Olympian Rhona Martin talks us through her curling adventures
Following the Q&A with our own MD, William Hogg, about his curling adventures, we were lucky enough to catch up Curling Olympian Rhona Martin and have a chat about how she got into curling and the pressures – and pleasures – the Olympic Games can provide!
What first got you interested and involved in the sport of curling?
I was leaving school and wanted to have a hobby for the weekends. My brother Drew curled and persuaded me to give it a try. It wasn’t an Olympic medal sport at that point, so I was just happy playing it as a hobby.
Did curling come naturally to you or did you have to work at it?
At first I hated it – it was cold, and I kept falling over! However, I persevered and very quickly I was travelling to different rinks around Scotland to curl and realised it was a very social sport. I loved going to the rink and just playing by myself – throwing stones, looking at angles and how stones reacted at different weights. Although I was only having fun at this point, I did practice very hard on my technique.
What level of training goes on behind the scenes in the run up to an Olympics?
A lot of hours are spent on the ice working on the technical and tactical sides of the sport. There is also a lot of time spent on team dynamics, fitness, psychology, nutrition, and video analysis, as well as competing in numerous games. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the run up to this Olympic Games has been slightly different.
Is curling really a Scottish sport or is it played elsewhere in the UK?
It is also played in England and Wales, but these nations need more dedicated facilities to help the sport grow.
Would you rather be behind the microphone for the BBC or on the ice at this year’s Winter Olympics?
Oh, definitely behind the microphone now! I’ve had my day on the ice, so I’ll leave it to the young ones. But this is my sixth Olympics being either a player, coach, or commentator, so I am very lucky that I can still be involved with the sport I love.
When you threw the final ‘stone of destiny’ at the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 to win the gold medal what was going through your mind?
I never once thought this is for Olympic Gold. I just knew I had a shot to play to win the last end. The team had played the end game so well to give me that chance, that I was just thinking ‘do not muck it up now!’
Is curling in the Olympics different from curling in any other major championship?
When the curling starts no, it is no different. You are playing the same teams, with the same format, and the same end goal. The only difference is the extra media attention you receive at the Olympics, as well as having the opportunity to mix with other Olympic athletes from other sports.
How do you rate Britain’s chances in this year’s Olympics?
The men’s and women’s teams both won the European Championships in November, so are on good form just now. The men are also world silver medallists. The Mixed Doubles duo are current World Champions and go in as favourites, so it is a very well-prepared Great Britain Team
What one piece of advice would you give Eve Muirhead and Bruce Mouat, the skips of our Ladies and Men’s teams for Beijing?
Relax and enjoy the whole experience. Take one game at a time and focus on what you can control – and never ever give up!
Does Eve Muirhead have an advantage over Bruce Mouat having curled at the Olympics before?
Having competed at the Olympics before does gives Eve a slight advantage, as she knows what to expect. However, this year will be very different due to COVID restrictions, and it will not be like any other games. It’ll be important to manage their down time, so the players do not get bored or lose focus.
Who do you think are Britain’s biggest threat at this year’s Olympics?
Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland are strong in all three disciplines and Norway in the Mixed Doubles. You cannot rule out the Asian teams either as Korea, China, and Japan are all steady, reliable teams.
Since talking to Rhona, the Mixed Doubles got through to compete for a Bronze medal. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, but had a fantastic journey. The Women’s Round Robin and the Men’s Round Robin round 2 both get underway tomorrow, and we wish both teams all the best.