, Alice Spence, Abi Brown) nor Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds, Vicki Wright, Mhairi Baird) were able to win a match – despite coming close to a couple of notable upsets.

Team Fleming were drawn in a group with Olympic champions Team Jones of Canada, Team Sidorova of Russia, Team Jäggi from Switzerland and Team Kauste of Finland.

Their first match was against Sidorova, and they had a disastrous start, going 6-0 down after just three ends – and they were unable to recover, eventually losing 7-4.

They were then beaten 9-4 by Team Jäggi, before facing Team Jones.

The Scots came so close to pulling off a major surprise, taking a 6-3 lead into the eighth end, but a four for Jones at the death saw the 2015 Women’s World Championship silver medallists escape with a 7-6 win.

Team Fleming then lost 6-4 to Team Kauste, meaning that despite some positive performances they finished the competition on no wins and four defeats.

Team Gray’s pool contained Swiss world champions Team Pätz, Team Sigfridsson of Sweden, Team Matsumura from Japan and Team Barbezat, also of Switzerland.

Like Team Fleming, their first match saw them get off to a poor start – leaking points to Team Sigfridsson to go down 8-1 after five ends.

They performed much better against Team Pätz, matching their Swiss counterparts all the way to the eighth end, only to give up three right at the finale to lose 6-5.

However, they were unable to take momentum from giving the world champions such a scare, losing their remaining group games 8-4 to Matsumura and 5-4 to Barbezat (the latter after an extra end).

As for Team Muirhead, they were in a group alongside Team Feltscher of Switzerland, two Swedish teams – Östlund and Wranå – and Team Nielsen from Denmark.

Their opening game, against Östlund, went toe-to-toe all the way, with the Swedes going into the eighth end 6-5 up – and then stealing one to win the match 7-5.

They bounced back with a 9-3 win over Team Nielsen – sealed by a steal of four in end seven – and then defeated Team Feltscher 8-5.

A 6-4 win over Team Wranå saw them safely into the quarter finals with a P4 W3 L1 record.

There they came up against Team Pätz, and took the Swiss rink down 8-0, stealing two in end three and another five in end four.

In the semi finals, another five-ender put Team Muirhead 7-2 up on Team Jones, and they saw out the victory in a very high-scoring match, 11-7.

So the title decider was fought out between Team Muirhead and the rink which beat them in the Tour Challenge quarter finals, Team Homan.

The Canadians got into the swing of things quicker than their opponents, stealing singles in ends one and two, but Team Muirhead got back on track with a three in end three.

Team Homan took a 4-3 lead at the half-way mark and then stole two further singles to stretch their lead to 6-3.

That was too much for the Scots to make up, the final score being 7-5 – highlights of the match here.

It was, however, a very solid weekend’s competition for Team Muirhead – who next compete in Basel from October 9.

For pictures from the competition, visit the event’s Facebook photo albums page here.

GSOC Tour Challenge: Scottish teams drop short

Three of the four Scottish rinks in Paradise reached the Tour Challenge knock-out stages, but were unable to go the distance as Canadian and Swiss teams triumphed.

Teams Murdoch (men’s tier 1), Muirhead (women’s tier 1), Brewster and Smith (both men’s tier 2) travelled to Newfoundland for the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season.

The event was organised into tier 1 (15 men’s and 15 women’s teams from the top of the world rankings) and tier 2 (15 men’s and 15 women’s teams invited based on order of merit standings or from the region) sections – with a pool stage followed by quarter finals, semi finals and finals.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) began their men’s tier 1 campaign with a superb 6-4 victory over reigning world champions Team Edin of Sweden. Scores of two in ends four and six proved vital for the Scottish rink, as did the 96 per cent shooting accuracy of Drummond at third.

However, that was as good as it got for the team, as they then suffered three consecutive defeats against Teams Gushue (3-7), Casey (4-7) and Carruthers (5-6) to slip out of contention for the knock-out stage.

The event was won by Team Kevin Koe, who defeated Oakville Tankard winners Team Gushue 4-3 in an extra end final victory.

In the women’s section, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) got off to a winning start by defeating the Swiss rink of Silvana Tirinzoni 5-4, thanks to a steal of one in end four and a two in end six.

But that opening victory was followed by defeat to Team Kim of Korea, the Scots going down 6-8 after conceding two in the extra end.

They were back on track in their third match, though, scoring five in end five to post a fine 7-1 win over the women’s world champions Team Pätz.

A 5-9 loss to Team Fleury in their final pool match meant they finished on a W2 L2 record and had to negotiate a tiebreaker with Olympic champions Team Jones – which they did 5-4, thanks to a steal of one in end eight.

The quarter finals saw them face Team Homan, and the in-form Canadians triumphed 7-3 to end Team Muirhead’s challenge. Reaching the last eight of a Slam event in their first competition of 2015-16, however, was a pleasing enough result.

Team Homan were eventual finalists, but were shocked by Team Tirinzoni (beaten in their opening match by Muirhead you may remember), the Swiss team stealing two in end eight to win 6-5 and claim the title.

In tier 2, both Scottish teams cruised through to the quarter finals.

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) were beaten 2-7 by Team Cotter in their opening match but then recorded three victories in a row – 5-3 versus Team Symonds, 7-5 over Team Stevens and 6-5 over Team Thomas – to qualify for the quarter finals.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) began their competition with three wins – 4-2 over Team Grattan, 9-2 against Team Rowsell and 8-1 versus Team Fanset.

Although they then lost 4-5 against Team Kean, they had already done enough to join Team Brewster in the last eight.

There Team Smith had little trouble in dispatching Team Adams by a 9-2 scoreline (notching five in end five), while Team Brewster beat Team Balsdon 7-4.

Neither could make the final, however, as Team Brewster lost 4-6 to Team Kean and Team Smith 2-9 against Team Cotter.

Cotter claimed the tier 2 title and a place in the GSOC Masters next month in Truro, Nova Scotia. The women’s tier 2 competition was won by another Canadian rink, Team Einarson.

The Scots in Newfoundland did at least finish off the week with a local tradition…

Team Muirhead 2015-16 season preview

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Team Muirhead celebrate their 2015 Scottish Championship win – pictures courtesy of Brydone Images (facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Team Muirhead kick off their 2015-16 season at the Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge next week. Here, their skip Eve Muirhead looks ahead to a campaign which will see them aim to make a greater impact at the European and World Championships while staying ahead of their Scottish rivals.

Q: Last season saw you win a number of events, and claim the Rogers Grand Slam Cup, but also miss out on a medal at the World Championship. How do you reflect on 2014-15 now?
A: All in all, it was a great season. Looking back on the majors (Europeans and Worlds), they were slightly disappointing coming away with only bronze at Europeans and fourth at Worlds. But we topped the Grand Slam events and several European competitions.

Q: What are your ambitions for the 2015-16 season?
A: This coming season we are looking to improve on the majors and really fight for top of the podium. We also aim to keep our good Grand Slam record.

Q: How has your pre-season training reflected those ambitions?
A: We’ve had some great pre-season training. Both on ice and off ice in the gym we’ve been working really hard to get even better in every area where possible.

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Q: This will be Sarah Reid’s second season with the team. How will her having spent a full season with you make a difference?
A: Sarah has fitted in like a glove. She’s been great! We now as a team know each other inside out which really helps dynamics and communication.

Q: The Grand Slam of Curling programme is expanding and there is now a women’s section at the National – how do these changes affect you as a team?
A: It’s great! The more events the better with this Slam format. It’s as close to Europeans, Worlds and Olympics you will get by competing in arenas, arena ice conditions, massive crowds and great competition.

Q: Do you expect to feel increased competition from the other Scottish women’s teams this season?
A: Every year the competition in Scotland is of a high standard and improving all the time. So we as a team need to keep training hard to stay one step ahead of the rest.