Winning Students Spotlight On Thomas Muirhead
An Olympic Bronze medal is a mighty target to topple but the youngest curler in the gifted Muirhead family has his sights set high.
Teenager Thomas Muirhead has watched his sister Eve excel on the international curling stage, her medal success at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games added to European and World Championship crowns.
Now 19-year-old Thomas has teamed up with another class curler as he looks to impress at the highest level. He and his older brother Glen are two-fifths of the newly formed rink brought together by Tom Brewster, who was alternate for the men’s Silver medal winning Sochi rink and can count two World Championship Silver medals amongst his many accolades.
It has been a solid start for the new recruits, defeating David Murdoch’s Olympic Silver medal-winning rink en-route to winning the Swiss Cup in Basel and recording another victory at a Curling Masters competition in Champery, Switzerland.
“It’s a case of so-far-so-good,” sums up Thomas, whose father also medalled for Scotland at multiple World Championships. “I took the decision not to play in the juniors again, but to concentrate on the men’s. I won all three medals at the junior level so now I’m aiming for bigger and better.
“Already the intensity has stepped up a level. Tom [Brewster] is a man with an unbelievable amount of experience and I’ve learned a huge amount in the last eight weeks. Playing with him, my brother and with all the guys older and more experienced than me, it has spurred me on.
“The aim this year is to win the Scottish Championships and qualify for the World Championships. The ultimate goal is to build a unit that could compete at the Olympic level. There’s no doubt we’re capable, we’ve gelled well and every member of the team is doing everything they can for the team.
“Of course I want to trump my sister with the Gold and we joke about wanting to do better than each other. We are all fighting to be the best. If we can even match Eve’s achievements then we would be more than happy, but there’s still a long road to get there.”
It’s not just on the ice where Thomas is following in the family footsteps; he is currently in his degree year studying Agriculture at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).
“We have a family farm at home in Blair Atholl,” said Thomas. “I know I’m not going to be an athlete all my days and I’ve always enjoyed working on the farm. It’s less a job; more a way of life. Working outside, it’s a physical job, but it gives you a lot of satisfaction.
“The degree has taught me about new technologies, new medicines and treatments to protect crops. I come home every week with new ideas, but it takes more than one week to convince my dad to adopt them.”
Thomas has been named in the Great Britain side to compete at the World University Games in early 2015. All 10 curlers in the men’s and women’s teams have received support from Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships for talented student athletes.
Thomas added: “The support from Winning Students gives me that financial flexibility that I don’t have to find extra work and can spend my time studying and training. It makes a huge difference covering everything from the cost of fuel to paying for competition travel and equipment.
“I competed at the last World University Games and we won the Silver medal so we are aiming to go one better this time. You are playing against people who will potentially be at the next Winter Olympics and it’s a great experience to play in a big arena against top quality opponents.”
Winning Students is Scotland’s national sports scholarship programme for student athletes. Managed by the University of Stirling as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and funded by the Scottish Funding Council, more than 160 high performance student athletes in member colleges and universities across the country are supported with scholarships of up to £5,500 each year. For more information, visit: www.winningstudents-scotland.ac.uk
Winning Students has provided more than 700 scholarships since 2008, supporting 82 competitors at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The scholarships, funded by the Scottish Funding Council and managed by the University of Stirling, provide elite athletes with funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
Scholarship recipients for 2014-2015 will be confirmed later this month, supporting athletes studying in colleges and universities across Scotland.
Photo: Tom Brydone