EVE MUIRHEAD wants a nickname and it can’t be ice maiden.
Canadian rivals have traditionally been good at thinking of monikers for their rinks and skips. Brad Jacobs and his gold medal team from Sochi were nicknamed the ‘Buff Boys’, with the team – clad in muscle tight shirts – famed for spending as much time in the gym as they did on the ice.
Jacobs didn’t earn selection to defend his title, losing out to Kevin Koe, who is nicknamed the ‘Ninja’. Muirhead is competing at her third Games but has seen the sport change beyond recognition since making her debut as a teenager in Vancouver.
And she’s has a savvy eye for a marketing opportunity too.
“I’d be pleased for the public to decide a nickname for me,” she said. “I haven’t got one that I know of. I’m not sure whether my teammates secretly have a nickname for me.
“I can see how other curling teams do have nicknames and I could see how it would make the sport a little bit different and funny. The sport is changing and it’s one of the youngest fields ever in PyeongChang and people like something different.
“A lot of the older faces are retiring and the young ones are coming through. I’m one of the most experienced players here, which is quite scary when you are only 27.”
Mixed doubles curling is making its debut here – though Great Britain failed to qualify a team at last year’s World Championships. Next season the five-rock rule will be introduced to add a new school of strategic thought to a game of mental combat. Muirhead arrived in PyeongChang for Friday’s opening ceremony, flying in from a preparation camp in Japan with a number of other international teams.
Alongside her teammates Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray and Kelly Schafer, she has quickly settled into the routine of Olympic Village life – eat, practice, eat, sleep, practice and repeat. And there’s no time for distractions, including her two brothers, Tom and Glen, on Kyle Smith’s men’s rink.
“We turned our social media off when we got to Japan and I don’t think I’ve been as sociable in a long time,” she added. “It’s nice to just talk and not have your head in your phone, I also barely need to charge it!
“We want to put ourselves in a bubble, that worked for us last time. Just the five of us and our coaches, nothing else matters until the Olympics are over. You can’t be successful if you’ve got any distractions.”
Meanwhile, Glenn Howard admits Muirhead is having to keep his feet on the ground as he finally achieves his Olympic ambition. Howard is a four-time world champion but he never won the match that mattered most – the Canadian Olympic team trial.
And it still hurts most that he lost to Kevin Martin in the final trial in 2010, meaning he couldn’t compete in his home Games in Vancouver, watching on the television as Martin took gold. Now tactical coach to Eve Muirhead’s rink, Howard admits he has to pinch himself as he strolls around the Olympic Village, albeit not wearing the red and white uniform of Canada.
“I’m 55 years old and I can’t believe I’m finally here,” he jokes. “To come here as a coach for Team GB is an honour and it is absolutely surreal. I cannot wait to get on the ice with the girls and see what they can do.
“I’ve brought a bit of a tactical strategy and experience. I haven’t been to an Olympics, I’ve been to some World Championships and a lot of international events so I can tell a lot about what they’re going to feel and experience, and I think that goes a long way.
“All the girls have been an absolute dream to work with. They are very respectful and Eve herself is one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Underneath that sweet veneer she’s a fierce competitor and wants to do everything possible to win. She’s had two Games already, there’s nothing here that’s going to surprise her. As a newbie like me you’re coming in with your eyes wide open and you’re taking it all in but she’s just treating this as another Olympic Games.
“These girls have a lot of years left in them but the experience they’ve had is invaluable. They’ll take that and move forward this year and we hope to good things.”
Watch Eve Muirhead’s first match against Olympic Athletes from Russia on Eurosport Player tomorrow. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games on Eurosport and Eurosport Player. Go to www.Eurosport.co.uk