EVE MUIRHEAD DEPARTS FOR 9TH WORLD CHAMPS CAMPAIGN ON INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY
Eve Muirhead will mark International Women’s Day by heading out to Canada to yet again represent her country at what will be her ninth World Championships.
It will be the former World Champions first appearance in the event since 2017 after missing out to domestic rivals Team Fleming and Team Jackson over the past two years and she is proud to have a Saltire on her back yet again.
“It’s exciting to be heading back to the World Champs again, it is where we want to be and to be in that company,” said the 29 year old.
Muirhead is also acutely aware of her responsibilities as one of Scotland’s most instantly recognisable athletes to promote the benefits of sport in general and curling in particular.
“When I was starting out as a young curler I definitely had the same opportunities in the sport as my brothers, but it wasn’t a particularly cool thing to be doing,” she recalled.
“The image of the game has changed dramatically and I think that does make it easier for the younger generation of athletes coming through.
“I know there is a job to be done in terms of continuing to raise the profile of the game and the best way I can do that is by continuing to be successful. I am incredibly grateful to my parents, they treated me the same as the boys so I had the same chances and that obviously got me started in this sport.
"There is now equal prize money at the Slams and the viewing figures for the women’s games at the Slams is high, so we might not be as powerful as the men on the ice, but we do need to be technically strong to show our strengths and I think it has made for really exciting curling to watch.”
Muirhead is among a number of high profile women involved in curling and that recognition is a source of considerable satisfaction to the Scot who is at the pinnacle of the sport.
“I’m proud to say that curling on the field of play has total gender equality and of course now, with the addition of mixed doubles in the Olympics, more so than ever before at every level – from juniors through wheelchairs and to the senior level,” said World Curling Federation (WCF) President Kate Caithness.
“When I became Vice-President of the World Curling Federation in 2006 and then President in 2010 I was the only female board member and now we have two. We’re moving in the right direction. Cathrine Lindahl two time Olympic champion joined the board in 2016 and is now motivated to give something back to curling. We’ve both been elected by our Member Associations, not as a result of any quota but because we are good enough. To be frank, as women in sport we have to be extra strong and make our voices heard. However, I feel this is a reality in sport that is changing.
“The International Olympic Committee has stressed that gender equality is vital for the future of sport. Therefore as female athletes, officials and decision makers I would encourage each and everyone of you to grasp the opportunities which come your way and to work hard at them because the rewards are endless. Your voice matters, therefore, be confident and allow it to be heard.”
In supporting that message, the women whose rinks combined to create British curling’s greatest ever year when Rhona Howie (Martin) won Olympic gold followed in quick succession by Jackie Lockhart’s World Champs triumph in 2002 both believe their sport has come to be a standard bearer for equal opportunities since their junior playing days.
“I had to be very organised as a mum, wife, housewife and curler and I had lots of itineraries on the fridge to keep the kids in a routine so I could pursue my curling,” said Howie, who threw the stone of destiny at Salt Lake.
“I felt the game was equal for players and probably the noticeable change has happened on the coaching bench. When I was coaching Eve around 2010-2014 it was pretty male dominated and now there is much more of a mix and a balance.
“Working in the sport for the WCF I feel I have always received respect and have been treated equally and Kate (Caithness) who leads our sport has done a great job ensuring there is a level playing field. It is important for young women to see others in coaching roles or at the very top as it means they know that anything is achievable, they have goals to work towards and all sports should be like that,”
Lockhart, an Olympic team mate of Muirhead’s when a quarter of a century senior to her skip in 2010 meanwhile remains an exemplar of the life enhancing benefits of playing a sport for life, as she prepares to lead her current team at the World Senior Championships in Canada next month.
“I feel like I have had my cake and eaten it, I am so fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had,” said Lockhart.
“Sport and podium success definitely gave me confidence which has helped me in both my sporting and professional careers and I think that self belief was fully realised when I hit my peak in my thirties.
“Having a full time and successful job as well as being a mum and a driven curler was without doubt a juggle and a struggle at times, but there is not a single successful sportsperson that does not have an army of support from partners, relatives and friends behind them helping them achieve success at Olympics or World Champs.
“It is funny to think of Rhona, Kate and myself as trailblazers in our sport, but there wasn’t even a women’s junior World Championships when I started out in the eighties. I tend to think I am quietly meandering my way through, but inside I am a real fighter. I am as hungry for that World title in Kelowna next month as I have ever been and hopefully my example proves that this is a genuine sport for life as well as an equal one.”
The World Women’s Curling Championships will be hosted in Prince George in Canada and get underway next week (14-22 March).
The World Women’s Senior Curling Championships take place from 18 April – 25 April in Kelowna, Canada.