Olympic dreams a reality for Winning Students curlers19 February 2018
Winning Students curling scholars Cammy Smith and Kyle Waddell are currently realising their sporting dreams as they represent Team GB at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The pair, competing as part of Team Smith which was the highest ranked British team during the GB selection process, have long held ambitions to play on the world’s biggest stage and their rise in the game has been an impressive journey.
University of Stirling MSc Performance Coaching student, and University of the West of Scotland graduate, Waddell, said: “I got into curling through family when I was ten years old and I started playing juniors with Cammy’s brother Kyle and Thomas (Muirhead). When the other boy we played with aged out, we brought Cammy in and it’s been about six years we’ve been playing together now, coming through the juniors and into the senior ranks.”
It is a family affair in PyeongChang, with the men’s team being led by Smith’s older brother Kyle (a former Winning Students scholar) and also consisting of Thomas (another WS graduate) and Glen Muirhead, brothers of Olympic-medal winning skip of the women’s team, Eve.
For Smith, who is in the fourth year of his BSc in Agriculture at Scotland’s Rural College, curling was an obvious sporting route and the family influence on his career is clear to see. He said: “My dad used to play a lot and there was an ice rink just down from the school so me and my brother (Team GB skip, Kyle) used to go down a lot and practice just about every day after school. Gradually I then went through the u17 and u21 age groups before eventually playing with these boys and into the seniors.”
The journey from juniors to seniors has been a seamless transition for the duo as they carried their competitive edge and winning formula into the top ranks, resulting in their long-term ambition of Olympic selection. Waddell explained: “We had a pretty good career in the juniors winning the World Junior Championship which is one of our main career highlights and we recently won (senior) European silver which was a great stepping stone to the Olympics.
“The 2018 Olympics was one of our main goals for the past three or four years and even before we were out of juniors. So to be selected felt like a great achievement as becoming an Olympian is not something you get to do every day. However, the competition is the main thing for us now so, whilst it’s great to be selected, our performance is what we’re focusing on.”
Smith and Waddell are supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for 150 student athletes, who receive funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
Eighteen Scottish universities and 25 colleges form the Winning Students network with the programme being funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.
Smith has found his scholarship to be particularly helpful when trying to ensure he continues to meet the requirements of his course as well as his training and competing commitments. He said: “To do university whilst curling and trying to be an Olympic athlete is pretty tough to manage and attend lectures but everyone at the college and within Winning Students have been really supportive in helping us manage our time.”
Waddell, reiterated those sentiments, finding both the financial and academic support enables the appropriate balance to be struck. He added: “Winning Students is a great thing to have behind us. The support they give us, not only financially but in an academic sense as well, is brilliant. The finance side definitely helps with accommodation and travel costs as it lets you focus more on your studies and curling rather than any other part or full-time work you’d otherwise have.
“The staff at Winning Students have also helped me with extensions and have been great for me to lean on and ask questions when needed so I think it’s a fantastic support service for students that are actually playing sport as well.”