Big stage now holds no fears for curler Hailey

Forfar’s Hailey Duff believes Team Muirhead’s memorable European Championship triumph has banished any nerves she may have had about appearing on the global curling stage.

Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 1:05pm
Big stage now holds no fears for curler Hailey
Hailey Duff delivers her stone at this week's Olympic qualification event in Leeuwarden, guided on the left by Forfar's Vicky Wright. Pic by WCF / Steve Seixeiro

The 24-year-old was making her debut at a major championship and helped Muirhead’s rink soar to the title in Lillehammer, defeating defending champions Sweden 7-4 in the final.

Muirhead has become a figurehead for curling in Britain - and Duff admits the three-time Olympian was less intimidating than her reputation had her believe when she joined up with the squad.

In fact, the experience was only a positive one.

“She’s not as scary as I was expecting,” said the Scottish ace, one of over 1000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.

“She's actually really lovely, she's helped me so much and I can go to her with anything I need.

“She's really supportive of me and my journey and talks a lot about some experiences she's had - and really trying to help me evolve myself to be able to compete at a higher level.

“What's happened this season is just absolutely crazy to me to be playing alongside her because I always thought that would never happen and she would have to retire before I could get to this position.”

Instead, the New Zealand-born athlete has settled into her role as lead, with Team Muirhead’s gold at the European Championships part of a historic Scottish double.

Bruce Mouat’s men’s side also soared to the summit at the tournament which was absolutely dominated from start to finish by the Scots’ sides.

Duff, who recognises how National Lottery funding has played a pivotal role in turning her curling dreams into reality, added: “It’s not really sunk in, to be honest, it still feels crazy, but hopefully it will sink in soon.

“Because we're such a new team and we haven't played quite a lot of these teams as the line-up that we are now, it was a bit of an unknown.

“We were just going into the competition to give it our best shot, do as much as we could to learn from every game and bring that into the Olympic qualifier that we've got coming up next week, so to come away with the gold was just amazing.”

Also included in Muirhead’s winning side, of course, was another local curler.

Vicky Wright, also from Forfar, played a crucial role in the success as well and was the team’s vice-captain at the event.

It was far from Wright’s first taste of the big stage, though, the-28-year-old a regular at high profile events for the country over the past few years.

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