As the first members of Team GB for Sochi 2014 were announced with the women’s curling team officially booking their ticket to Russia, Gold medal winning curler Rhona Martin, now known as Rhona Howie, looks back on her selection to Team GB 12 years ago, and looks forward to Sochi in her role as Head Coach of British Curling’s women’s programme
Current world champions Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Claire Hamilton and Vicki Adams will be hoping to emulate their coach Rhona Howie and leave Sochi with gold medals around their necks.
Howie and her rink – the last Brits to win curling gold at an Olympic Winter Games with their nail-biting triumph in Salt Lake City in 2002 – were selected to Team GB in April of 2001, 10 months in advance of the Salt Lake City Games.
The current team have almost six months to prepare for Sochi and Howie thinks preparation time is vital for curlers.
“That was perfect for us because we could set up the programme that we wanted to do for that 10 months,” said the Scot.
“We’ve tried it both ways, before Turin it was December but I think the team unity in our sport is so important and the longer a team have to prepare the better.
“The euphoria is great at the time because you know you’re going to the Olympics, but then reality hit us and we thought ‘we’re not just going for the nice trip, we’re going to do the business’.”
Howie is now Head Coach of a British Curling’s women’s programme that in the past two years has won a World Championship as well as silver medals at European and junior world level.
With Howie at the helm and Mike Hay, her coach in 2002, Team GB’s Chef de Mission for the Sochi Games, Muirhead and her rink will have plenty of Olympic experience to draw on.
“I’m with them on the ice a lot working on technical areas, so that’s what we focus on then – but off the ice they ask questions,” added Howie.
“I think in their heads they haven’t wanted to ask much though because they haven’t been officially selected – but now they have been I think they’ll ask even more.
“Certainly after the recent Team GB Sochi 2014 Conference they were asking more questions, plus it’s a good omen that Mike is Chef.”
Muirhead, while only 23, has Olympic experience of her own to draw on after skipping Team GB’s rink at the Vancouver Games in 2010, aged just 19.
And with the rest of Muirhead’s rink all in their early 20s, Howie – who competed in Salt Lake City aged 35 – hopes they will have many chances for Olympic glory.
“They’ve got several Games left in them, judging by the age I went to the Olympics! They are a young team and they’ve got huge potential and talent there for these Games and beyond,” she said.
“The experiences they’ve had internationally with World Junior titles, Youth Olympic Festivals and World University Games, all with combinations of this team, can only be a positive.
“They know each other well under pressure and that’s the big point for any team, being able to deal with the pressure.”