University of Stirling psychology student Rachel Hannen admits it will be a step into the unknown when she takes to the ice with fellow Stirling student Bobby Lammie in this week’s Scottish Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Aberdeen (12-15 October).
Despite being good friends, 22-year-old Hannen and Lammie (18) have, until now, never joined forces on the ice, although Hannen has tried the mixed experience in the past.
“I played mixed after the main competition in the Youth Olympics a few years ago,” she said.
“They paired us up with someone from a different country and I was put with a Czech guy, so there was a bit of a language barrier. It actually felt like a kind of blind date competition but it was a really good opportunity to try out mixed doubles and was really good fun.”
Apart from the obvious difference of a mixed team consisting of one male and one female, the competition is different in other respects.
“In your normal team game it’s eight stones an end, whereas mixed is only six stones per end, so it’s a much quicker game, at a very fast pace and the strategy is totally different” explained Hannen.
“It’s very flexible, you can choose whether someone holds the brush for you or if you aim and have them as a sweeper. You find what way works best for you and that’s what we’ll do over next week.”
The event will be making its debut at next year’s Winter Olympics and with more countries and athletes getting involved each year, the competition is highly serious.
With the winner of the weekend’s tournament progressing to Sweden for the World Championships, there is everything to play for.
Hannen and Lammie are amongst 150 students supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes. Hannen, who aspires to compete in a Winter Olympics, believes that combining a part-time masters degree with curling at Stirling, home of the sport’s national academy at The Peak, is a winning combination.
“I like to have something else to think about so I don’t become completely fixated (on curling),” explained Hannen, who will be busy this season building a world ranking as a member of Team GB 2014 Olympian Claire Hamilton’s rink.
“Like everybody else you have to keep on top of everything and be organised but you have the services here at the university to help you.”
“The university is really flexible and as long as you keep them in touch with what you are doing and where you are going to be then it’s fine. Now we have the (curling) centre at Stirling, which is where the training is based, we’ve now got everything we need here.”
“I was lucky to get a curling scholarship which came through Winning Students and I wouldn’t be able to do the masters at all without them.”