Winter Olympics Curling: Muirhead leads women beyond destiny
Eve Muirhead - captain of the Team GB curling women
A combination of young virtuosos and experienced campaigners, Team GB's curling women are a winning Scottish blend. Can they emulate their triumph of 2002? Mike Haggerty reports from Vancouver.
"Muirhead is not fazed by following such a famous curling moment. “I don’t mind taking risks. I’m pretty bold in how I play and I’ll go for the big shots when I have to."
What's more Scottish than being a world-class bagpipe player? How about being one of the best young talents in golf, the sport that Scotland introduced to the world?
Eve Muirhead from Blair Atholl can lay claim to both of these, but the 19-year- old is doing something even more Scottish than either - she is skippering Team GB's curling women, the game that is as Scottish as whisky and the Loch Ness Monster. And while the team is led by Muirhead's precocious talent - she is the current and three-times world junior champion, a feat not achieved by any other skip - they have plenty of experience among them.
Supporting Muirhead at third is former world champion Jackie Lockhart. At 44, she is old enough to be Muirhead's mother. "I might be that age, but I'm very young in my outlook" insists Lockhart, who will be playing in her fourth Olympics. For second player Kelly Wood, Vancouver will be a second Olympic experience, while lead Lorna Vevers has played in several world and European Championships. Alternate Annie Laird has recently joined, and she too is a former world champion.
Despite all this, Team GB will do well to stay in the medal hunt after the 10-team round-robin. The favourites include defending champion Anette Norberg from Sweden, who completed the grand slam of European, world and Olympic crowns in Turin four years ago; Switzerland; and China, the current world champions. China chose curling as a target Winter Olympic sport some time ago, and they achieved their breakthrough last year in Korea when Bingyu Wang led her team to world gold.
Normally, Canada would be among the favourites in any curling competition, but their women's team, led by Cheryl Barnard from Calgary, has never worn the Maple Leaf at international level, and, despite having won Canada's national trial event, they are dark horses in Vancouver.
Muirhead's team follow in the steps of 2002 Olympic champion Rhona Martin, whose "stone of destiny" kept millions of bleary-eyed Brits up late as they discovered curling's slow-burn tensions. As skip, Muirhead will literally call the shots, and she is not fazed by following such a famous curling moment. "I don't mind taking risks. I'm pretty bold in how I play and I'll go for the big shots when I have to".
Team GB have it tough from the outset, playing China in their opening round-robin game on Wednesday 17th, and then Sweden later the same day.
Latest Odds On Women's Culring Gold Medal Winner: Canada [2.78], China [3.15], Switzerland [7.2], Sweden [7.6], Denmark [11.5], Great Britain [14.5], USA [21.0], Germany [26.0], Japan [34.0], Russia [27.0]