Hailey Duff believes Team Muirhead's memorable European Championship triumph has banished any nerves she may have had about appearing on the global curling stage. The 24-year-old from Forfar was making her debut at a major championship and helped Eve Muirhead's rink soar to the title in Lillehammer, defeating defending champions Sweden 7-4 in the final. Muirhead has become a figurehead for curling in Britain - and Duff admits the three-time Olympian was less intimidating than her reputation had her believe. "She's not as scary as I was expecting," said the Scottish ace, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world's best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding. "She's actually really lovely, she's helped me so much and I can go to her with anything I need.
"She's really supportive of me and my journey and talks a lot about some experiences she's had - and really trying to help me evolve myself to be able to compete at a higher level. "What's happened this season is just absolutely crazy to me to be playing alongside her because I always thought that would never happen and she would have to retire before I could get to this position." Instead, the New Zealand-born athlete has settled into her role as lead, with Team Muirhead's gold at the European Championships part of a historic Scottish double. Bruce Mouat's men's side also soared to the summit and Duff, who recognises how National Lottery funding has played a pivotal role in turning her curling dreams into reality, added: "It's not really sunk in, to be honest, it still feels crazy, but hopefully it will sink in soon. "Because we're such a new team and we haven't played quite a lot of these teams as the line-up that we are now, it was a bit of an unknown. "We were just going into the competition to give it our best shot, do as much as we could to learn from every game and bring that into the Olympic qualifier that we've got coming up next week, so to come away with the gold was just amazing." No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes
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