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Rhona factor could be key in close battle for curling gold

January 24, 2014 10:07 am

It's 12 years since Rhona Howie expertly released her stone of destiny to secure Olympic curling gold in Salt Lake City. And the man who coached her to victory has backed her to deliver again.

Howie is now coach to Britain's youthful world champion rink, skipped by two-time Olympian Eve Muirhead and including fellow 20 somethings Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton.

And Mike Hay, now chef de mission to the 56-strong British team in Sochi, believes her influence in the pressure cooker environment of the Olympics could be decisive.

"Rhona didn't win gold the easy way, she knows how to cope with adversity and thrive under pressure," said Hay.

"She never gave up in Salt Lake City, even when the odds seemed against her. When our current team have got someone like that in their corner, they are in very, very good hands."

Muirhead's rink have enjoyed a solid season, winning silver at the European Championships and picking up regular victories on curling's world tour, including the recent Bern International in Switzerland, meaning they arrive at the Olympics ranked third in the world.

And at last week's Continental Cup in Las Vegas they claimed the prized scalp of Canadian skip Jennifer Jones, one of their biggest rivals for gold in Sochi.

"Eve has matured an awful lot in the last four years," added Hay.

"She was only 19 in Vancouver and perhaps it all came too early for her. She's got girls of her own age group around her now and what they've done in the last few seasons is impressive.

"They are coming in with a target on their back as world champions, but that shouldn't phase them.

"However, Eve is under no illusions about how tough it will be. She's beaten all her rivals but there isn't much between the top three or four teams. It will be very close, it's going to come down to the last end, the last stone or a tie-break."

© Sportsbeat 2014