BRITISH CURLING SEND ENGLISH ATHLETES TO WORLD CHAMPS FOR FIRST TIME
The brother and sister duo who were formerly based in Kent, joined the British Curling programme at the start of the season and having worked closely with squad mates Gina Aitken and Scott Andrews, the English Champions will now compete against their Scottish counterparts at the World Mixed Doubles Championships in Norway (20-27 April).
Curling’s growth on the back of Olympic exposure will be further demonstrated when the English and Scottish pair compete among the largest field ever assembled for the event hosted at Sørmarka Arena, in Stavanger, a year after the inclusion of the Mixed Doubles discipline in the Winter Olympic programme.
Whilst the Fowlers appearance at this World Mixed Doubles is not a first for the pair – their best result was in 2016 when they finished eighth – the elder of the siblings Anna Fowler who switched from city life in London to Stirling last year, believes the move across the border to join the programme has been a rewarding one and has put them in a better place at the start of this campaign.
“It has been a big adjustment for me moving to Scotland and along with working full time and fitting in training and gym sessions there have been lots of logistical challenges. It has however been rewarding to see our progression on the ice and that is has all been worthwhile, so I really hope we can go and perform well at this World Championships to put the icing on the cake,” she said.
“Every athlete, to be the best they can be, has to make a lot of sacrifices and I guess with the move I have found out how hard that is, but that is just the way it is and I will do whatever I need to in order to be the best.”
“We have been so privileged to have access to all of the programme support and staff at the National Curling Academy (NCA), it has been transformational and that is really positive to see,” she added.
Ben Fowler, who remained in Scotland after studying at the University of Glasgow also feels he has benefitted from the relocation.
“It shows you can improve quickly if you have the right facilities and right now curling is developing across the home nations and around the world, so it is a really exciting time to be involved in the sport.
“This will be the biggest Worlds ever, with new teams in the mix so lots of variety and I think this will be the hardest World Mixed Doubles yet, however I feel we are reaching our peak part of the season and are much better prepared this time around, “ he added.
That sentiment was reinforced by their coach Greg Drummond, the former Olympic men’s finalist: “Having the opportunity to train day in day out at our NCA in Stirling has given Anna and Ben the chance to refine things like technique, strategy and sweeping in a way that they might not have in the past and this season we have seen some really nice progression and consistency as they have peaked towards these World Champs. It is testament to all of the hard work they have put in at Stirling and I think they will approach this event differently as a result,” he said.
Whilst Drummond, who won his Olympic silver medal at the 2014 Games and switched to coaching last year, has represented Scotland and Team GB at numerous international events, he is as excited to be on the coaches’ bench for the first time at the World Mixed Doubles for Team England.
“I have been fortunate to be a British Curling programme athlete for more than a decade and to be able to share some of those experiences from all of those international events I hope will pay some dividends.
“These guys have been on the programme for the 2018-19 season and my coaching job with British Curling is to help them be the best they can be, so for me it is irrelevant whether it is a Scotland or England jacket on their backs, I want to see these athletes go out and put together the best week they are capable of,” Drummond added.
The round robin matches get underway on Saturday with a record 48 member associations taking part, including newcomers to the event, Kosovo, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, China and Greece. The 48 teams are in six groups and only the top two teams from each group plus four of the top ranked third placed teams with the best draw shot challenge (DSC) will progress to the final 16, for the head-to-head format which starts on Friday 26 April. Winners will continue to the quarter-finals and medal games on Saturday 27 April.
Next year the event field will be reduced to 20 member associations taking part in Kelowna, Canada, 16 teams will qualify from the Worlds in Stavanger and four more places will be available through a new qualification event.
The Mixed Doubles discipline was included into the Olympic programme at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Team Fowler’s British Curling squad mates, Gina Aitken and Scott Andrews, will be joining them in the field as Scotland’s representatives after they won the Scottish title in Braehead, in December 2018.
Anna Fowler, 28yrs, born Cambridge, resides Stirling
Ben Fowler 25yrs, born Pembury, Kent, resides Glasgow
Team England are in group E and Team Scotland are in Group D:
Group A: Belarus, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine
Group B: Austria, Brazil, Guyana, Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei and Turkey
Group C: Australia, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Nigeria and Wales
Group D: Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Mexico, Norway, Scotland and Slovakia
Group E: England, Finland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and New Zealand
Group F: Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Spain and United States
British Curling Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.