IT will be stones of dynasty rather than destiny that propel the Scottish assault on the men’s and women’s European Curling Championships which get under way in Denmark on Friday.
Of the ten players and alternates in the respective squads for the tournaments in Esbjerg, half are drawn from the Muirhead and Smith families.
Olympic bronze medallist Eve Muirhead will skip the women’s team, with her younger brother Thomas in the rookie rink of 23-year-old Kyle Smith which also contains his brother Cameron Smith and is making its debut at a senior international championship. Eve’s older brother Glen is the alternate for Team Smith. The quintet have former world champion fathers in Gordon Muirhead and David Smith.
Speaking in Perth yesterday ahead of the squads’ departure for Denmark, Eve said: “Yes I’m really looking forward to playing alongside a major men’s event that involves my brothers.
“Thomas has had a great season with Team Smith. They’ve been together about seven years now and they’ve medalled at three world junior championships. They’re young and up-and-coming, it feels like a new era and it’s great to see a young team going out there. And with Glen there as the fifth it will be great to go to a major event and have them there. And I’m sure they would say the same.”
Smith’s team had to battle past the more established rinks of Olympic silver medallist David Murdoch, Tom Brewster and Ewan MacDonald in the European Playdowns to earn the right to represent Scotland for the first time on the senior international stage, and the youngster from Guildtown in Perthshire can’t wait to hit the ice in Denmark.
“We’re really looking forward to getting started and showing folk what we can do,” said Smith. “We’ve watched these teams for years and looked up to them so it’s great to come through, compete against them and then be able to get that Scottish place.
“I think we’ll have to take things as they come. It’s our first men’s event, not something we’ve experienced before, so if we can just take what we can from the week, hopefully get a few wins and build some confidence.”
As for Eve Muirhead, she may be only 25 but now carries the aura of a well-established star of the sport after two Winter Olympic appearances and is determined to add to a solitary European crown won four years ago in Moscow.
The 2013 world champion is the first to admit that just the one continental title could do with a bit more company on the CV.
“I guess looking at my record I’ve gone silver, gold, silver, silver, bronze. So I do want to get back up to the top of that podium and there’s nothing to stop us doing that,” said Muirhead, who will lead her team of Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Sarah Reid. “If we play as a team the way I know we can then there’s no-one stopping us. There are tough teams like Switzerland, Sweden and the Russians. We’ve got to take it a game at a time and who knows where we can finish.”
That is not to suggest that a gold next week should be considered as much easier prey than global titles given the strength of the sport in Europe.
Muirhead added: “In the world rankings it’s mainly European teams up there. The European circuit is incredibly tough. At a world championship you would add in the winners of the Pacific championship, the Canadians and the Americans and that would be the only difference. This is going to be a hard-fought championship.”
It’s still more than two years until the next Winter Olympics, for which qualification points for Team GB will be up for grabs in Denmark, but Muirhead, who led her rink to bronze in Sochi, admits that thoughts are never too far from the blue riband event in the sport.
The youngest ever Olympic medal-winning skip said: “Olympic thoughts are always in my mind. You never forget that’s what your main goal is. But these events like worlds and Europeans, when they come around are as important as an Olympic Games, It’s what your year is built around. ”
The year after Sochi proved a trying one for Team Muirhead as the team adapted to the departure of lead Claire Hamilton and the skip was diagnosed with coeliac disease and had to switch to a gluten free diet.
Muirhead said: “We’ve had this team for two seasons now and it was a tough first year on the back of the Olympics. We got bronze at the Europeans and a disappointing fourth at the world championship. We’ve a lot to make up for from that year.”