When Thomas Muirhead is climbing out of his bed at an ungodly hour to attend to his farm duties before beginning his day as a full-time curler, the 22-year-old would be entitled to rue the family passion for the sport that has gripped his life.
Instead, though, it will be experiences such as the European Curling Championships, which start today in St Gallen, Switzerland, and the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February, that will have Muirhead reflecting with pride on where his upbringing has taken him.
Muirhead is member of Kyle Smith’s Team GB, with his elder brother Glen an alternate, who will compete in South Korea after they have represented Scotland at the Europeans. Brothers to women’s skip Eve Muirhead, the foremost curler in the country, the trio grew up being dragged round rinks to watch their dad Gordon Muirhead, who himself was an Olympic curler and three-times silver-medallist in the World Championships.
It was the rapid rise of big sister Eve, who won Olympic bronze in 2013 and boasts golds at World And European level, that resulted in youngest sibling Thomas being swept up in the sport.
“I can remember sitting at home before going to school watching the TV, and coming back from school and sitting back down in front of it when Eve was at the Vancouver Olympics [in 2010],” said Thomas, a world champion at junior level. “I was only young because Eve was only 16 at the time. Ever since that moment, seeing Eve competing on the Olympic stage it became a lifetime goal of mine to do that. I had started playing by then but that was the first time I really set a goal in my head of what I wanted to achieve.
“Dad encouraged us but he definitely allowed it to be our choice. He would never force anything on us. We were just that competitive, and competitive as a family, that we took to curling straight away. We’ve always had a love for the sport.
“I take so much from what Eve and dad have achieved, and I know the hard work and dedication that it takes. And I want to achieve to their level… if not better.”
Muirhead has needed to do the hard yards to make his goals attainable. He isn’t the only one among his nearest and dearest. Co-owner with his brother of a sheep and cattle farm to the east of Crieff, two sessions on the ice at the new National Curling Centre in Stirling, with a gym stint, and technical work thrown in, the brothers can’t always be at hand to make the business run smoothly.
“Either get things done in the morning or we make sure things get done at night,” he said. “Lucky my girlfriend is willing to do a bit at home, and my dad is willing to do anything it takes to help us achieve what we want to achieve. If it wasn’t for that it would be very difficult.
“We are lucky that we are our own bosses. We can do the jobs that need to be done when we can do it, so it’s flexible hours. That’s the way it’s been for years: early starts and late finishes. But these are just sacrifices you have to make. I’ve put in a lot of hard work from an early age.”
Curling is rare among British sports in that the men’s game exists in the shadow of the women’s. There is no shame in that when Eve Muirhead and her rink are consistently among the medals at major events. Thomas Muirhead believes a medal is possible for the men in the European Championships over the next week, but accepts the curling pecking order. Eve’s team does get more coverage but that doesn’t bother us. They’ve been together as a team for a lot longer than we have. We’ve still to prove ourselves at Olympic and European level.”