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British Curling is looking to build on the exceptional success achieved by many of its Performance Foundation athletes last season by continuing its support of teams that have made significant progress on the world stage.

In the men’s game Ross Whyte and his colleagues will again be supported at Tier One level, having enjoyed an extraordinary first full season as seniors, reaching the play-off stages of all 11 international events they entered, claiming two World Curling Tour titles and climbing to 13th place in the World Curling Tour rankings, above the USA’s current Olympic champions Team Shuster and Canada’s four-time world champion skip Glenn Howard. At Tier Two level Cameron Bryce, who skipped his quartet to 32nd spot in those world rankings and heads into the new season with Luke Carson replacing Derrick Sloan in their line-up, will be joined by last season’s World Junior Championship bronze medallists, skipped by James Craik.

In the women’s game the curtailed season saw Maggie Wilson build a team which improved steadily, reaching the finals of both the Perth Masters and the Scottish Championships after the turn of the year. Their line-up has changed, following the selection as part of a new rink at Podium Potential level of Rebecca Morrison, who played skip stones for them last season, making room for the recruitment to their Performance Foundation Tier One level team of Hailey Duff. 2018 Winter Olympians Team Glen Muirhead, who were among last season’s Performance Foundation athletes are, along with Amy MacDonald, among those no longer being supported, while eight promising young players are introduced at Tier Two level, reflecting a change of focus for Performance Foundation support moving forwards, concentrating on the development of up and coming talent. 

Central to that is an emphasis on looking to the longer term, in parallel with the more immediate challenge of preparing for the next Winter Olympics in 2022.

“It is vital for the health of the British Curling programme that, while they will all obviously have the chance to compete for Team GB places in two years time, we ensure that athletes at Performance Foundation level are clearly focused on building towards the 2026 and 2030 Winter Olympics,” said British Curling’s Executive Performance Director Nigel Holl.

Performance Foundation Tier One – Men’s Team – Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Duncan McFadzean and Euan Kyle; Women’s Team – Maggie Wilson, Hailey Duff, Jennifer Marshall and Eilidh Yeats.
Performance Foundation Tier Two – Men’s Team One – Cameron Bryce, Luke Carson, Gregor Cannon and Craig Waddell; Men’s Team Two - James Craik, Mark Watt, Blair Haswell and Niall Ryder; Women’s Team One – Beth Farmer, Kirsten Bousie, Katie McMillan and Nicola Joiner; Women’s Team Two – Fay Henderson, Holly Wilkie-Milne, Holly Davis and Emma Barr.

“It was a straightforward decision for British Curling to continue its backing of athletes who have the talent and commitment required to give themselves the best possible chance of competing with and beating the best in the world. We are extremely grateful to sportscotland for the funding they provide to support our Performance Foundation athletes and we need to use it to reward those who have responded well to the support they have received, while also providing maximum encouragement for our most promising youngsters,” Holl continued.

“Our aim is to create an environment which nurtures those who have genuine ambition to excel within the increasingly competitive world of professional curling, where the challenges are ever greater. Even since the last Winter Olympics, little more than two years ago, things have moved on in our sport, but our athletes have risen to that challenge with Bruce Mouat and Ross Paterson skipping our top two men’s teams to Grand Slam titles in Canada, the first Scottish men to match Eve Muirhead in having done so, while Team Mouat also won the European Championships in 2018. 

“In their consistency on the global stage these teams have set standards that the next generation of players are now aspiring to match, as we have seen in the performances of Teams Whyte, Bryce and Wilson in becoming our closest challengers to those senior teams, ensuring that no-one can rest on their laurels.”

The need to adapt to the increasing professionalisation of the sport has also been reflected in the decision to make management of the Performance Foundation programme the sole responsibility of British Curling, having previously been jointly delivered along with Scottish Curling.

“We have collaborated closely in seeking to ensure that we maximise resources in order to drive the sport forward at elite level, while also providing opportunities for up and coming talent and we are grateful to Scottish Curling for the constructive way they have engaged with that process,” said Holl.

The benefit of developing players who have the necessary drive was meanwhile exemplified in the ambition expressed by Ross Whyte when reacting to his team’s retention of British Curling’s backing after that stellar first season.

“Performance Foundation support helped us immensely last year in both our training and getting out to competitions around the world,” he said.

“It is a tremendous opportunity and last season we worked really hard for it, gave it our all and managed to get into the top 15 in the world, in turn pushing Team Paterson and Team Mouat. This season we’re aiming to overtake them in the rankings.

“We had an incredible year and we want to go out and exceed expectations and have one eye on Beijing in 2022. We want to do everything right and get noticed, prove we can compete with the best in the world and then hopefully not be too far away from selection.

“As soon as we know when the season will start we want to pick up where we left off as we’re desperate to keep climbing the rankings. It took tremendous commitment from all four of us, spending five weeks in a row on the road at one stage and at every opportunity we will give it our all.”

Cameron Bryce meanwhile indicated his team’s determination to continue their impressive progress at the end of a campaign in which they got their first chance to compete in a Grand Slam event in Canada. 

“Although there are a lot of uncertainties about next season, we are excited to get back on the ice whenever it may be,” he said.

“We want to keep bringing a level of consistency to improve on our solid finish last season in the world rankings. We feel we have a lot more to offer and we will hopefully be back over in Canada and competing in top competitions. Last year at the Slam was a real indicator of where we are and where we want to be, as well as showing we could perform at the top level and we believe Luke (Carson) has a lot to offer the team as a great shot maker, so we are looking forward to working with him this coming season.”

Maggie Wilson has also expressed her gratitude for selection and outlined her intention to continue to fully maximise the support she will be receiving, by planning to relocate from Aberdeen to Stirling to be closer to the National Curling Academy (NCA) to train with her team mates.

“It is exciting to be back on the programme and moving up to PF1 is the next step we were hoping to take on our journey. We are aiming to build on the good results we had early this year and are grateful for the access to coaching and support services that we receive as part of the British Curling programme, as it makes such a big difference to our team,” she said.

“Last season was our first year on the programme and I can't overstate how much the support meant to the team. The access to top coaching and psychology services really made the difference and we were able to develop quickly as a team which led to some really strong performances that we can be proud of. We can take a lot of confidence from reaching those big games and that motivates us this season to keep working hard to get back to compete in finals and hopefully go one step further this year. 

“We are all really excited to have Hailey Duff on board this season. We've been competing against her for years and I know how great a player she is, so I'm excited to have her on the team and I'm looking forward to working with her to develop into a strong back end unit to match the strong relationship Jennifer and Eilidh have developed as a front end. We are making the most of this time we have off-ice to get to know each other through video chats, so we can hit the ground running once we are able to get training together.

“To allow us to step up our training this season both Eilidh and I are planning to relocate to Stirling to be close to the NCA. For the last few years we have been training between the NCA in Stirling and our homes in Inverness and Aberdeen respectively, but we've decided now is the right time to move closer to Stirling. That will allow us to spend more time training together as a team and make the most out of the excellent facilities British Curling has to offer in Stirling.”

Eight athletes have been selected onto the PF1 tier of the programme:
Men’s PF1

Ross Whyte
Robin Brydone
Duncan McFadzean
Euan Kyle

Women’s PF1
Maggie Wilson
Hailey Duff
Jennifer Marshall
Eilidh Yeats

16 athletes selected onto the PF2 tier of the programme:
Men’s PF2 Team 1*

Cameron Bryce
Luke Carson
Gregor Cannon
Craig Waddell

Men’s PF Team 2*
James Craik
Mark Watt
Blair Haswell
Niall Ryder

Women’s PF2 Team 1*
Beth Farmer
Kirstin Bousie
Katie McMillan
Nicola Joiner

Women’s PF Team 2*
Fay Henderson
Holly Wilkie-Milne
Holly Davis
Emma Barr

*Playing order to be decided.

A total of 16 athletes have been selected for podium and podium potential support by the programme:
Men’s Podium:
Bruce Mouat
Grant Hardie
Bobby Lammie
Hammy McMillan

Women’s Podium:
Eve Muirhead
Lauren Gray
Jennifer Dodds
Vicky Wright

Men’s Podium Potential:
Ross Paterson
Kyle Waddell
Duncan Menzies
Michael Goodfellow

Women’s Podium Potential*:
Gina Aitken
Rebecca Morrison
Mili Smith
Sophie Sinclair

*Playing order to be decided.

Images: PPA/Graeme Hart

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