Curling champs brush off rivals

Lauren Gray curler 1

Lauren Gray curler 1

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A YOUNG curler was celebrating this week after her team retained the Scottish Junior Championships in Aberdeen.

Lauren Gray (20), from Balfron, was part of Team Fleming which included Alice Spence, Abbie Brown and skip Hannah Fleming, who beat Team Smith skipped by Hazel Smith by 8-2 with a convincing performance.

The former Balfron Academy student said: “The championships are really big and we have been training for this for quite a while.

“I feel it vindicates everything we have been doing and that all this training has not been for nothing.”

In the lead up to the finals, Team Fleming only dropped one game all week.

Lauren said: “We just went on and had a really solid week in the lead up to the finals.”

However the pressure was on the squad to perform at the end as they were the only team in the championships who are funded through the British Curling Performance Programme.

This was set up to encourage bright young talent in the wake of Rhona Martin’s spectacular victory with her team at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City 10 years ago which gave Britain its first Olympic gold for 18 years.

Lauren added: “We were all a bit nervous but we settled down and just got on with the job in hand.”

Winning the Scottish Championships was an important step for the team as this qualified them for a place in the World Junior Championships.

They will represent Scotland in Ostersund, Sweden from March 3-10.

The university student - who won gold at the World University games in 2009 and the previous year, representing Great Britain, in the European Youth Olympics - reckons the team are now in a very strong position to challenge for a medal.

She said: “We are all feeling confident after the Scottish Championships and will go into the World Championships much stronger as everyone in the team now has much more international experience.

“I am older and more mature, so will be able to deal with the pressure better.”

The squad will get a boost in Sweden as they will have Rhona Martin’s daughter Jennifer along with them as a reserve fifth player.

Lauren said: “She is great. Really positive and encouraging.

“That’s just what we need when in pre-World Champion training.”