February 28, 2010

Muirhead’s back on top of the world

At least with old-timers and pipe band historians, the name “Muirhead” is synonymous with a former World Champion pipe band, but this week the name again is watched keenly by pipers and drummers everywhere as Eve Muirhead, skip of Great Britain’s women’s curling team, vies for Olympic gold in Vancouver.

Not only is the 19-year-old Muirhead one of the planet’s top curlers, she’s an accomplished piper and a member of the Grade 3 Pitlochry & Blair Atholl Pipe Band of Scotland.

Muirhead was taught piping by Christy and Sharon Kelly, co-pipe-majors of Pitlochry & Blair Atholl, which Muirhead joined when the band was formed in 2004. She started in pipe bands with the Novice Juvenile Vale of Atholl.

“We are, as you can imagine, extremely proud of Eve,” said Christy Kelly.  “She is talented at just about everything she turns her hand to, excelling in curling, obviously, golf and piping.  She has an incredible work-ethic – she’s good, but the effort she puts in lifts her to the next level.”

So far with the British women’s team is ranked sixth in the round-robin tournament, with a record of three wins and four losses. The Canadian team is first with five wins and one loss. The British team has two games still to play in the first session.

Muirhead has been known to play the pipes at her own curling tournaments, but during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics she’s leaving the traditional piping start of matches to mini-bands fielded by the Grade 1 Dowco-Triumph Street Pipe Band, the official pipe band of the games.

At 19, she is the youngest skip ever at the Olympic level. Muirhead has won the World Junior Ladies Championship three years in a row, and is the current Scottish Senior Champion.

“In the band, she’s very popular,” Kelly continued, “so full of fun that I don’t think I’ve ever seen her flustered.  She is a very strong player in the band and an excellent soloist.  She’s one of the best piobaireachd pupils that Sharon has ever had.”

In addition to her piping and curling abilities, Muirhead also excels at golf, playing off a handicap of two. In an interview with the Telegraph, she said, “I could have been out in America just now; I was offered a university golf scholarship. But you don’t refuse this chance. Yes, maybe in golf at the very top you could earn millions of pounds, but to compete at the Olympics, that’s something no amount of money can buy.”

Kelly said that the whole Pitlochry and Blair Atholl community is buzzing as they follow the team in Vancouver. “Band practice ends up a discussion of  her last game and the comments we hear from Eve on TV. We all stay up late to shout at the TV and urge her to win. At this stage, no nails left!”


While Olympic training has been Muirhead’s focus for the last two years, Kelly said that she received a new chanter reed a couple of months ago, and that the band is hoping she’ll be in the ranks when they perform with the Red Hot Chili Pipers in Pitlochry in April.


“One thing’s for sure,” he says, “she has her feet firmly on the ground and is just the same old Eve.”




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