"I LOOK back on it and I honestly don’t know how I got through it.”

Eve Muirhead does not mince her words when she reflects on a year that has been unparalleled for everyone, but particularly distinct for Scotland’s top curler.

Muirhead is usually surrounded by team-mates, spends most of her year travelling the globe and has a laser focus on adding to the countless major titles she has won over the past decade. So the past year was definitely a departure from the norm.

She also spent the first part of the pandemic in her flat in Stirling, in which she lives alone, and that proved far from easy.

“To be brutally honest, I don’t know how I managed,” the former world and European champion says. “Being on my own during lockdown, it was a long time.

“I regret now not going back to my mum and dad’s and if I’d known at the time how long all the restrictions were going to last, I would have gone to theirs, but how could anyone have predicted that?

“So I made what I thought was the best decision at the time and just had to get through it.”

Muirhead’s struggle was made all the worse by the fact she had been just hours away from beginning yet another assault on the World Championships.

Having travelled to Canada with her team-mates, Vicky Wright, Jen Dodds and Lauren Gray, the Scots and their competitors were told on the eve of the event that it had been cancelled due to Covid and they should get the first flight home.

On arriving back in Scotland, Muirhead was straight into lockdown and what turned out to be months of almost no human contact.

The Perthshire native, however, managed to take a number of positives from the uniquely challenging situation; the major benefit was it gave her plenty of time to work on her physical fitness having suffered a career-threatening hip injury in 2018.

“I was fortunate in that I had some gym equipment in my garage so I made full use of it. That was a bit of a saviour for me,” the 30-year-old says. “It was a really good time physically for me, the time away from the ice really helped my rehab for my hip.

“Having done that, I notice a huge difference now I’m back on the ice so in a way, it was a blessing in disguise for me. It allowed me some time to reset and get going again.”

Muirhead admits it is difficult to not, at least occasionally, rue the lost year of her career, particularly as she has already said she is unlikely to continue curling at an elite level into her 40s or 50s as some of her compatriots have.

However, while the world may not quite be back to normal, Muirhead is ready to resume something close to her usual existence.

On Friday, Muirhead will head into the World Championships in Canada raring to go after a year without international action.

Having returned to the ice last autumn, the skip and her team have spent hour upon hour working on their game and have already competed in several events in Canada in a Covid-safe bubble in the run-up to these World Championships.

Muirhead is confident she and her team are in good shape, but she is also more than a touch nervous about what lies ahead in what will be her ninth World Championship appearance.

“I’m very apprehensive about the Worlds but I’m also so excited about it,” she says. “Sometimes you can take it for granted that you’re competing in the World Championships and I think that with everything that’s happened, this one will feel very different to that. I feel nervous and a bit anxious but I also can’t wait to get into it.

“There’s a lot of unknowns, but I’m also very confident that as a team, there’s no more we could have done to have been better prepared.”

These World Championships have extra significance in that they double as a qualifier for next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are now less than 10 months away. Muirhead is a veteran, having competed in three Games already, winning bronze in 2014.

In the past, she has suggested Beijing may be her last Olympic appearance and having narrowly missed out on another bronze medal in 2018, she admits the event in China is rarely far from her thoughts.

“It’s hard not to think about the Olympics,” she says. “I just don’t know if this will be my last one.

“Since missing that shot for bronze three years ago, I’ve put in so much work, I’ve gone through surgery and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices so I have that feeling that I don’t want to screw this up, I want to be there.”

So the priority for her and her team-mates is securing Olympic qualification, which would be guaranteed with a top-six finish at the World Championships, and that, she admits, brings with it its own pressures.

While she may have been there before at the biggest events – winning gold, silver and bronze at previous World Championships – that does not ease the weight on her shoulders.

“There is a lot of pressure and while you want to forget about that, it will be in the back of our heads. It’s easy for people to say just take it one game or one shot at a time, but reality kicks in and you do think about it,” she says. “But you can’t get ahead of yourself. Regardless of how many times you’ve been there before, you just need to put that to one side and deal with the here and now.”