The Game Changers

Eve Muirhead: Staying Ice Cool to Win Gold

June 06, 2023 Sue Anstiss Season 14 Episode 2
The Game Changers
Eve Muirhead: Staying Ice Cool to Win Gold
Show Notes Transcript

Eve Muirhead OBE is one of the world’s most successful curlers, who became Olympic Champion as skip for the British team at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 having carried our flag at the Opening Ceremony.

Eve went on to become World Champion in the Mixed Doubles later that year before announcing her retirement from curling as current Olympic, European and World Champion. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen Birthday Honours. 

As well as her extraordinary accolades on the ice, Eve is also highly accomplished golfer and bagpiper.

We’re so grateful to Eve for her openness in this conversation where we discuss everything from the pressures of being skip of a team and her mental health struggles during COVID, through to the joy of returning to Scotland after winning Olympic gold and what the next chapter of life might hold.

Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast with a National Lottery grant.

Thank you to Sport England who support The Game Changers Podcast with a National Lottery award.

Find out more about The Game Changers podcast here: https://www.fearlesswomen.co.uk/thegamechangers

Hosted by Sue Anstiss
Produced by Sam Walker, What Goes On Media

A Fearless Women production

Eve Muirhead: Staying Ice Cool to Win Gold
Sue Anstiss 

Hello and welcome to The Game Changers. I'm Sue Anstiss and this is the podcast where you'll hear from trailblazing women in sport. What can we learn from their journeys as we explore some of the key issues around equality in sport and beyond? I'd like to start with a big thank you to our partners Sport England, who support the Game Changers through a national lottery award. 

My guest today is Eve Muirhead, one of the world's most successful curlers who became Olympic champion as skip for the British team at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, having carried our flag at the opening ceremony, Eve went on to become world champion and the mixed doubles later that year before announcing her retirement from curling as a current European world and Olympic champion. She was awarded an O B E in the Queen's birthday honours that years. 

As well as her extraordinary accolades on the Ice Eve. Eva's also a highly accomplished golfer and a competitive bike Piper. So let me start right there. Eve, if I can, before we talk curling, can you tell us about your passion for the bagpipes? And I not realised you could compete in bagpipes, but you did. So how does that work?

Eve Muirhead 

Yes, bagpipes is something that I've played since a very young age and, it was me and my best friend at school. She wanted the learn to the side drum and, I've thought I'd learned the pipes and if I'm honest, it was quite a cool thing to do at school and the kind of person I am once I start something, I never, ever give up. I never have wanna be a kind of failure or quit. So, yeah, got into the band. I guess you're on the chanter,  for God, five, six years at least before you even get onto the bagpipes. 

Eve Muirhead 

The, the chanter is just the kind of finger part of it, a bit like a recorder. So you're on that for years and years before you progress onto the actual bagpipes. But I guess I got to a stage, competed at several worlds. Europeans got this championships and, um, now how much stage, I guess I can pick them up and, and play. I just seem to be a cheap gig for friends weddings, <laugh>

Sue Anstiss

And do you, so you still play fairly regularly now?

Eve Muirhead 

I wouldn't say often. I have played them a little bit on the back of Beijing, but more just for kind of TV shows and things when if people know you can play them, you kinda get asked a little bit more often to, to play them. But I don't like just go and pick them up and have a, have a tune, which I probably should, if I'm honest. I, will probably start, just kinda playing them a little bit more often, as my life quietens down a little.

Sue Anstiss

Absolutely. I should have had you play us in and out of the podcast. <laugh> you're also an incredibly talented golfer too. So how old were you when you first started playing?

Eve Muirhead 

So golf was a sport that I started young as well, I was lucky, where I kind of grew up from primary school age in a little village called Blair Ath in the highlands of Scotland. The, the golf course was literally like five minutes walk in front of our house. So my dad played a lot of golf and I remember we got kind of big golf clubs and the big balls for Christmas, me and my brothers, and we're kind of batting it around. And before I knew it I had my, my own set of clubs and then went to a few junior kinda lessons. I, then got selected for the county and just slowly kind of progressed that way. And again, it's a sport that I didn't want to give up on.I always wanted to be the best I could at and now I still do play just more at kinda social level. I've not actually played this year yet, which I need to do at some point, but I always get a bit frustrated with golf because it is a, a frustrating sport. And when I don't have time to practise and play often you of course you don't play that great and, a lot of people have this kind of great expectation of me being this great scratch golf, which yes, I once was, but now I most definitely, I'm not <laugh>.

Sue Anstiss 

And but you could have played professionally, you had scholarship offers in the US?

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, a few kinda offers came in and if I'm honest, the decision wasn't hard. Like when I'm at that kinda young age, you just kinda left school, I knew if I did pursue my golf that curling would be probably nonexistent,  I also, the thought of kinda moving into another country, the thought of like only what handful of golfers make it to the very top, as much as yeah, the the very top ones, it's a great life, but for the others it's   pretty tough. So I know I made the right decision. Well, to be honest, I never know if I did make the right decision, but I'm pretty sure I did

Sue Anstiss 

And was that family supporting you at the time? Cause that's a big decision to make as a, like, as a teenage, you know, 18, 19 year old?

Eve Muirhead

Yeah, I, I was very lucky in my younger years that my family, they were very, very supportive and what I'm very grateful for was my, my family were never kind of pushy parents. Like not once did they push me into doing something that I didn't want to do.  Whether it was golf, curling, bagpipe and swimming, whatever it was all my decision and  I'm very fortunate that I had that.

Sue Anstiss 

Curling's obviously a sport that fascinates so many viewers when the Winter Olympics roll around, but it's not a sport that many of us see every day like cricket and rugby and football and so on. So how did you discover curling in your life?

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, as you say Curling's, not the most popular sport. It's not your kind of mainstream football, rugby, whatever you turn on the TV nowadays and, and that's what you see. But I was very lucky that my, my dad was a world class curler. Dad played competitively as I grew up. So I was very lucky that I went and watched him a lot, so you're kind of always around the sport, we've obviously got a lot of friends, through my dad who then had kids who were similarly just to me. So then you, you played like kind of school's leagues or you play, after school clubs, national academies and things with them. So it definitely came through the family. I think within Scotland and certain areas of Scotland like it, it is pretty big. Around Perth, I guess we’ve got the National Curling Academy here. But I would love to grow the sport even more because on the back of the Olympic Games once every four years we tend to get this massive surge of people, wanting to give it a go,  think they know everything about curling and so on, watched every game throughout the games.  So, if we can try and capitalise on that and hopefully get it at work all year and viewing sport, get it a little bit more mainstream with tv, that would be great.

Sue Anstiss 

And is it just, you mentioned that, that kind of prevalence in Scotland, is that, has that always been the case? Has there, have there been pockets around the rest of the UK that it's played or has it always been very much a Scottish sport?

Eve Muirhead

Yeah, I would say definitely just a Scottish sport. England I think there's a couple of rinks even one now, which is sad really, isn't it? So yeah, I wish, we could maybe move the sport a little bit more down towards England, but right now it's mainly Scotland. All the kinda GB curlers are all from Scotland. so the only time we absolutely actually represent Great Britain is at the Winter Olympics. Europeans, Worlds and so on, it's all team Scotland.

Sue Anstiss 

And you mentioned your, your brothers, competed too, So Glen and Thomas also curlers. And were you, were you all very competitive growing up as siblings? Was there that competition generally within the family?

Eve Muirhead 

Yes, to say the least, we were a very kind of competitive family. But then on the other side of that we were always very supportive of each other. Sometimes I guess you don't show that, but you are deep down and  a lot of people ask me like what my, my favourite Olympics was. And of course Beijing stands out, you get the gold medal.  Sochi, I got the bronze medal. But for me, pyeongchang was pretty special cause I was competing alongside my two brothers. They were in the, the men's team and my mom and dad were watching in the stands. So that was very, very special to share that Olympic experience alongside my brother

Sue Anstiss 

And amazing, isn't it, to think of you all at the Olympics. I was thinking about your mom who's obviously in this curling family, but the only one in the family, that didnt, hasn't completed at Olympics.

Eve Muirhead 

She likes to think she can curl. To be fair, she playsat club label. I can't see, she's, she's a, but let's just say she's got all the gear <laugh>

Sue Anstiss 

And she's obviously been the foundation of this curling family.

Eve Muirhead

Yeah. Yes she has. Yeah.

Sue Anstiss 

Oh, I wonder what, you know, for those, as you say we kind of feel like we know the sport every four years, what is it that that makes a good curler would you say?

Eve Muirhead 

It's a good question.  I think like for myself, I'm the leader, within the team, the skip, but then I always believe within the team, everyone's a leader within their own roles. Of course I'm the kind of more tactician side of it but I also get input from the girls as well. Like you, you asked for, for their opinion a lot of the time. , because like, God, I don't know everything, it's, it's always nice to get a bit of help.  I think as well you've gotta have that kind of mental and physical drive.  It's a lot of hours practising . and that's one thing that I found pretty difficult on the back of retirement is away from that routine. Like I always had a set routine for,  God as many years as I can remember, like when I get up, have my breakfast, go train and gym, whatever, and  now that's suddenly stopped.

So that's been pretty difficult kind of change for me. But I think as well, you need to have  a lot of kinda team qualities, like a lot of kinda, communication skills, um, open and honesty. Sometimes you gotta, you're best friends with a lot of your teammates, but sometimes the best friends have to get put to the side and you've gotta be work colleagues for a while, don't you. And we all know what girls are like, like trying to keep four girls happy. It's pretty difficult. On the flip side of that, you get four guys and they can have an argument and within 10 minutes they've a pint at the bar and they're best friends again. There's a lot of kinda challenges that come with it, but then it's very satisfying when you do come through and you, you produce the good.

Sue Anstiss 

And we often hear don't we people talk about it being a game of chess on the ice, it does feel like you're watching a chess game sometimes. So how much do you plan a, a strategy before you go into the game? Is that a big element of it?

Eve Muirhead 

It's a very tactical game, yes. And I think, that's where your coach comes in to play a lot and that's where your knowledge, like, I guess I am a bit of a geek when it comes to analysing opposition throughout the year, figuring out what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, but then figuring out my own team's strength and weaknesses as well. Cuz of course you wanna expose your opposition, but then you wanna kind of hide your teams. So I think as well, like you always go into a game with some kind of game plan, but then you've gotta be very aware that within two or three stones, that game plan can completely flip in its head if those shots aren't executed. If your opposition suddenly decides to do something completely out the blue. So you've always gotta be willing to change. But I also think something that, that we were very good as a team, were thinking ahead. You've always gotta think like what you say, think of it as chess. Like if I do this and they do this, but then I can then do that and then they'll maybe do that. So you, you're always thinking kind of two, three stones ahead and I think that's one thing that we did pretty well as a team,  we’re kinda analysing ahead so it makes our life slightly easier, in stones to come.

Sue Anstiss 

You a good chess player?

Eve Muirhead 

No, ah, no

Sue Anstiss (

<laugh>. And at what point in the movement can you tell the stone is gonna go exactly where you want it to? Is, is there a time that that comes?

Eve Muirhead 

So throughout the year, like when we're not away competing, like we'll be practising we'll have one individual kind of technical session a day and also one team session a day. So you're kind of about 10 sessions a week and within those sessions we do a lot of about, about our kinda line of delivery technical wise that you're talking inches like hips where your kinda stone placement movement is. So I guess the more consistent you can get, the more consistent your delivery's gonna be every time. And like for me as a skip watching my team, like I know or I did know their deliveries, like inside out, like everyone has their own tendencies, like what they're gonna do. So I know like this player needs slightly more ice, this player needs slightly less ice and um, but then you've got the external factor of the ice conditions, like some ice curls, sick fruit, some ice curls, two foot, some ice can be pretty fast, some can be very slow.

So it's up to you to kind of try and figure that out and then it's the supers communication as well communicating to me the skip, the speed of the stone, whether they think they need to sweep it, then I communicate the line to them. So it's all very kind of clockwork within that and nine times out of 10 and the thrower, let's go of the stone, you've got a rough idea where it's gonna end up and you've got a rough idea whether you need to sweep it or not sweep it.

Sue Anstiss 

Do you feel it, is there something you can feel when you've, I think about the whole when you hit a beautiful tennis shot or something? Is there a moment as you release it where you know?

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, usually. And I think as well, if you are very confident within the conditions, you're, you're usually pretty confident, that you're gonna make the shot. Like sometimes when you're guessing, you know, and it's like, let's say you've got a, a putt in golf or something and you just don't know, it might, it might just swing a little bit from left to right, it might straighten out a bit and you just don't know. But if you're very confident knowing right, it's one cup to the right hand side here, and you know the pace, uh, then you're, you're gonna make it nine times up 10. And it's very similar within curling. Like if you have full control over your shot and know exactly what you think it's gonna do, your confidence is high and you're probably gonna make the shot.

Sue Anstiss

You've had really early success in curling winning world junior championships at just 17. So how did that feel at the time?

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, I remember my first world juniors, it was <<inaudible>> USA and I was just young back then, but I even remember taking cans of  Iron Bru in my suitcase? Like that's how young,  I guess immature I was back then. But I guess that taste of success at such a young age kind of put me in good stead moving forward. Um, I then went on to win another three world juniors I think, and I, I actually missed one because of the Vancouver Olympics or it could have been five. But what, I guess what I did,  I played a lot of  senior curling, when I was still a junior, so that probably made my transition a little easier. And I think nowadays we see so many juniors stop curling after their junior day. So junior for curling is under 21, um, kind of finished their, the junior career.

It's maybe a bit of a two step, like it's quite a high step up to go into the ladies ranks and we kind of see people disappear, which is sad. Um, so what I am very fortunate, what I did, I played a lot of yeah, ladies curling still as a junior, one being I guess the Vancouver Olympics. So I felt that transition, um, a little easier than others. But I remember when I first played ladies as a junior god, I was getting thumped off the ice, but that's how you learn, isn't it? I always believe that like you learn from the losses. And I also know for a fact I've probably lost a lot more games than what I won throughout my career  and sometimes it's those kind of thumping that you'd need to drive you forward.

Sue Anstiss 

Absolutely, absolutely. It's an important, important message there, isn't it generally. And you've mentioned the popularity of curling across Scotland, but how was the sport regarded by your school friends as you were kind of teenager growing up, you know, and your success then?

Eve Muirhead 

It wasn't a cool thing to do if I'm perfectly honest.

<laugh>, um, I would say golf was even a less cool thing to do and I'm very, very glad that I did stick it and there was times that I thought, no, I'm kind of gonna go with my friends. I'm gonna not not be this sporty girl. I'm gonna go and get the train to Perth and hang around the streets and whatever you do, I don't know. So yeah, like curling, there was times that I guess even throughout PE like I probably lied to say I forgot my PE kit cause it wasn't a cool thing to do. I would tell, well I had to leave class 15 minutes earlier ‘cause I was away to curl. I'd probably have an appointment or something. Of course my teacher, my teacher knew but I'm just so glad that I kind of stuck it out.

And it's something that now I'm very passionate about sharing is like, it, it is cool to be sweaty, it is cool to be sporty and I'd like to think more kids are getting involved in sport an especially at kind of school level.  I was very lucky that there actually was curling as part of PE very occasionally, but we could have done it, at my school. So I love that. So yeah, like it, it wasn't a cool thing to do. Hopefully now it's not quite got that, that kinda same image now that we've got a bit of success. And  like when you see people win the Olympics, obviously that kinda spurs a lot of people on as well. Yeah,

Sue Anstiss 

Absolutely. Absolutely. And you mentioned that in those world Junior championships, you went on to win that tournament four, four times and you were skip or captain I think for three of those. So can you tell us a bit more about what it means to be a skip in curling? Cause it does feel like it's different and perhaps more significant, a different role to other sports.

Eve Muirhead

If I'm honest, it's quite a lonely position as much as it's, uh, a team sport you're on your own for a lot of the time, of course you're the kind of tactician out there, you're one that makes probably the final decision. you're one that maybe is kinda lent on a lot by your teammates for advice. Um, a lot of honesty involved. but like what I said earlier, I think I've got my set leadership skill, but then they also have their set leadership skills within their role and obviously, and unfortunately success, like it's not linear, so there is always gonna be kind of down after wins.  There's also going to be wins after losses. So it's kind of finding that consistency, but it's also learning the ins and outs within your team. Of course you wanna get the best out of your team, so you need to figure out what best to say to them when they make shots, when they miss shots, to, to get 'em out of calls to keep them playing great. And that all comes with experience with, playing with them with figure now, their qualities and yeah, it's not just a case, ‘right, Here's four people go and win a tournament’. Like there, there, there's a lot within a team that needs to be figured out to get success.

Sue Anstiss 

And what do you think made you a, a good skip suited to that role?

Eve Muirhead 

I think I'm very determined. I honestly probably couldn't tell you one training session that I missed throughout my career. I would probably do a lot more than what was necessary. I put together a gym at my house here during lockdown and  I, I trained very, very hard. I did extra sessions, not even just through lockdown throughout my career. I probably still do doing now, but that's just me. Like, I always wanna be the best. I I don't like being seen as like a failure. I know my, um, competitors are training hard so I wanna stay one step ahead of them. And, um, I'd like to think I am a little bit of a kind of role model when it comes to being the captain within a team.  hopefully it helped them train hard, help them, figure out what they need to ask for help if they do what they need to do better. And , when it all comes together, it's quite satisfying.

Sue Anstiss 

And have you changed, you've obviously continued in that role over a long period right through to the Olympic gold. So have you changed as a skip over those years?

Eve Muirhead 

Yes, I would say I definitely have. I would say when I was younger, I'll be honest, I probably was a, like everyone is when they're young, pretty immature. I maybe took things on the chin a little bit. I maybe, didn't have as much commitment as what I should have had if I wanted to be a winner.  so over the years I've had plenty of times I've had a bit of a kick up the butt that I've needed to be better to train, harder to practise more. And sometimes it's just that kind of wake up call you need. And for me, I guess in the back in the Vancouver Olympics coming away with, I think it's about seventh place I came away and I don't wanna be seventh at the Olympic games, like I was surrounded by medal winners. I remember going through security after we were out of the game and those people going through with their medals and I'm thinking, God, I love a medal.

Like what do I do to get one of them? So that's what was a bit of a kinda wake up call. I came back after those games. I was lucky enough to go down to the London 2012 summer games just as a spectator. And I saw all these kinda athletes that kind of Jess Ennis’s, the Adam Peaty’s, all these guys like with their medals. And I'm thinking, god, I want that. I wanna be one of those GB athletes that are successful. So yeah, I came back, I, trained a lot harder, I practised a lot harder and I just became a lot more focused. I, I don't really like the word sacrifice. I didn't really make sacrifices. It was a choice that I made and it was a choice to say no to a lot of things and  just focus on me being a much better athlete.

Sue Anstiss 

And we mentioned, didn’t we, you've won success, you've had success at World and European championships over the years, winning golds and silvers and bronzes and so on, but it is only really the Winter Olympics where nationally we tend to wake up to Curling.  Is there more television coverage for those championships in Scotland throughout the year?

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, I'm actually, two weeks ago I I was done in London, commentating on the, the World Men's Curling Championship the week before the World Women's Championship and that was all on a Eurosport and Discovery plus. And of course a lot of people don't really know that and cause it's not mainstream 24 7 like knowing the Olympics when we wake up we put on the TV and oh there's the curing. But it's great that we've at least got some coverage, but it's kind of getting that out there that there is coverage. It's always gonna be very hard to match the Olympics. Like it's just fact the Olympics is one of those multi-sport discipline events that just captures the nation not just for curling, but you've got people love watching skating, skiing, the skeleton bobsleigh like you name it, people are hooked to it. And we are very lucky within curling we run from the start of the games to the end of the games more or less. So we get a lot of TV coverage.

Sue Anstiss 

Yes, absolutely. And we know how much the public loves the sport, and you personally, you won third place at the BBC sports personality of the year last year. So how did that feel?

Eve Muirhead 

Very, very surreal. If I'm perfectly honest, when I got the phone call to say I was nominated as top six even that to me was, a shock.  I was thinking, God, I'm round athletics, s new car, cricket, gymnastics and the sport of curling gymnastic. So yeah, to even be top six was great and then on the night to be in the top three was even more incredible. And yeah, it was great to know that I had so many,  I guess fans and people around Britain that voted for me. And that's definitely a night that I'm definitely gonna remember for a long, long time. 

Sue Anstiss 

That's lovely. Yeah. And lovely for the family as well, I'm sure too. It's been wonderful to hear so much about your success at Beijing, but the route into the games was more complicated I think. And it tells us a lot about your character too. I realise we, I think we both had hip surgery in 2018. Tell us about yours and what happened there.

Eve Muirhead

Yeah, so I was kind of fighting with a lot of hip pain for quite a few years and me being the kind of competitor I am, like I didn't want to stop, I didn't wanna show I was a failure, I didn't wanna show I was in pain. And in the back of the Pyeongchang Olympic Pics in 2019, that's when I decided it was time to have surgery, which I needed. and of course there's times in the back of the surgery that you're kinda lying on the hospital bed and you wonder whether I'm ever gonna step on the ice again. And I'm very thankful for everyone who was kind of part of that, road to recovery.  I hit my rehab very, very hard. I, um, as much as it's very boring, if I see a mini band ever again in my life, I <laugh>, but it, it's part of it and it's what got me back out curling. I'm glad I I did get it cause I knew I needed it and touch wood, Since I've stopped, I haven't really had any hip issues

Sue Anstiss 

And, and then even when you came back after 2018 and the hip surgery and so on, it wasn't plain sailing for qualifications. So can you tell us what happened at the World Championships in Calgary in 2020?

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, so because the, the worlds in two years prior to Olympic Games was postponed or cancelled because of Covid. It was just the world championships prior to the games, that was the qualifying for Beijing to qualify team Great Britain a spot. And we went out to Calgary as a team. we knew we had to finish top six, secure a spot for Team gb. We were in a bubble, isolated in our room five and a half weeks on our own. We were allowed outside for 15 minutes a day to kinda walk around the car park. You could see Starbucks across the parking lot, but you have to get Deliveroo, you had to get Uber Eats and it, honestly, it was eating out of plastic tubs, cutlery for five and a half weeks was just like, it was horrible.

It was a really, really difficult time. And funnily enough we didn't finish top six, if I’m honest, it's probably the first proper international event that I truly failed at. And me being the kind of player I am, I took a lot of that on my own back. I took a lot of responsibility for that and came back after that world championship and, straight into isolation here in, in Scotland. And I, yeah, it was really tough. I probably, those days I didn't open my curtains, I didn't even go outside to put my bin out. I didn't really wanna carry on curling. And it was just a very dark time here in a bit of a hole. But, thankfully I did eventually after a little bit extra time off compared to the other girls, I, I got myself back out and, um, British Curing put together a squad system and we had one last chance to qualify for the Olympic games and that was a, an Olympic qualifying event where three qualified out of 10. So that completed the field and that was only four or five months out of Beijing Winter Olympics. So yeah, I wasn't well, but I was well enough. And, we went out to those qualifying events. I was selected as part of the team, completely new team put together, that was taken from the squad system and yeah, we managed to win that event and then went out to Beijing and I guess the rest is history.

Sue Anstiss 

And you mentioned that the, the GB team then was almost rebuilt from scratch, which obviously turned out to be the right decision, but how did that impact the women? How did they, how did they feel at a time?

Eve Muirhead 

So on, on the back of us, failing at the Worlds, they then put together a squad of nine players and only five are gonna be selected from that squad. So it allowed me, and what I did, it allowed me just to focus on myself as much as curling’s a very team sport, each week you're put into a different team. It's like, this week you're playing with so-and-so next week you're with so-and-so, you're going to Switzerland this week, you're going to Canada the next week. And the teams are all constantly changing. So it was very hard to get any consistency. Of course when I'm on the ice playing again, like, you, you work with that team, but it allowed me time to focus on myself. It allowed me to take a step back and,  not worry so much about everyone else. And of course it was, it was a good thing what they did and I was one of the, the five that got selected and of course it's, it's quite surprising to think that a team that hadn't played much together then come away with the gold medal. But as a team when we were selected, we worked very, very hard within that short period of time to be the best team in the world.

Sue Anstiss

And you mentioned, your struggles mentally in terms of coming off of that really dark period and, and so much of a sport does seem to be about controlling your mind and dealing with tension and pressure, especially as the skip too. So how has that skill evolved for you over time?

Eve Muirhead 

I think, every competition you play, there's some element of pressure there and, it's more how I, I guess react to failing. I had a lot of pressure on myself, I guess having been a three time Olympian prior to Beijing, I had a lot of pressure to get back to the games. Having a bronze medal as well, like I wanted to get that gold medal, so a lot of the pressure was probably put on myself and maybe I looked back and I maybe didn't ask for help early enough when I probably should have as I'd say I did get a little bit of extra time off to get myself well before I did go back to ice and I just look and I'm just glad I, I did pull myself around and, and not kind of throw the shoes away before that. So yeah, a lot of the pressure I guess is put on by yourself, but when you're such a kinda perfectionist it's very hard to not do that.

Sue Anstiss 

So moving on to the extraordinary tournament in Beijing and from looking so difficult at the beginning, as you say, it's across those two weeks, isn't it? We came through to win gold and even more significantly that it was Britain's only gold at the games and, and on the last day of competition too. So what are your most significant memories from, from those two weeks last year?

Eve Muirhead 

To be honest, I would say constantly wearing a mask and daily p c r tests. I was an Olympics that was very different to the other three that had been at, all these precautions I guess were put in place to help you and to keep you safe. It was a very icy time leading up to it, I'll be honest. Like you were kind of stepping on eggshells the whole time to try and dodge covid cause it was just rife. It was everywhere but we still as a team needed to practise.  so it was a case of going to the rank, practising doing everything you could to stay away from any external people come home.  I guess food shopping and things. It was just getting that delivered and just taking every precaution you could. And then at the games, yeah, it was exactly the same.

Travelling out, you just gotta be so careful like you're, you're hearing about people within the village getting covid within the kinda ice centre. You're like, you're just, yeah, you're constantly on your toes. And that's what I guess made it slightly interesting as well. I think. What else from Beijing? The food, I'll be honest, was not great, um, compared to the other games I've been at. But apart from that it was still that kinda Olympic environment. All the cultures, all the values. Team GB did an unbelievable job for number one getting us there. Number two, keeping us all safe. Not one member of Team GB got covid. so overall it's of course a games that everyone's gonna remember for a lot of different reasons, but number one is not, not getting covid!

Sue Anstiss 

So true isn't it? I hadn't even, I didn't realise that not a single person, uh, on team GB got covid that is quite the accomplishment as you say.

Eve Muirhead 

Ad look, we were opposite, I think it's Russian block and ooh, I wanna say USA and on a daily basis you'll see the ambulance pull outside and guys with hazmat suits get out, go in, poor athlete hazmat suit on, taken away in the ambulance cause they've got covid. So it was, it was happening. There was people with Covid but I guess it was us that had to be super careful cause there was no escaping it. Like as I say, the daily PCR tests, so there was no hiding it. You had it. It's

Sue Anstiss 

Like terrifying, isn't it? It's funny, we look back at it when you think we look back and what we'll think of in 10 years, like as Olympic goal, isn't it? That actually, yeah that bit doesn't, so that is really, I I hadn't thought you were gonna say that. I say what I remember is I haven't thought that'd be, the case and in preparation for the interview, I, it was lovely to go back and I did look at some of the games and I, I'd forgotten about those slightly dodgy tracksuits,  <laugh>, but <laugh>. But when you came home, what was it like when you came back and you got back to Scotland with your medal?

Eve Muirhead 

Oh, unbelievable. So like we, we finished our, our final,  straight to do a lot of media. Uh, I think we had a, we got back to our team GB apartment, kinda later that day. And of course Team GB, there was bottles of champagne and things, but we literally had 20 minutes to get ready for the closing in ceremony. So honestly, I didn't get a drink about 1:00 AM that night <laugh>. and even then we are leaving at 5:00 AM and still hadn't packed nothing. So, um, we, yeah, we, we flew first class, which was amazing. We got pyjamas and a bed and everything. looked after like royalty, which was lovely. Landed in London, a full day of media. and then the following day flew up Scotland, a lot of media on arrival. We, we arrived late.

So eventually managed to leave the airport, my parents came and picked me up and then got back to my um, my house. It was about 9 30, 10 o'clock at night and I was like, oh, I'm like 10 steps in my own bed. And of course my full street had put on a street party for, which was absolutely amazing. It was so nice. Like everyone was so tough to see me, but I was exhausted. And I think the adrenaline just gets you through, doesn't it? So that was amazing. Don't honestly had about six hours sleep in like three, four nights and then the day after it hit me and I was sick as a dog <laugh>, I remember just live on the couch, just felt off. I couldn't stomach anything. And of course we'd still had to kind of fill out our daily like diaries.  so I obvious to say that I wasn't well and our first thing for a covid test, so I'm like, I know it's not covid anyway, so I go for a covid test negative and doc's like, just get some coke and crisps and lie on the couch. So that's exactly what I did. <laugh>

Sue Anstiss 

<laugh>, I love that, good medication there as well too.  and obviously you, you've then retired later that year. So what are you most enjoying now about not curling competitively? You mentioned some of the things that you know, the, the training and the, the sort of regimen of a regular day, but what are the   positive sides?

Eve Muirhead 

To be honest, like retiring never really crossed my mind at any point during, in the games, even for the month or so after the games. And what kind of triggered me was we got closer and closer to the following pre-season and the thought of going back curling on ice every day just did not appeal to me at all. It actually scared me. So yeah, one morning I woke up and I thought like, it's time, it's time to knock on the head. I've achieved everything I can within the sport. I'm finishing European, World, Olympic champion.  why not finish now?  so that's exactly what I did. And I guess now like I didn't retire to set out of old and like twiddle my thumbs, like I want to keep busy and I've done that and like, as I say, I've done a lot of commentating for the curling, I’m working with a lot of different brands.

I'm experimenting what I enjoy doing. I guess just experiencing a life away from full-time sport because it's amazing there is actually a life there. But also working a lot with the British Olympic Association.  I was very honoured to be asked to be Chef de Mission at the youth games in January. So that's a challenge but a challenge that I'm really, really enjoying. Very different for me, but it's   it's probably what I need to experience, what it's like kind of being on the other side and like a whole new respect for the kind of organisers that producers, the, the kind of people that deal with events and what goes on behind the scenes, whether it's commentary, team, GB whatever. Because as an athlete you're, you're totally oblivious to it all and now I realise what it's like, on the other side of the fence. 

Sue Anstiss 

How excited are you to be able to support those young athletes who find themselves just like you were at kind of 17 or your youngsters coming into the sport?

Eve Muirhead 

Really excited, if I'm honest. funny for me to say this, cause I'm always about winning, but it isn't about the medals. I think for the guys at the youth games, it's all about experience.  learning the culture, learning the values, and I think most importantly it's learning what it's like at a multi-sport discipline event because a lot of them would never have been on before. For me the Olympics is the only event that I've been at that is a multi-discipline event. You've got skating going on here, you've got curling going on here, and you've got skiing going on in the mountains and the list goes on. So it's all about figuring out how to stay focused within your, your sport, but then it's also about keeping in touch with people. It's about learning, it's about making friends. so I'm very, very excited to be part of that and, and leading team GB and the rest of the team GB HQ team as well. 

Sue Anstiss:

And where is it?

 

Eve Muirhead 

It's in Gangwon, Korea in 2024 in January. So bit of time yet, but it will, it'll come around quick.

Sue Anstiss 

Excellent. That's really good. Is that, and clearly, you've always been, as you've mentioned, quite focused and competitive. You are in your early thirties, so how are we gonna replace that adrenaline in your life and excitement do you think?

Eve Muirhead

Well I always need like a challenge. I always need something to look forward to and stupidly I'm doing the Marathon, the London Marathon  that's come around very, very quickly. So like that's kind of kept me pretty focused. throughout the winter, like there's days you wake up and you're like, God, I don't on a train today, but I do. And again, I don't think I've missed, one session. I'm very lucky, I've got Steve Cram, I'm good friends with him, so he's helping me he's helping me for throughout the, throughout the year, leading into the mad thing.

Sue Anstiss 

Fantastic. And you’re do your raising money for the Doddie Weir foundation

Eve Muirhead 

Yeah, yeah. Raising money for, for My Name's Doddie charity and I ambassador for them and I'm very passionate about finding a cure and raising awareness for Motor Neuron Disease. Hopefully we will find that cure. So yeah, the marathon's coming up, fighting a little bit of an injury, which isn't ideal.  So yeah, it's all about I guess adrenaline getting me through in the day and yeah, I'll be very glad when I cross the finish line,  let me tell you.

Sue Anstiss 

And are you still taking part in curling? How do, because one of the questions was how does it feel to be down and commentating as you were for the world championships, but is it possible to still keep taking part in a more relaxed sense when you're not competing at that level?

Eve Muirhead

Yeah, so there's still kind of club level curling. That I play with my family, So I've played two, three times I think, can't say I was very good, but at least I turned up and that's nice to play with my brothers and things. And of course they're pretty competitive, but I just do what I need to do and keep my mouth shut. Cause usually it all ends in arguments cause we all think we know better than the other one. Um, so I haven't played much, but I've kind of played occasionally.

Sue Anstiss 

Lovely. And I guess just finally, you, you've kind of alluded to some ambitions for the future, but are, are you at the stage of just exploring and thinking, or do you have other things in mind?

Eve Muirhead 

No, I'm definitely at the stage of just kinda exploring what I enjoy doing.  I love to kind of keep the sport out there, keep pushing it forward, try and get more people involved within curlin gand I think the main thing right now is trying to keep the rinks open. Of course, energy prices are through the roof and that's causing a lot of problems for ice rinks. but yeah, just realising that there is a life away from being an athlete having different opportunities within different kinda, whether it's sport, business, I don't know,  but keeping busy and I don't know what the next challenge will be after the marathon, but no doubt there'll be something. Um, so yeah, just enjoying life really.

Sue Anstiss 

How fantastic to talk to Eve. I can't wait to see all she goes on to achieve elsewhere. 

Head over to fearless women.co.uk to find previous episodes where I've spoken to other incredible Scottish Game Changers, including Catherine Grainger, Judy Murray, Karen Finley, and Rose Riley. 

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