19 Feb 2014

Curling glory beckons for Eve Muirhead at Sochi

The British women’s curling quartet face Canada in the semifinal on Wednesday. And as Becky Horsbrugh explains, team “skip” Eve Muirhead comes from a family of curlers.

Eve Muirhead (Reuters)

Curling originated in Scotland in the 16th century and was first played on frozen ponds and lakes in winter, writes Becky Horsbrugh. It was a demonstration sport at the 1932, 1988 and 1992 Games and has been an official Olympic sport since 1998.

The game is played between two teams, composed of four players apiece. Played on ice, competitors deliver a 19.96kg stone toward a circular target area called the “house”.

The opponents alternate their play, and the objective is to get the stone closer to the centre of the house than any member of the opposite team. A game consists of ten “ends” in which each team steers eight stones. Team members deliver the stones in a set order with the skip, or team leader going last.

Points are given for each stone located in or touching the house that is closer to the centre than any of the opposition’s stones. The score is determined after 16 stones have been delivered and the winner is the team with most points.

In Sochi there are eight days of round-robin matches, with the best four teams qualifying for the semifinals on 19th February. Both men and women compete in curling.

Family tradition

It is not surprising that Scotland’s Eve Muirhead became interested in curling. Her father Gordon competed at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, when curling was a demonstration sport, and claimed a World Championship gold medal in 1999. Her elder brother Glen has curled for Scotland while her younger brother Thomas won the world junior championships last March in Russia.

Eve herself began the sport at the age of nine in Pitlochry, Scotland, and three years later was allowed to watch her now coach Rhona Martin win gold at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002.

A four-time world junior champion in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011, Eve missed out in 2010 as her full concentration was on the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. There she was selected as captain, or “skip” as it is called in the sport, aged just 19. Her team failed to qualify for the semi-finals however.

In 2013 Eve did consider her future in the sport when her funding was halved, but she persevered and was rewarded in March when she was crowned senior world champion in Riga.

Her talent extends beyond just curling, as Eve is an accomplished bagpiper, competing at four world championship competitions. Eve has admitted her failure to medal has provided her with the motivation to finish on the podium in Sochi.

Women's curling at Sochi

19 February - ladies semifinal

20 February - ladies bronze medal game

20 February - ladies gold medal game

Becky Horsbrugh is a producer for Channel 4 News