Muirhead, who won bronze at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, leads Scotland into the 2017 CPT World Women’s Curling Championship, which gets underway at the Capital Gymnasium in Beijing tomorrow.
The Scottish champions – skip Muirhead, third Anna Sloan, second player Vicki Adams and lead Lauren Gray, supported by alternate Kelly Schafer and coach Glen Howard – are in the field with 11 other top national teams.
Apart from Muirhead, who took the world title in 2013, two other skips – China’s Bingyu Wang (2011) and Switzerland’s Alina Paetz (2015) – are former world champions.
“We will be playing and fighting for a podium spot at this championship and we will be facing very tough teams out there,” admitted Muirhead.
To add to the importance of this championship, this is the last event at which points to qualify for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, will be up for grabs. The qualification process involves this championship and last year’s in Canada.
As hosts, Korea have qualified for PyeongChang, as will the seven nations with the best qualifying points tally from 2016 and 2017. The final two places in the Olympic line-up will be decided at a special WCF Olympic Qualification event, to be held in December 2017, in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
Last year’s fifth place finish by Muirhead’s team at the 2016 worlds means that Great Britain Olympic qualification hopes are strong (Scotland represents GB at the Olympics), and a medal performance this time round will simply make that position more secure.
Adams and Sloan were members of Muirhead’s rink when they last won the World Championships in Riga in 2013 and understand the demands of this year’s tournament. Adams said: “It is a massive thing as a team goal but by splitting it down to one stone and one game at a time it will help to simplify what we have to do through the round robin stages. The play-offs is almost like a different competition but at the same time you still need to take it a game at a time.”
Sloan added: “When you are representing your country you obviously want to do as well as you can at every championships you compete in. We want to complete the qualification process from last year and qualify Team GB, but we won’t change our approach it is basically the same process.”
The Scots open their round-robin campaign tomorrow afternoon against USA and then have two games on Sunday, against Italy and Russia.