Skip to main content

My best teacher

I owe my Olympic gold medal to my coach, Russell Keiller. I have learned more about curling from him than anyone. We've worked together since 1995 and most of all Russell has taught me about tactics and the strategy of the game.

Although I had been curling since I was 17, it was the first time I had encountered this approach. The inclination is to go straight in and throw, but now I play each shot in my head and consider all the angles before I touch the stone. He has also taught me that playing against different countries requires different strategies, which, as skip (team captain), is important.

Russell is also an outstanding coach because of the way he has given the whole team belief in themselves. He has a soft nature, which is helpful because it gives you confidence. He's not too vocal. When things are not going well, a lot of coaches will shout and hammer you for your mistakes, but Russell is very diplomatic. He is straight to the point and gently tells you that at this stage you should have done this or that. He's had a lot of experience playing at world level so he knows what it's like. He is a European champion and world runner-up.

I took up curling at Greenacres in Uplawmoor, where I am still based. My brother, Drewhowie, started me off. He was very keen and won the Scottish championships. I went with him when he went to the world championships in Canada and thought it looked great. But at first I hated playing myself.

It was cold and I fell over, and the stone, which weighs 44lb, was heavy to pick up. Now youngsters start by doing a no-lift delivery - they don't have to lift the stone. At school, we only had the usual sports like hockey and badminton so I had to do my curling out of school hours. I did OK at school - I got eight O-grades and four Highers - but my outside interests were more important to me. I studied hotel catering and institutional management, but I soon found that working weekends in hotels and curling didn't mix, so I moved to the Clydesdale Bank. Now my occupation is "housewife".

I started curling in the junior league and at 21 went into the ladies'

league, and was skip from then on. It's tough being the skip, but I enjoy that side of the game. I'm naturally pretty easy-going and well-grounded, but Russell's relaxed approach has rubbed off and helped me to be calm when I'm thinking about shots and tactics.

We've done a lot of work on delivery and I've learned from him the importance of taking every chance. He has always coached women's teams, and in competitions he sits impassively in the same position whether we are winning or losing, so you have no idea how he is feeling. I try to avoid eye contact when I am competing. It was difficult at the Olympics because he was sitting right down at the side of the ice, when usually he's a wee bit further away. But I didn't look at him at all. After I'd played the shot that won the gold medal, he told me he was a nervous wreck, although he was confident I was going to make it.

He was ecstatic about our success but we couldn't celebrate straight away. We had to go down to the medal plaza at Salt Lake City and everything was a bit rushed.

Russell and I have become personal friends as well as colleagues. Without his guidance I would not be in the winning position I am in today.

Rhona Martin, captain of Britain's Olympic gold-winning curling team, was talking to Pamela Coleman


1966 Born in Irvine, North Ayrshire

1975-83 Attends Park School, Glasgow

1983 Takes up curling

1983-6 HND in hotel catering and institutional management, Queen's College, Glasgow

1988 Comes fourth in the first World Junior Women's Curling Championships

1996 First international as skip of Scottish women

2000 Scottish ladies' gold league champions

2001 Skip of British Olympic curling team

February 2002 Team wins Britain's first Winter Olympics gold medal for 18 years

March 2002 Competes in Scottish curling champion-ships (winner takes part in world championships in US, April 6-14)

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you