Muirhead ready to learn from her 'idol' in the Olympic countdown

Muirhead ready to learn from her 'idol' in the Olympic countdown

18 November 2017 / 07:32
Glenn Howard is considered one of curling’s all-time greats but he’s never been to the Olympic Games - until now.
Team Muirhead Team GB women's curling rink PyeongChang Eve Muirhead’s rink will be coached in PyeongChang by the four-time world champion, whose own hopes of making the Canadian men’s team ended earlier this month with a defeat at their highly-competitive pre-trials.

Howard, 55, has spent decades at the top of his sport but has never appeared on its biggest stage.

But he’ll finally get the chance next year, providing the tactical and strategic coaching expertise to Muirhead, ranked fifth in the world heading into this week’s European Championships in Switzerland.

Muirhead won bronze at Sochi 2014 - the youngest-ever women’s skip to medal at the Olympic Games - and calls Howard an ‘idol’.

“When I started curling he was a hero, he’s one of the greatest in our sport,” she said.
“I’ve got a huge amount of confidence just having him on our side. When he talks you know you are listening and learning from one of the best there has been.”

Howard admits disappointment that his bid to be joining Muirhead in South Korea as a player, where he would have taken on Kyle Smith’s British rink that includes her brother Thomas, is over.

But he insists he is learning more about the game providing the counsel to Muirhead and her team-mates Anna Sloan, Lauren Gray, Vicki Adams and experienced alternate Kelly Schafer.

“I’ve got a new respect for curling since I’ve been working with Eve,” he said.

“Perhaps the game is clearer when you are a coach, strategy almost appears more obvious in some ways.

“I’m still learning a lot, Eve had a great team before I got involved but I like to think I’m helping.”

Curling in Canada is something of a national obsession. Since the sport returned to the Olympic Games in 1998, their men’s and women’s rinks have never finished outside the medals. In Sochi they came home with double gold for the first time.

“Every restaurant or bar you walk into in Canada, curling is on the television - they even watch it in McDonalds,” adds Muirhead.

“You travel to small towns and the stadiums are packed, it’s just a huge, huge deal there.”
But Scotland remains the roaring game’s spiritual home, with Muirhead now enjoying facilities to match Canadian rivals at the £3million National Curling Centre in Stirling.

“Getting these facilities is fantastic, the ice is prepared especially for us and we’ve got our coaches with us, she adds. “The difference is night and day from what we had before and we couldn’t ask for more to get us ready for the Olympics.”

Muirhead’s Scottish rink open their European campaign against Sweden, with expectations rising. Since winning in 2011, they’ve won three silvers and two bronze medals in the five years since.

Meanwhile, brother Thomas is hoping his rink can step out of his big sister’s shadows in the weeks ahead, starting in St Gallen.

“Eve’s team does get more coverage but that doesn’t bother us,” he said, with Scotland’s men’s team opening their campaign against Russia.

“They’ve been together as a team for a lot longer than we have. We’ve still to prove ourselves at Olympic and European level and hopefully that can start this week.”

Thomas Eve and Glenn Muirhead Team GB curling team announcement PyeongChangMuch has been made of the family affair in Team GB’s Olympic-bound curling teams.
In addition to Eve and Thomas, Glen Muirhead, whose girlfriend Sloan is a long-standing member of the women’s team, is an alternate in the men’s rink.

Then again all this is hardly a surprise when you consider father Gordon Muirhead appeared at the 1992 Olympic Games, when curling was a demonstration sport, and is a former world champion. 

“I remember sitting at home before going to school watching the TV, and coming back from school and sitting back down in front of it when Eve was at the Vancouver Olympics,” said Thomas Muirhead. 

“Ever since that moment, seeing Eve competing on the Olympic stage, it became a lifetime goal of mine. I had started playing by then but that was the first time I really set a goal in my head of what I wanted to achieve. 

“Dad encouraged us but he definitely allowed it to be our choice. We were just that competitive as a family, that we took to curling straight away. We’ve always had a love for the sport.”

Sportsbeat 2017

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