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British Curling’s athletes are returning to training today at the purpose built National Curling Academy (NCA) in Stirling after an extended off-ice season caused by COVID-19 challenges.

The return has been delayed due to new health and safety guidance relating to COVID-19 transmission, which has required alterations to the air handling plant at the specialist venue managed by Active Stirling. 

With the late cancellation of last season’s women’s, men’s and mixed doubles World Championships as a result of the pandemic, the coming campaign represents the only opportunity for British Curling to secure places at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. That has placed extra emphasis on the need to ensure that challengers for Team GB places are match ready as soon as competition is possible, with the first event scheduled for the end of August in Switzerland.

Recognition of that need has resulted in the support from UK Sport and Active Stirling/Stirling Council which has allowed the installation of new equipment in the NCA, ensuring that there is 100% fresh air, rather than re-circulated air within the academy, in accordance with new guidelines for buildings.

Training sessions will also be different for the immediate future as the programme has put in place stringent protocols in accordance with UK and Scottish government guidelines to ensure all athletes can train as safely as possible, with limited numbers and social distancing in place within the facility. 

“Like many governing bodies, we have had to find solutions to a number of challenges to ensure we provide the best duty of care to our athletes as they return to on-ice training,” said British Curling’s Executive Performance Director Nigel Holl.

“A significant additional investment has been made with the support of UK Sport and without that, along with the extremely proactive support of Active Stirling, Stirling Council, sportscotland and the Scottish Government, we would not be in this position today. We are extremely grateful to all our partners whose collaboration, co-ordinated planning and unswerving commitment to British Curling has seen us achieve effective solutions in pretty tight timelines. Working in partnership in this way is key to ensuring that our athletes are given the best chance of remaining highly competitive on the international stage.”

During national lockdown programme athletes followed adapted training programmes, often innovating and training in isolation to ensure they were as fit as their team mates upon their return to action.

“We may have lost three weeks on-ice, since the players would normally have returned to training in mid July, but they have been following closely monitored training schedules to ensure that they are in peak condition when they do get back ahead of a vital season,” said Holl. 

“Every single team knows the clock is ticking and with Beijing now firmly in our sights, they will all be competing fiercely to prove that they deserve that opportunity, so it is great to be getting back on ice again after such a prolonged spell away from it.

“I would like to pay particular credit to the athletes with how they have adapted and dealt with the unique circumstances they have been faced with. It will still be different as we return to the ice, but I am confident that as time progresses we will move towards a more normal training and competition environment.

The programme’s wheelchair athletes are due to return to training at the end of the month.

Olympic hopeful Vicky Wright and British Curling Performance Coach Greg Drummond are looking to the future in more ways than one after announcing their engagement at the weekend ahead of the new season. The exciting news follows a busy spell for European silver medallist and two time national champion Wright, who returns to full time training, after working as a ward nurse for NHS Forth Valley Hospital following the cancelled World Championships in Canada in March.


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