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Homecoming . . . but not for the last time

As they rejoined friends and family in Scotland last night, Britain's Olympic medal-winning curlers were already re-setting their sights on the future for themselves and their sport.

GB's Olympic medal-winning curlers arrive at the Hilton Hotel in Edinburgh to meet their friends and family. Picture: Stewart Attwood
GB's Olympic medal-winning curlers arrive at the Hilton Hotel in Edinburgh to meet their friends and family. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Basking in a warm reception at Edinburgh's airport hotel after a day which included a Downing Street visit, David Murdoch, who skipped the men to silver, and Eve Muirhead, who led their female counterparts to bronze, both indicated interest in carrying on to the next Olympics, albeit to different degrees.

Muirhead feigned nervousness when asked whether her team intended to stay together.

"I'm sure . . . well, I'd like to think we're not going to quit and we'll be trying to make our way up that Olympic podium," she said.

There was a quick a smile at team-mates Anna Sloane, Claire Hamilton and Vicki Adams, before the 23-year-old went back to her usual asserted self. "We're the youngest team to win an Olympic medal and we're not finished yet," she said. "So far in our careers we've had a lot of success and won major championships.

"This Olympic tournament was hopefully just a stepping stone to future success. We've put in a lot of work to get where we are."

After what has been something of a 12-year odyssey in pursuit of the piece of metal he is now clutching, Murdoch was slightly more equivocal but by no means ruled himself out of future Games.

"It's been three Olympic campaigns for myself now and getting that medal is incredible," he said. "We need to speak to a lot of people, our wives and partners, our families, to UK Sport, sportscotland and the Institute of Sport to find out what the future entails. We have the silver and it could be tempting to see if we could get the gold.

"I'll see what my wife says because I don't spend much time at home, but 35 isn't old in curling terms. We've seen a lot of guys in their forties become Olympic champions."

The difference was perhaps understandable given their age and the way the teams had been assembled. While Muirhead's world champions had been put together in traditional fashion, it had been a controversial decision - at least partly vindicated - to ask Murdoch to skip a rink previous skipped by Tom Brewster to two world championship finals. Like the rest of his former team - Greg Drummond, Michael Goodfellow and Scott Andrews - Brewster, and fellow alternate Lauren Gray, earned a medal for his reserve role.

Murdoch and Brewster apart, all of these medallists are in their 20s and with Shona Robison, the Scottish Government's sports minister, in attendance at last night's official welcome function, there is an awareness that this represents a huge opportunity for the sport.

That was eloquently expressed by Drummond, who observed: "Never in a million years did we expect this many people to be here. This is totally different from a world championship.

"It is our chance to showcase the sport and we'd like to think it will inspire a generation to try curling. This is when it has to happen."

While administrators have admitted that they bungled a similar opportunity following the last Winter Olympics, the players themselves have already turned their minds to how to capitalise on their success and develop the sport beyond the tight-knit community that generates most of the talent.

Something of a poster boy for that process, even before he was forced to take his shirt off during the final when he was picked up for wearing the wrong attire, Goodfellow is something of a rarity in having come from a family with no curling background and he suggested that the sport has to learn to think differently. "You look at a sport like darts and the way that they've sold that," he said. "Smaller sports can get bigger and the Olympics showed just how much you can get wrapped up in curling.

"We're in a better place now but we need to make it attractive so that people pick it up along with the bigger sports like football."

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