Menzies targeting Olympic glory after schools success

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CURLING: Duncan Menzies skipped Arbroath High School to victory in last year’s Scottish Schools’ Championships. Today he heads to Innsbruck in Austria seeking even greater success as a member of Team GB for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics.

Thomas Muirhead (Breadalbane Academy), the younger brother of European Champion Eve Muirhead, and Rachel Hannen (Hamilton Grammar) are the other Scots in the curling team. The quartet is completed by England’s Angharad Ward.

Brad Askew is the head curling coach for the Youth Olympics, and he is confident the squad can finish in the medals and provide another boost for a sport that hit the headlines when Rhona Martin skipped Team GB to gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“We have definitely got our sights on a medal,” said Edinburgh-based Askew. “If we do well it will be a huge inspiration for all the kids in the Scottish schools’ programme.

“Curling is really thriving at youth level. Eve has given the sport a great young image and the Curling’s Cool programme has really helped boost the numbers. A lot of physical education departments have signed up for the come and try sessions.”

The Winter Youth Olympics’ Opening Ceremony is on Friday the curling round-robin section starts on Saturday morning with GB facing hosts Austria.

“That should be a great start as the arena will be packed,” Askew said. “We are alongside Canada in the stronger of the two eight-team pools, but the top four go through so we should definitely make the quarter-finals.

There were 38 applicants for Team GB and Ward is the first English curler to make a GB team. Originally from Canada, she has huge experience and curled for England at the European Championships won by Muirhead in Moscow last month.

For Thomas Muirhead, it is another chance to add to the family folklore – dad Gordon won medals at World Championship level and Eve represented Britain at the last Winter Olympics. “I am thrilled to be selected,” said the 16-year-old from Blair Atholl. “Competing against the best athletes of my age from all over the world in an Olympic setting is exciting.”

The Youth Olympics are set to get widespread television coverage. BBC’s Blue Peter is to be embedded with Team GB throughout the ten day event.

This year’s Scottish Schools’ Championships take place at Murrayfield Ice Rink in Edinburgh on 16-18 March.