Curling skip Muirhead 'loving every minute' ahead of fourth Games

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Eve Muirhead's European champions will head to Beijing next year after securing their place at the Olympic Qualifying Event
Eve Muirhead's European champions head to Beijing next year after securing their place at the Olympic Qualifying Event

Battle-hardened Eve Muirhead insists she must remind herself to always enjoy the highs and lows of curling competition ahead of her fourth Winter Olympic Games, writes Josh Graham.

Skip Muirhead qualified a spot for Team GB at Beijing 2022 by topping the table at the Olympic Qualifying Event alongside Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Hailey Duff and alternate Mili Smith, with their selection officially confirmed on Thursday.

The European champions endured a rollercoaster ride in the Netherlands - losing their first two matches - but five consecutive wins and Turkey’s victory over Japan booked their flight to China alongside Bruce Mouat’s men, with Mouat and Dodds also competing in the mixed doubles.

And Muirhead, 31, said: “I think one of the main things is that we have to enjoy the next couple of weeks before we head to Beijing, and enjoy Beijing itself of course.

“I think I always need to remind myself that I need to enjoy it. The day that I turn up to the ice and I don’t enjoy it will be the day that I think about whether I want to carry on or not.

“Because if you don’t enjoy it - it’s no fun. Right now, I’m loving every single minute of it, every time I get on the ice with the girls it’s such a laugh.

“It’s always exciting the day that it’s officially announced. It’s a very, very special feeling for myself and for the rest of the girls and I guess it is going to make Christmas a little nicer!”

Muirhead became the youngest skip ever to win an Olympic medal when she led her side to bronze at Sochi 2014.

But she has had to work hard for an opportunity this time around after missing out on the first chance to qualify by finishing eighth at the World Championships.

However, she regrouped in style with her new team and the Scot is as determined as ever to succeed.

“I am very hungry to medal again and would love to work my way up the podium,” added Muirhead, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.

“The team is in very good shape; we are playing very good curling and I am looking forward to starting but all we can do is our best.

“Every game is daunting - you can’t write anybody off - but we are used to playing top nations in the world, and I’d like to think when they come to face us, they are thinking the same.

“We beat the current world champions (Switzerland) and Olympic champions (Sweden) at the Europeans, so I think we’ve proven that we are capable of beating these guys and we want to do the same again.

“It does give us a little bit of added pressure, but it also puts pressure on other people who want to beat us - you’ve got to look at it both ways.”

Muirhead is preparing for the sport’s quadrennial period in the mainstream spotlight, with ‘chess on ice’ hitting the screens of millions back home.

But the rest of her team are gearing up for their first Games and their leader is more than happy to pass on some of her experience.

“I’m always here for the girls to talk to me if they want to,” explained Muirhead, who is bidding to add to the 1,000-plus medals achieved by British athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding to elite sport in 1997.

“The Olympic Games is an experience that you can always talk about - there’s always a lot of stories that come out of it: good and bad.

“I still get nervous and that’s only natural. The first stone you are throwing you’re going to be but as soon as you get going and get into the environment and feel comfy, you can relax a little bit more.

“I don’t realise when I’m out there how popular it gets back in Britain - curling really takes off and that’s really cool.”

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