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Eve Muirhead believes her team’s nail-biting qualification saga will stand her in good stead when she recommences her quest for an Olympic curling gold medal in Beijing
Muirhead won bronze in Sochi in 2014 but remains all too aware of the major prize that has eluded her since she announced her arrival on the global stage by being crowned the sport’s youngest world champion in 2013.
Muirhead’s inexperienced rink flirted with disaster on the road to Beijing, failing to advance directly via the World Championships then suffering an humiliating early loss to Turkey in the qualification tournament in Latvia.
But after rallying to secure a place at her fourth Olympics, Muirhead says her team of debutants Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Hailey Duff and alternate Mili Smith are now in a stronger place to capitalise.
Muirhead, 31, said: “I didn’t panic for one minute at the qualifying event, but I knew it was going to be hard work.
“If you go back to the World Championships where we did fail to qualify, I think that would be the time I did question myself. I realised Beijing was still a long way off, but I never gave up.
“At the qualifying event, we regrouped after one win and one loss and realised we had to come together and win our next five games, and that is exactly what we did.
“It gives me a lot of confidence to know that as a team we can battle through the tough times in competition, and it is always nice when you come out at the other hand having fought so hard.”
The potential in Muirhead’s team had been underlined at the European Championships in November, where a dominant series of performances culminated in a final win over reigning Olympic champions Sweden.
But her performances at the Olympics have yielded plenty of frustration, with the inexperience of 2010 followed by a tough semi-final defeat in Sochi, then a semi-final loss – and subsequent bronze medal defeat – in Pyeongchang four years ago.
Yet Muirhead is convinced the hunger she has instilled within her team – and the recent challenges they have faced – can only strengthen their bid to claim a first curling gold for Great Britain since Rhona Martin overcame similar adversity in 2002.
“We train in such a competitive environment all the time and that definitely helps us when we get to the world’s best competitions because we are used to those kind of surroundings,” added Muirhead.
“Obviously, the Olympic qualifying was a tough event and it wasn’t one I’d played in before. But it gave us extra competition that the other leading teams did not have, and I believe it might turn out to have been a blessing in disguise.”