OLYMPIC CURLERS MAKE FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR PYEONGCHANG
With just 17 days to go until the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang Team GB’s men’s and women’s curling representatives gathered at the National Curling Academy in Stirling - a facility opened last August 2017 to enhance their training for international competitions – for final preparations before they head out to the holding camp in Japan.
The ten curlers were the first of the Team GB athletes selected for PyeongChang and have shown impressive form this season leading up to the Games. Team GB women’s skip Eve Muirhead accompanied by her Sochi team mates Anna Sloan (third), Vicki Adams (second), Lauren Gray (lead) and alternate Kelly Schafer (formerly Wood) won the European Championships in St Gallen, as well as reaching the semi-finals in their final pre-Olympic competition - the Glynhill Ladies International - last weekend.
Team GB’s men skipped by Kyle Smith and comprising Thomas Muirhead (third), Kyle Waddell (second), Cammy Smith (lead) and alternate Glen Muirhead meanwhile claimed silver at the European Championships and were finalists last weekend at the German Masters, which was also their last competitive outing before heading to Korea.
With three members of the Muirhead clan and two of the Smith brothers competing for Team GB, the team dynamic among the curlers is very strong and all of the men will be making their debut at the Games. All but one member of the men’s team are sons of world champions (David Smith and Gordon Muirhead), with the lone exception, Kyle Waddell, hailing from another curling dynasty, his grandfather Jimmy having been a European Champion.
Eve Muirhead was the youngest skip to win an Olympic medal when along with her teammates Sloan, Adams and Gray (as alternate) they won bronze in Sochi 2014. Muirhead will be competing in her third Games this time around, with Sloan and Adams taking part in their second, while Gray – who joined the team at the start of the 2016-17 season – will enjoy being on ice for the first time at this Games in South Korea. Their alternate this time around, Schafer, completes an experienced line-up, having competed for Team GB in Turin 2006 and Vancouver in 2010.
On the cusp of her third Games, Eve Muirhead said:”Having been involved in a number of four year cycles before this one, it is surprising how quickly the Games come around and as a team we have pulled together all of our hard work into this last period to ensure we are the best prepared we can be for the biggest event of our careers.
“Being part of Team GB is a huge honour and we are really looking forward to being part of that big multi sport environment again where everyone collectively is supporting each other to reach their lifetime goals and achievements.”
For skip Kyle Smith the opportunity in front of him is all about his dream becoming a reality. “This has been our dream to compete on curling’s biggest global stage and since selection last June it has been an exciting time for our team. We are looking forward to kitting out tomorrow – getting our Team GB kit will be a hugely exciting time for all of us and it is milestones like that that make your realise just how real and close the Games are,” said Smith.
“We are now looking forward to going out and competing with Team GB on our backs for the first time, aiming to make everyone back home proud of us.”
British Curling’s Performance Director Graeme Thompson is confident that the teams are as ready as they could have been for the trip to Asia, albeit the process of preparing for the Winter Olympics will be on-going after they complete the first leg of their journey next week.
“We are working closely with the British Olympic Association to ensure that our teams are as best prepared as they can be,” he said.
“As part of that we will be heading out to a holding camp in Karuizawa, which is familiar territory for both our teams since they have played in tournaments there previously. So that is the ideal scenario leading into a Winter Olympics in Asia.”
Thompson has also had to plan beyond Korea in responding to the calls from British Curling’s leading players to give the Olympians an opportunity to represent Scotland at this season’s World Championships by overseeing the introduction of play-offs with the winners of the Scottish Championships which will take place while Teams Muirhead and Smith are in PyeongChang.
Thompson said: “Historically the winner of the Scottish Champs earns a place at the world championships and as the Scottish Champs clashes with the Games it previously meant the Olympic teams could not compete at the worlds.
“Despite the busy schedule, the athletes wanted the opportunity to compete for that place, so it has been introduced. For now however, their ambitions are firmly set on the Olympic Games and nothing else,” he added.
GB won two curling medals four years ago at Sochi 2014, Team Murdoch claiming silver and Team Muirhead bronze, the first curling medals since Rhona Martin won gold at Salt Lake City 2002.
Tickets for PyeongChang 2018 are on sale to the public and fans hoping to see this country’s best winter athletes competing in South Korea can purchase tickets via Team GB Live
Team GB’s curlers will be competing in the coastal cluster in PyeongChang at the Gangneung Curling Centre.
Team GB’s curling rinks for PyeongChang 2018:
Kyle Smith – born Perth, resides Perth, age 25
Thomas Muirhead – born Perth, resides Crieff, age 22
Kyle Waddell – born Bellshill, resides Hamilton, age 24
Cammy Smith – born Perth, resides Perth, age 24
Glen Muirhead (alternate) – born Perth, resides Crieff, age 28
Team Coach: Viktor Kjell
Eve Muirhead – born Perth, resides Stirling, age 27
Anna Sloan – born Dumfries, resides Stirling, age 26
Vicki Adams – born Edinburgh, resides Stirling/Stranraer, age 28
Lauren Gray – born Glasgow, resides Glasgow, age 26
Kelly Schafer (alternate) – born Dundee, resides Swift Current Canada, age 36
Tactical Coach: Glenn Howard
Head Coach: Tony Zummack
The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games is set to run from 9-25 February 2018 and will be the third time the Games have visited Asia after Japan hosted Sapporo 1972 and Nagano 1998.
PyeongChang 2018 will see athletes from around 95 nations compete for 102 gold medals across 15 sporting disciplines. The Games will see four new events feature for the first time in Olympic competition; alpine skiing mixed team, snowboard big air, mixed doubles curling and speed skating mass start.
The competition schedule for curling starts on 14 February 2018.
British Curling Photos: Top - Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart & below - Alan Peebles Photography.