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Muirhead manages a smile after winning a bronze medal
6:56pm Thursday 20th February 2014 in Sport
AFTER more than 25 hours of sweeping, fretting and hurrying hard, Eve Muirhead finally managed a smile at these Olympics - and it was worth the wait.
There wasn't a gold to go with those dazzling arctic blues eyes but the bronze, won in a tactical, edgy and totally absorbing encounter with Switzerland's Mirjam Ott, melted her icy demeanour.
She has spent the last ten days insisting she was having 'super fun' and was 'super happy' without giving any indication that she actually was.
Muirhead is not only a dead hand at curling but plays golf off scratch and would probably take down all-comers at poker too.
Study her during a game in a bid to read whether she's confident or concerned and you'll be disappointed. She's as impossible to read as Dostoyevsky.
"It's just a huge relief," she said, the tension drained and the emotion finally released. "Maybe I come across quite stern faced and focussed but inside I'm not as hard as everyone likes to think I am.
"It's tough out there, mentally and physically. I'm just so happy, relief is probably an understatement. I couldn't think of what it would have been like to walk away without a medal around my neck.
IN FOCUS: Eve Muirhead is flanked by her team during yesterday’s bronze medal game
"That shows what great athletes we are, you have to learn to lose before you can win and get back up from a defeat. To lose a semi-final at the Olympics and then come back and play for bronze is extra tough.
"We regrouped and came out fighting. I'm mentally buzzing, it's been a constant rollercoaster, we've had some tough losses and great wins and many of the games have come down to last end, last stone.
"To end on a high makes it even better and to win it with four of my best friends feels so special."
Scottish rower Katherine Grainger, an athlete who knows a thing or two about struggle before triumph, sent Muirhead and her team - Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Claire Hamilton - a note of support before their bronze medal match with Switzerland. Andy Murray tweeted his support and Sir Chris Hoy got in touch too.
However, it was coach David Hay who played the major role in rebuilding confidence following defeat to Canada - who won gold against Sweden yesterday - in the semi-finals.
Hay gives off that the same reassuring air of confidence as his brother Mike, Great Britain's impressive Chef de Mission here in Sochi and the man who guided Rhona Howie to gold exactly 12 years ago today (Friday) in Salt Lake City.
"Dave has been life changing to us," added Muirhead. "He brings so much experience and after the semi-final defeat he was just fantastic, he said everything just right and we responded with a tremendous team effort."
Howie won her Olympic gold aged 35, which means Muirhead could have three Olympics ahead of her and providing the team stays together - Sloan skipped her own rink to the Scottish title in 2011 - then the future looks exciting, even if they won't be defending their world title in New Brunswick next month.
"Ever since I was a young girl one of my main goals was the World Championships but when you win an Olympic medal it's just as special," added Muirhead.
"We're a young team with a lot of time ahead of us. We're the youngest team here, our average age is 23 and I honestly believe we've got a really big future.
"Curling gets a lot of attention every four years and for us to increase that, we've got to win medals. This is just the start for us."
Meanwhile British coach Soren Gran has questioned the tactics of Canadian skip Brad Jacobs ahead of today's Olympic men's curling final in Sochi.
Jacobs and his rink are dubbed the 'Buff Boys' with an aggressive style of play and focus on pumping iron in the gym, as well as throwing rocks on the ice.
You don't see them crack a smile very often, in contrast to British skip David Murdoch.
"The aggressive style we have seen from the Canadians here, that's something I don't like about the sport," said Gran.
"I don't think it helps anyone. It doesn't help the player and it doesn't help his teammates.
"I tell my guys to work a different way. If they miss a shot they've got another 15 to play, you can't be angry with the one you miss.
"If I see the team we are playing against get aggressive and show anger, I think our guys should be happy because we'd have them exactly where we want them to be. I don't think that helps."
Murdoch and his rink of Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow were back out on the ice yesterday morning less than 12 hours after their semi-final win over world champions Sweden.
They trained alongside Jacobs but the contact was minimal, a couple of nods of recognition but nothing else.
"The satisfaction of getting a medal is great but we've got a huge, huge, huge, huge game coming up," said Murdoch.
"After the semi-final, we just couldn't believe what had happened, it's was the most incredible feeling to finally realise your dream and hard to for your brain to take.
"We have been close a few times. Now there's the opportunity to go one better and that's an even more mind-boggling thing."
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