British Curling athletes back on the ice at the National Curling Academy

Trustees Alan and Lauren have been among the first to go back on the ice after a long break and described the process for us

British Curling athletes were able to take to the ice again this week after almost five months away from curling rinks due to the coronavirus lockdwon.

Trustees Lauren Gray and Alan Hannah were among the very first to go back to training at the National Curling Academy at The Peak in Stirling, as Alan is coach to Team Mouat and Lauren plays Third / Vice Skip in Team Muirhead – the country’s top teams!

With some international competitions still going ahead, and this being the last year to qualify for the all-important Winter Olympics (funding for elite curling comes mainly from UK Sport who are looking for Olympic medals – no pressure guys!) it’s crucial to their success to have access to facilities again.

This access is not without some challenges though…
The curlers are only allowed to train two at a time, not as the foursome that would be normal.
Arriving at the Peak into a strict one-way system, there’s hand gel and a digital facial recognition system in place with automatic temperature gauge and social distancing mandatory at all times.
Cleaning stations are situated around the ice rink with each person only touching (and cleaning) one pair of stones. Sweeping is limited to your own stones.

All the athletes have maintained their own fitness regimes at home throughout lockdown, but there’s nothing quite like delivering a stone on the ice – no piece of gym equipment or static lunge can replicate that motion and I’m sure there were a few stiff legs by Tuesday morning!

With 90 minutes on the ice at a time, followed by a thorough clean before the next pairs come in to work with their coaches, it’s frustrating that regular training is still not entirely possible, but definitely a glimmer of hope for social curlers who are hoping to be back on the ice mid to late September with robust risk assessments in place.

Meanwhile, the athletes are glad to make use of the time and resources they’ve been lucky enough to be granted right now.

‘It was great to be back on-ice and kick start our pre-season training. Thank you to everyone behind the scenes for making this happen. We are grateful for the opportunity to return to the ice at this time and I am sure the entire curling community will be back soon to play this great sport we all love. Today was a light training day for Team Mouat and we all look forward to packing in as much training as possible over the next 3 weeks before we head to the Baden Masters in Switzerland at the end of the month.’

Alan Hannah