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EDITION 27 - MENTAL MARCH - ITWZ INVESTIGATES SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY...
Pressure? What pressure?
Scottish curling prodigy Eve Muirhead is undaunted by the twin pressures of junior and senior World Championships in March...

Blair Atholl’s Eve Muirhead, the first ever title holder of Scottish junior and senior curling titles simultaneously, heads to the Vancouver Junior World Championships on 28th February to defend the title she has won for the last two years.

The season won’t end in Canada for the 18 year old.  After Vancouver, where she has every intention of winning a third gold, she flies straight to Korea for her first ever assault on the world senior title. 

In both World Championships she will be skip.  And, as a member of the British Olympic curling squad, she will be watched by selectors every inch of the way.  The 2010 Vancouver bound team is due to be announced early in May.

If Eve is any way nervous at the prospect of facing the best in the world twice over and in as many weeks, or making the Olympics team, she won’t show them.

“You’ve got to focus on one tournament and one game at a time,” said Eve today.  In her final week at home she even found the time and interest to coach schoolchildren at Perth’s ice rink.

“Once we get out there it will be pressurised because the others will be out to beat us.  But it feels really good to know you can win because you’ve been there and done it before.

“We will be the team to beat because three of us were in the team last year and Kay (Adams from Stranraer) as our fifth makes it four.”  The other team members are Lockerbie’s Anna Sloan, Sarah McIntyre from Highland and Adams’ sister, Vicki.

The next fortnight will be a remarkable test of mental and physical staying power for Eve.  But do not be fooled by her apparent reticence. She’s perfectly prepared. Eve’s family is steeped in the sport, her brother and father are both international competitors. Eve has come through one of the best, if not the best, coaching systems in the world.

“She comes from a family where curling will be talked 24 hours a day but she is open to trying new things,” said Cate Brewster, High Performance Curling Coach at the Scottish Institute of Sport.

“She uses everything at the Scottish Institute from performance lifestyle, Strength & Conditioning to nutrition. I changed her delivery and I wondered if it would have massive repercussions but it didn’t.  She became focused on changing it and has successfully adapted it.”

If the year has been hectic on the ice it’s been equally busy behind the scenes.  “It’s been pretty full on with psychology, doing little things on and off the ice, nutrition and Strength & Conditioning training,” said Eve, who prior to the Scottish Institute had been supported by the Tayside & Fife Institute of Sport. 

“I do a lot of cardiovascular work and have really stepped up the Strength & Conditioning this year.

“Last summer the whole squad went to Cyprus, where we did loads of work.  You try and maintain it during the winter, which is hard but I’ve managed to do it.

“People don’t think you need to be fit to curl but it makes a huge difference.  The fitter you are physically the more mentally fit you are as well.  Especially when you have two games a day for a week, it’s a lot.”

Scotland’s junior success serves as an indication that Brewster’s Futures programme, created in 2006 to accelerate the process of taking young Scottish female players like Muirhead to world class level, is working.

“We’d had a bit of a drought in juniors for a few years so we developed the Futures to fast track five girls into world class competition, to assist them to world class level,” she said.

“The Futures was about exposing the girls to world class competition, learning professionalism, controlling the controllables and not being intimidated by world class competition. It has certainly left
its mark.”

McIntyre and Vicki Adams are also supported by the Scottish Institute of Sport. Kay Adams is with the Central Scotland Institute of Sport.  Eighteen year old Anna Sloan is a member of the West of Scotland Institute of Sport and a newcomer to the team, but a valuable one. Last weekend she skipped the British team to gold at European Youth Olympics in Poland.  Her well earned confidence will serve the Scottish team well in Vancouver. 

With Eve’s Olympic squad commitments taking her away from her junior team for much of this season she will have to do some reacquainting when she arrives in Vancouver this weekend. 


Some might find it hard, having won two World Junior Championships, and with the excitement of being in a British Olympic squad, to step back to the junior ranks and stay motivated.  But not Eve, who will remain a junior until 2011.


“I struggled to play a lot of the juniors this year, apart from playing in Switzerland and Canada that was about it, but the team kept playing together, which is good,” she said.


“But I still have exactly the same level of motivation playing the juniors. I take every game in the same way and the aim next week is to win the gold medal.  I would certainly consider going back again next year but I’ll have to see what happens with the Olympic selections.


“Next week in Vancouver is the same venue as next year’s Olympics.  It’s a test run for the Olympics so that will be good.  To know I have been there and seen it all is a good thing.”


RE-J
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