Muirhead and Smith to Skip Team GB's Curling Rinks at PyeongChang 2018
The first Team GB athletes selected for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games have been announced today with ten curlers named by the British Olympic Association. Team Smith (Men) and Team Muirhead (Women) earned their official selection as the leading British men’s and women’s curling rinks in the World Curling
Tour rankings when the 2017/18 season gets underway.
Team Muirhead, bronze medallists at this year’s World and European Championships, will be aiming to improve on their bronze at the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, a result that saw Eve Muirhead enter the record books as the youngest skip to win a medal at an Olympic Games.
Muirhead is accompanied by Sochi team mates Anna Sloan (third) and Vicki Adams (second), along with Lauren Gray (lead), who joined the team at the start of the 2016-17 season and was their alternate at Sochi 2014. Two-time Olympian Kelly Schafer (formerly Wood) completes the experienced line-up as alternate.
Team Smith demonstrated their burgeoning potential on tour in Canada this year becoming the first British men’s team ever to reach a Grand Slam final (in Cranbrook). The team will be making their Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
A strong start to this season saw them win the OCT Oakville Classic before reaching the knock out stages at both the Stu Sells and Red Deer Classic in Canada, which helped them accumulate their ranking points to become the leading British men’s rink. They finished their season with a win over world number one ranked Team Edin (Sweden) in the final of the European Masters.
The team were a highly successful youth rink, collecting World Junior Championship bronze in 2012, gold in 2013 and silver the following year. Across the same period the team were also crowned Scottish Junior Champions three years running and won World Universiade silver in 2013.
Skip Kyle Smith is joined by Thomas Muirhead - who plays third and is the younger brother of Eve - Kyle Waddell (second) and younger brother Cammy Smith as lead. Glen Muirhead, the eldest of the Muirhead siblings has been selected as their alternate.
Both team skips and all but one of the members of the men’s team come from strong curling dynasties as offspring of former World Champions. The exception in the men’s rink is Kyle Waddell, whose family also has pedigree in the sport as grandfather Jimmy was a former European Champion.
The farming heritage synonymous with curling was further demonstrated as the announcement was made at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, where members of both teams will be working, several of them combining their curling careers with involvement in running their respective family farms.
Team GB won two curling medals three years ago at Sochi 2014, with Team Muirhead defeating Switzerland 6-5 in the women’s bronze medal match – a first curling medal since Salt Lake City 2002.
This week also saw tickets for PyeongChang 2018 go on sale to the public, with fans hoping to see this country’s best winter athletes competing in South Korea able to purchase tickets via Team GB Live (www.teamgb.com/live). Team GB’s curlers will be competing in the coastal cluster in PyeongChang with a great mixture of youth and experience on show.
Selected to compete in her third Olympic Winter Games, Eve Muirhead said: “It has been four years of hard work to stay ahead of other domestic rivals and to stay world class. Although we knew we had the results to meet the selection criteria, it is still an anxious wait until you get the call and it feels a huge privilege to represent Team GB at another Games.
“We have made some changes to our line up and added to our coaching and support team which we feel have been timely in order for us to bring it all together. We are lucky to have such assets at our disposal helping us to be the best prepared we can be and that is when good things can happen. It has always been our goal to achieve our best result possible at the Games.”
Olympic debutant Kyle Smith said: “Receiving that phone call about our Olympic selection is probably one of the best experiences I have ever had and it is still a bit surreal and hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“It has been our career goal and has driven us in everything we have done in order to achieve this and we will work even harder now to achieve our next goal of making sure we get our preparations right for our first Olympics. We are a great unit and with the experience and support of our coach Viktor (Kjell) we are making our dream a reality.”
Mike Hay, Team GB Chef de Mission for PyeongChang 2018 said: “It’s great to be able to welcome our first athletes for PyeongChang 2018 in what is a significant milestone for Team GB on our journey to the Games.
“In the women’s rink there is experience and world class pedigree with four Olympic medallists and former world champions and there’s no doubt Eve and her team will be ones to watch in PyeongChang.
“And with the men we have exciting prospects in a team who have been a force on the world curling tour circuit and will be looking to make their mark against the best in the world in South Korea next year.”
British Curling Performance Director Graeme Thompson added: “We are pleased to have nominated these teams to the British Olympic Association for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games in 2018.
“It is the pinnacle of a curler’s career to represent Great Britain at an Olympic Games and we look forward to continuing our support of all ten athletes to ensure they receive the best possible preparation in the lead up to the Games in order for them to reach their full potential. This is made possible thanks to the support of our partners UK Sport, sportscotland institute of sport, The Royal Caledonian Curling Club and the National Lottery.”
Team GB’s curling rinks for PyeongChang 2018:
Kyle Smith – born Perth, resides Perth, age 24
Thomas Muirhead – born Perth, resides Crieff, age 22
Kyle Waddell – born Bellshill, resides Hamilton, age 23
Cammy Smith – born Perth, resides Perth, age 23
Glen Muirhead (alternate) – born Perth, resides Crieff, age 28
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 27
Lauren Gray – born Glasgow, resides Glasgow, age 25
Kelly Schafer (alternate) – born Dundee, resides Swift Current Canada, age 36
Coach: Glenn Howard
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 80 nations competed 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.
Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.