FORMER OLYMPIC COACH NANCY SMITH TO OVERSEE MIXED DOUBLES CURLING
“I see this as a hugely exciting time for the newest Olympic discipline in our sport. To have this recognition and support from UK Sport to enable us to support and develop six athletes on our Mixed Doubles Programme means we can move faster and more effectively towards that goal of a further medal opportunity at the Beijing Olympics in 2022, “ said Smith.
Since joining the British Curling programme almost a decade ago, Smith has been instrumental in the success of the careers of many Scottish curlers who have gone on to represent Team GB at Olympic Games. She was the Olympic women‘s coach in Vancouver 2010 and, as well as working with the women’s programme, has also worked with men’s curling, having started out working with junior players.
Following the Mixed Doubles discipline’s introduction for the first time in PyeongChang earlier this year, Smith is delighted to be involved in another area of the programme and what represents a new era for the game.
“It is great to be involved in the evolution of curling with this new dynamic discipline at a time when we have introduced two English athletes onto the programme in Mixed Doubles for the first time. This demonstrates the growing opportunities of the sport and how we can broaden the development of talent, which is crucial as we aim to stay at the top of the game,” she said.
“Mixed Doubles is a faster version of the sport which is totally reliant on an effective partnership. As well as providing a dynamic sport to watch on ice, there will also be the good human interest stories from the pairings off-ice that will help to captivate new audiences.”
“Hopefully the growing interest will mean that we will see more teams coming into the game,” added Smith, who like her mother, Marion Murdoch, MBE, and brother David Murdoch - skip of Team GB’s silver medal winning rink at the 2014 Sochi Olympics - has spent most of her life involved with and dedicated to the sport.
“It must be in the blood. Mum is retired now as a development officer but still does after school coaching on a voluntary basis, so she is still proving to be useful at the home rink identifying talent,” joked Smith, a former national champion, as she reflected on the family’s well documented involvement in the game, just weeks after David took on the role of British Curling’s National Coach.
“It is also special to have a sibling on the programme, Dave and I bounce ideas off each other and talk a lot about where we want to take the game. Yes we will travel a lot and it is not a 9 to 5 role being a coach, working pretty unsociable hours and being away so much from friends and family, but like all of my family, we have a love and devotion to the game, so to have a career doing this makes my role the perfect job.
“It is hugely satisfying and motivates me every day. To understand the lifestyle challenges as well as the pressure the athletes face to win a medal now on the world stage, given the coaches are living the same way, is incredibly useful and I think makes us more empathetic.
“To excel at the top level of the sport huge commitment is required and I am always eager to give that in order to get the best out of every athlete and help them access the best opportunities to get ahead in the game.”
British Curling announced three pairings on the programme last month, brother and sister combination Ben and Anna Fowler, who are the English Mixed Doubles Champions, Scottish Mixed Doubles Champions Fraser Kingan and Jayne Stirling, who won silver at their first event last month and former National Mixed Doubles Champion Gina Aitken, who has paired up with Sochi silver medallist, Scott Andrews, now playing in the discipline for the first time.
“It is a very interesting and dedicated squad who have spent the past few months training at the National Curling Academy. Some of them have relocated to Scotland in order to achieve that access, so they have an understanding of what is required moving forward,” said Smith.
“This is my fifth Olympic cycle involved one way or another and the game has become ever more professional. The support from the programme can help to ensure this squad has the edge as we pursue our clear aim of having athletes on the podium in four years time.”
British Curling Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.