by Craig Wright
The nation’s best curlers are ready to do battle on ice once again, as the 2018 Winter Olympics officially get underway in Pyeongchang later this morning.
With the rinks of David Murdoch and Eve Muirhead having played their way to silver and bronze medals respectively back at Sochi 2014, hopes are high amongst the sporting public that similar success is just around the corner in South Korea.
However, for one of the bronze medal-winning women’s team from four years ago, the memory is still a bit of a blur.
“I can’t remember too much about the match itself – it was a bit of an outer-body experience!” laughed Vicki Adams.
“Eve [Muirhead] always reminds me of what I did as her last stone was coming into the house – it hadn’t stopped moving yet and I had my brush above my head in celebration, so I knew it was good. I don’t remember doing that though!”
“I can’t believe it was four years ago” said Muirhead.
“Those were three or four of the best days of my life after we won that medal. You’ll always remember it, but we’ve got to focus on the next one now.”
Fast forward to the present day, and the team – consisting of skip Muirhead, Adams, Anna Sloan, Lauren Gray and alternate Kelly Schafer – is once again preparing to pull on British colours in pursuit of Olympic glory.
However, for Muirhead, there will be an added dimension to her third Games; brother Glen and Thomas will also be competing, lining up as part of the British men’s curling team. The double European champion is fully focused on her primary goal, though – that elusive Olympic gold medal.
“Of course I’ll be watching how the boys get on, but we’ve got to focus on our own performance first” she told Brig.
“Any time that they’re playing and we’re not, though, I’ll be down there cheering them on.”
It will be a family affair on the men’s team, as the Muirhead brothers will be led by Kyle Smith, who in turn is joined on the ice by younger sibling Cameron. University of Stirling student Kyle Waddell completes the lineup for the British team, who – despite being Olympic debutants – have been putting in the hours in training for the biggest competition of their lives, as Kyle explained.
“Our weekly schedule will usually see us in the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings as a team, then on the ice for a team session after that.
“Depending on the week and if we’re out on the ice twice a day, we’ll do a lot of specific skills and things we need to work on, whether that’s something tactical or something else. We’re always chasing those small improvements.”
Those preparations have been made that much easier in the four years since Sochi 2014, following the opening of the National Curling Academy last year. Situated at Stirling’s very own The Peak, both sets of players were quick to praise the impact the centre has had to date.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant” said Cameron Smith.
“We’re here about five times a week, and in the gym here as well. It’s all in one place now, whereas before we’d have had to travel a bit more. It’s a lot more settled.”
Adams agreed: “It’s been massive for us really.
“To have a fully dedicated curling facility for the elite teams to practice in is fantastic. The National Lottery and sportscotland have put a lot of time and money into it, and we’ve benefitted hugely.”
With both teams not beginning their quest for gold until February 14, the players will have an opportunity to not only enjoy the opening stages of the 23rd Winter Olympics, but to clear the mind and focus on what would constitute a successful competition. For both rinks, the message is clear.
“We want to go out and enjoy the event, but we want to be on the podium at the end” said Kyle Smith.
“If we play to our best level, then we’ll be happy at the end of the week.”
That message was reinforced by Muirhead, as she said: “Of course a successful Games would be getting a medal at the end.
“However, as long as we know we’ve done all we can, we’ll be happy regardless.”