Winter Olympic silver medallist Michael Goodfellow has taken a trip down memory lane to visit Bruce Mouat’s and Jennifer Dodds’ first ever curling club in support of their bid for a medal in Beijing, as well as to celebrate National Lottery players' vital role in funding British athletes.
Together, The National Lottery and government have invested £32million into British Olympic and Paralympic winter athletes and sports for Beijing, allowing Team GB and ParalympicsGB’s dedicated and passionate athletes to achieve their dreams of representing the nation.
Many of Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes have come from a range of backgrounds, having started their journeys at local, National Lottery-funded facilities, such as Mouat and Dodds who began their curling careers at Gogar Young Curlers Club in Edinburgh.
Curling star Goodfellow is overjoyed to see Mouat and Dodds reach the semi-finals in the mixed doubles competition in the Chinese capital – and enthused about the chances of the next generation of athletes who will take to the Olympic snow and ice.
The 33-year-old, who scooped silver at Sochi 2014 in David Murdoch’s rink, said: “It’s awesome to be here today and support Bruce and Jen from their old club.
“Curling doesn’t get a huge amount of exposure apart from the Olympics so it’s great to see Bruce and Jen putting curling at the front of everyone’s minds.
“A semi-final place is a great chance to win a medal. I know how hard Bruce and Jen have worked over the past few years, so it's great to see them having the opportunity and hopefully they can take it.
“I think watching Bruce and Jen will spur on the men's and women's squads, but also inspire that next generation.
“I think it will make the squads hungry to get medals - and get gold medals at that. I’m very hopeful that we'll get three medals - we have a very good chance - and all three squads are on great form.
“I don't think The National Lottery funding can be underestimated on how much it effects everyone's training. For me, if it wasn't for the funding, I would have had to work as well as train, I wouldn't have been able to travel as much, or compete, or dedicate my life to the sport.
Joined by Curl Edinburgh and members of Gogar Young Curlers Club, Goodfellow is gearing up to watch the mixed doubles semi-final - where Team GB will face Norway this afternoon - as well as watching young curlers shows off their skills on the ice.
One such curler inspired by Mouat, Dodds and Goodfellow is 18-year-old Jamie Rankin, who is a future Olympic hopeful on the first rung of the Talented Athlete programme.
And he said: “Bruce and Jen have had a great start to the competition. They’re both at their first Olympics so it’s a totally new experience to deal with.
“The fact that we hadn’t won a gold medal until 2002 and then with this Olympics, we have three chances, is amazing. We’ve not been in this position before and it’s a great opportunity for the sport, especially to advertise it and show the prospects curling has to be a really successful sport.
“The support I know is available allows me to be inspired. I know the chances and opportunities I have ahead of me and it’s in my hands to make sure I put the hard work in and make it happen.
“Ultimately, I want to go to the Olympics one day – it would be amazing.”
And David Aitken, who was one of Mouat and Dodds’ first coaches in Scotland, is not surprised by the determination and success of both athletes on the biggest stage of all.
He said: “I started working with them more seriously at Under-17s and they both just loved the sport.
“They also both did other sports growing up, which I think was key to their success as making it as professional athletes.
“Working with children and pre-teens to their mid to late 20s, they change as people a lot, and I remember when Bruce was knocking at the door of elite level, and a lot of people were worried that he wasn’t ruthless enough as he came across as too nice! He never lost his temper or let it all get to him.
“But it’s one of his strongest qualities – on the outside, he’s rock solid, and on the inside, he is amazing at controlling his emotions and nerves and keeping it together.
“The participation levels have certainly increased in curling in recent years, I’ve really seen a difference as a full-time coach for British Curling.
“The National Curling Academy at Stirling has transformed because of The National Lottery funding – to get an Olympic medal requires more than just on-ice skill and the strength and conditioning, physio, nutrition and psychology support has made a massive difference to allow athletes to train full-time and change their mindset from making it a sporting hobby to a job.”
Since Rhona Martin’s storied ‘Stone of Destiny’ propelled Team GB to their maiden curling gold in Salt Lake City – and Britain’s first Winter Olympic triumph since Torvill and Dean at Sarajevo 1984 – curling’s popularity has soared across the nation.
And National Lottery players’ support for Team GB and ParalympicsGB Winter athletes, coupled with cutting-edge facilities across the UK, has been vital to help the sport grow at grassroots and elite level.
President of Curl Edinburgh Sean Murphy said: “Curl Edinburgh have been able to improve facilities through National Lottery funding from Sport Scotland. From the elite programme and the National Curling Academy, without the funding we wouldn’t be able to take people to an elite level, so it’s been vital for us.
“The Try Curling programme and Scottish Curling are backed by The National Lottery as well to bring new people into the sport, so it has been key for us.
Scottish Curling’s Head of Development Maggie Wilson added: “In the years to come, the next generation will have ice rinks to curl in - the funding to facilities is key to not only letting us achieve success on the world stage, but to have the opportunity for members of the community to stay active in the sport – it really is a sport for all abilities, all levels and all ages.”
National Lottery players are one of the biggest supporters of Team GB and ParalympicsGB winter athletes and raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing The National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes