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As British Curling’s Team Muirhead continue their preparations for the next Winter Olympics, their alternate Kelly Schafer knows that if all goes well she will not be seen on the ice in PyeongChang. However with just 100 days to go to the 2018 Games, the team’s fifth player is preparing harder than ever for the event which represents the highest pinnacle in the sport.

It is seven years since Schafer – formerly Wood – competed at her second Olympics and whilst the role this time around for the Scottish international who is now based in Canada is principally to support the quartet of Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray, she knows she has to be ready for anything.

“I need to be familiar with the roles and responsibilities of each player, recognising that in unforeseen circumstances I may be called upon to step into that position,” said Schafer, who initially joined them last year when Sloan was out injured.

“We have worked on ensuring that I have games in each position so that we can expect a seamless transition for the team should I have to play. It is important to maintain what each player brings to the team so that we can only strengthen and not unsettle the dynamic that can arise with bringing in an alternate player.”

It is clear that as she heads for this Winter Olympics she is no less committed than when she was selected for the previous two having played as second in both the teams skipped by Rhona Martin at Turin in 2006 and Muirhead at Vancouver in 2010.

“Someone once told me that if they were to split me in half they would be sure that curling would be at the very core of me. I live for this sport and to have the opportunity to compete at this level again, flying the flag for Great Britain is not something I could ever turn down,” said Schafer.

“My focus is about committing to the processes and objectives we have set in place as a team and not looking beyond that. I am following the same programme as the rest of our team in terms of strength and conditioning, technical on-ice work, team tactical sessions, psychology and tapping into other support services.

“Living in Canada I adhere to these programme requirements and ensure that I am familiar with our team processes and objectives and live those as well. I have been involved in the goal-setting and planning related to our team which makes it easy to buy into what we are trying to achieve and to ensure that I am working towards our objectives.”

It is something she admits to having feared she had left behind when she emigrated to Canada to start a new life with Jerrod Schafer, the Mayor of Swift Current whom she had met when playing at the World Championships in the Saskatchewan town, but she explained how the subsequent significant changes to her life have helped add to her motivation.

“When leaving for Canada I never thought I would have the opportunity to compete again, but I continued to train as if I was a competitor secretly hoping that an opportunity would arise. When it did, I was going to grab it with both hands. It is an honour and a privilege to be amongst very few winter athletes to have represented their country at this event,” said Schafer.

“It is a piece of me that I get to share with my family in Canada, a chance for my little boy to get a glimpse of who mummy is/was as a curler and a proud moment for them to share in what I love doing. One bonus is that we just gained another 18,000 fans for Great Britain knowing that Swift Current is behind me.”

PHOTOS: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart


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