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British Curling’s Performance Foundation curlers followed their podium and podium potential colleagues onto the ice when they resumed skills work at the National Curling Academy this week in Stirling.

After more than five months of lockdown, training in isolation, the teams were finally given the chance to put that hard work into practice as they continue their preparations for their first competitions of the 2020/21 season.

Ross Whyte who skipped his team through an impressive first year on the men’s circuit last season was pleased to get his chance to test out his fitness levels.

“Some of us have had to be a bit creative with our training at home over lockdown,” said Whyte, who is about to start his third year of a Sports Studies degree at the University of Stirling. 

“Without my own gym equipment at home, my Uni books have become useful weight training alternatives. So it will be good to put them to use for their original purpose again and also see just how well we fare on ice after such a long break.

“Speaking to some of the podium athletes I know how they have had a few aches and pains after their first couple of weeks on ice, but like them I was just keen to experience that feeling of being back on ice again.

“We know how hard it has been to put things in place to get us back on ice and now we want to make sure that despite the break we make up for lost time. My team had a great first season on the men’s tour and despite us all being apart over the summer, we have all continued to pursue our team goals. Our virtual weekly catch-ups have really helped us to track our ongoing progress and have given us a chance to reflect on areas of our game that we wanted to develop to make us stronger moving forwards.

“We know we have some really high quality line-ups on the British Curling programme but we want to keep pushing them and pushing ourselves on as we want to be among the world beaters and the break has probably made us even more determined. Right now, though, it is great just to have the opportunity to throw stones again.” 

Hailey Duff who joined Team Wilson this summer was equally pleased to be back.

“It was my first time on ice with my new team mates and whilst video calls have been great you get so much more from face to face interaction,” said the 23 year old.

Duff works part time for a garden furniture company, so has been extremely busy throughout the lockdown months and is glad to be able to now focus on her curling again.

“We have now sold out of all stock so we have new challenges buying for next season, so it is refreshing to have my curling to be thinking about as well,” she said.

“We were so eager to get on ice and did extra during the first warm down to counteract any aches and pains. The guidelines were all really clear and actually working in pairs on a sheet at a time and then rotating gave me a really good chance to get to know my new team mates. So there are advantages to be gained from the new training protocols just now.”

British Curling Performance Foundation Manager David Aitken said: “After months of planning with sportscotland and Active Stirling, to finally get the green light to get our athletes back on ice doing what they want to be doing makes it all worthwhile.

“As some of our podium programme athletes have demonstrated in recent weeks, the new protocols not only keep everyone as safe and as confident to train as possible, they very quickly become part of the new training routine. 

“Our athletes have adapted well to every challenge that has faced them since the start of lockdown and this will be no different. It means so much to them to be able to get to train in the NCA again and to start preparing for the first events.

“We have some established teams as well as some new line-ups at Performance Foundation level who will be keen to make their mark this season. Despite all the set-backs due to a global pandemic this year, with such a talented bunch of aspiring young athletes to work with it is going to be an exciting period ahead watching our future World and Olympic contenders starting to fulfil their potential.”

Images: PPA Graeme Hart.

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