Eve Muirhead likes to bemoan those damned ‘curling gods’ but she admitted someone upstairs was finally looking benevolently down on her.
Because there were certainly plenty of reasons to dub this against the odds gold medal victory as the Mira-curl on Ice, very few seasoned observers giving her a chance on arrival in Beijing.
Muirhead and her rink, Vicky Wright, Jennifer Dodds and Hailey Duff produced a flawless final performance to claim Team GB’s first gold, just eight hours before the Closing Ceremony. It sport, timing is everything.
There was no ‘Stone of Destiny’, the fabled rock that Rhona Martin delivered in Salt Lake City to win Team GB’s last curling gold 20 years ago.
This was a relentless grinding performance against Japan, a one-sided clash secured with an end to spare, Muirhead’s tactics judged to perfection, her team’s accuracy unerring.
“This is a moment I dreamed of as a young child,” said Muirhead, 31, who had lost in two Olympic semi-finals but won bronze in 2014.
“To stand on the podium and get that gold medal round your neck is a moment I’ll never forget. It was emotional but I managed to hold it in until the flag was getting raised.
“I’ve been close many times but I just haven’t been over the line and this was the one gold medal missing from the collection.
“I’m just so proud of this team. The girls have helped me become a better curler, but they’ve also helped me become a better person.
“It’s a dream come true. For the rest of the girls as well, it’s been a journey to get here to say the least. To come out on top and show our fight, it showed how strong we are.”
Two decades ago it was Martin’s team of ‘Ayrshire housewives’ that secured gold but Muirhead leads a group of full-time professionals, supported by an investment of over £6million.
It’s cash that has reaped a superb return on investment this weekend, with this gold added to Bruce Mouat’s silver in the men’s event.
Curling did indeed come home – and saved Team GB’s blushes, who could have been looking at their first Games without a medal since 1992.
However, the path to this moment has been far from straightforward.
Muirhead admitted she nearly quit after an eighth-place finish at the World Championships last year, which meant she needed to come through a stressful qualifying competition.
She won the European title before Covid hit her squad, several members being forced into quarantine with just days before their last chance to make the plane to Beijing.
A further false positive made life more difficult and then came a defeat to curling minnows Turkey. But Muirhead likes nothing more than a tight spot and won a string of games to earn her slot.
She won five and lost four in the round robin stages, advancing to the knockouts by just ten centimetres via a complicated formula known as the draw shot challenge.
And it didn’t end there, in the semi-finals against Sweden they found themselves four down after the first end, coach David Murdoch admitting he then thought their hopes of winning were ‘less than ten percent’.
“Throughout this we’ve been up against adversity but it’s an Olympic Games, it’s not meant to be easy,” added Muirhead.
“I had a very tough summer after what happened at the World Championships and then the pandemic and lockdown, I really wanted to throw the shoes in the cupboard for good.
“I guess all good things eventually happen but this is a very different feeling to four years ago. Coming fourth in PyeongChang and losing that bronze medal match, it took me a long time to get over. I still think about the shot every day, hopefully it’ll be out my mind now.
“It’s been a rollercoaster journey, there have been ups and downs and then we had all the issues with Covid.
“I had such great support and these girls inspired me to come back out fighting, I knew what we could achieve if we brought our A-game.”
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