Eve Muirhead may be approaching veteran Olympian status as she looks forward to her third Winter Games, but the 27-year-old believes next February’s’s event in PyeongChang will feel even more special.
That is because the former world champion and Olympic bronze-medallist will travel to South Korea with her brothers Thomas and Glen, who are in the men’s squad.
The first members of Team GB’s Winter Olympic contingent were announced at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston yesterday, although it was a case of confirmation for Muirhead’s rink after they had already sewn up the qualification criteria. Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray and alternate Kelly Schafer will look to improve on the bronze medal they won in Sochi three years ago.
The men’s selection was more unpredictable and, in the end, the nod has been given to 24-year-old Perth youngster Kyle Smith over the more experienced rinks of Tom Brewster and Sochi silver medallist David Murdoch.
Smith will be joined by Thomas Muirhead – who plays third and is the younger brother of Eve – Kyle Waddell (second) and his own younger brother Cammy Smith as lead. Glen Muirhead, the eldest of the Muirhead siblings is the alternate.
That means siblings make up half of the ten-strong curling squad and Eve Muirhead, who made her Olympic debut in Vancouver in 2010, says that family aspect adds greater meaning this time.
“This Olympics is going to be a little bit more special because I’m going to be competing alongside my two brothers,” she said. “I’m really very proud of my brothers to get that call-up because I know how much work they’ve put in during the past year, well the past four years actually. So it is going to be extra special, having Great Britain on your back and having my brothers doing the same.”
Team Muirhead had already secured Olympic qualification but Muirhead said it was still a proud moment to be officially confirmed and get the GB kit back on.
“When you get that call, officially get given the handshake and the certificate, it gives you butterflies because it’s official. It’s been a really tough four years since the last Olympics. To stay at the top of a sport is so demanding.
“To finally realise that you’re going to be part of that team is a bit of a relief but it’s scary as well knowing in seven months I’m going to be on that plane going to the Games.”
For Kyle Smith, who is the son of 1991 world champion David Smith, who also competed in the Olympics when it was a demonstration sport, it was a more anxious wait but he said he was “over the moon” to get the call.
A former world junior champion, Smith’s rink enjoyed a strong last season with wins on the global circuit, reaching the final of a Grand Slam event and ending their campaign with a fine win over the world No 1 team skipped by Niklas Edin of Sweden.
After the prospect of play-offs had been ruled out earlier in the year, Smith’s higher placing in the world rankings earned him the spot.
“We were hoping for the best. We knew what the criteria were that they were going to base their selection on,” he said. “They [Murdoch and Brewster] have a lot of experience and David won a silver at the last Winter Olympics and obviously he’s been around for a very long time, so to get selected over them shows the confidence the selectors have with us.”
The feeling clearly is that this youthful rink – the skip being the oldest of the starting four at 24, although alternate Glen is 28 – are the coming men of Scottish, and now GB, curling.
For Murdoch, who has been denied a place at his fourth consecutive Olympic Games, it was difficult decision to take.
“I was very surprised by the decision because I believe we showed enough consistency to deserve our place,” he said. “It is a strange one but it is something we will have to live with.
“Championship curling is very different to tour events and I’m not sure the team that has been picked has the experience to deal with that. I believe we had persevered and proved that we can thrive in that kind of environment.”
For Eve Muirhead it will be about using the experiences of previous Games to aiming for the ultimate prize. “I think now we have taken everything in we need to get to the top of the podium,” she said.