Rhona tells curlers: Achieve expectations, win gold

Eve Muirhead, left, Rhona Howie and David Murdoch can strike gold. Picture: SNSEve Muirhead, left, Rhona Howie and David Murdoch can strike gold. Picture: SNS
Eve Muirhead, left, Rhona Howie and David Murdoch can strike gold. Picture: SNS
Rhona Howie has every confidence Great Britain’s female curlers are good enough to emulate her 2002 Olympic gold at Sochi 2014, with her successor as skip Eve Muirhead possessing the “nerves of steel” to throw another Stone of Destiny if necessary.

Twelve years on from the famous triumph of her GB rink at Salt Lake City, Howie – then called Rhona Martin – now coaches ‘Team Muirhead’, the group who head into this month’s Games in Russia having won the 2013 World Championship as Scotland.

The expectation that they will be in the mix for medals in Sochi is considerable, and on their prospects of securing another gold for their country, Howie said: “They are absolutely good enough.

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“They are very talented individuals. But it is about getting the processes right, and then the results will take care of themselves. That is what we keep saying to them – that they absolutely have the potential, but it is not just going to happen.They are going to have to work and focus on performance in the Olympic environment.”

The rink, all aged between 22 and 25, comprises lead Claire Hamilton, second Vicki Adams, third Anna Sloan, skip Muirhead and alternate Lauren Gray.

Muirhead is the only one of the quintet to have previously competed at an Olympics, having skipped a GB rink of players much older than her to seventh place at Vancouver 2010 at the age of 19.

Her throwing the final stone to clinch the World Championship last year was reminiscent of Howie’s shot – with what has come to be known as the Stone of Destiny – that sealed the Olympic gold in 2002.

And Howie said: “Eve has got nerves of steel. She is so determined and so focused – exactly what you need in a skip. She is clever tactically, she calls a good game and is good at reading ice conditions. Eve could throw that last stone if she had to.”

Team Muirhead winning gold in Sochi would, of course, make for a notable player-coach double for Howie personally. But the Ayrshire-born 47-year-old feels the real sense of satisfaction for her would come in the knowledge that the team’s efforts had paid off.

“I would just be really happy for the girls, because it is them that have put in all the hard work,” Howie said. “I’m just directing the traffic, if you like, and helping them develop. There will be a great sense of satisfaction for me in that way if they have delivered.”

Muirhead’s rink will start their Sochi campaign on Monday against Margaretha Sigfridsson’s Sweden, the team that beat them in last year’s European Championship final.

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The men’s team also open their campaign on Monday, taking on hosts Russia and then Sweden later the same day. Led by David Murdoch, the team also consists of Scott Andrews, Tom Brewster, Greg Drummond and Michael Goodfellow.