Sports Editor Claire Thomson interviews UofG student and Scotland Junior Team Skip Fay Henderson about her recent successes, motivation and goals for the future.
For several decades now, curling is a sport that Scotland has continuously excelled in at all levels of competition, including the current 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China, where the Scottish Curling Team of Eve Muirhead, Vicky Wright, Jen Dodds, Hailey Duff and Mili Smith are in with a medal hope representing Team Great Britain. It’s been a tough two years for the sporting world having struggled through strict Coronavirus restrictions and the postponement of major events, however, it’s the motivation and resilience of athletes that never fails to inspire others.
For University of Glasgow student Fay Henderson, the story and journey through the pandemic read very much the same. Having been selected to represent Team GB at the World University Games in Switzerland in December before its cancellation due to the outbreak of the Omicron variant, she must now set her sights on what lies ahead rather than the disappointment behind. Starting curling at 10 years old, Fay’s achievements to date should be admired as she is on track to follow in the steps of this year’s Olympic Curling Team.
Despite the pandemic, Fay and her team at Scottish Curling have had an incredible season so far. 2021 saw them become Scottish Junior Women’s Champion, which she described as her biggest achievement to date as the team qualified to represent Scotland at the World Junior B Playoffs, as well as win two legs of the European Junior Curling Tour in St Gallen, Switzerland and Prague, Czech Republic. It’s events like these that act as good stepping stones in Fay’s curling career as she gains international experience and makes improvements to her and her team’s performance. Unfortunately, the 2022 World Junior B Curling Championships have also since been cancelled due to the Coronavirus, however a strong performance there would have seen the team promoted to the World Junior A-League, where they would compete against the top 10 junior teams in the world.
“Fay and her team at Scottish Curling have had an incredible season so far. 2021 saw them become Scottish Junior Women’s Champion, which she described as her biggest achievement to date…”
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything it’s that support from others is crucial when it comes to believing in ourselves and reaching our goals. As with any athlete in any sport, Fay commented that success is a big motivation factor for her, however didn’t fail to mention that winning is not always everything. When a victory is out of the question, she highlights that she always sets smaller goals and targets, whether these are technical or tactical, to ensure that she remains driven during training and that her performance is constantly developing. Supported primarily by British Curling, allowing her access to the National Curling Academy in Stirling for on-ice training and the Emirates Arena in Glasgow for gym work as well as psychology and physiotherapy, Fay would have been able to have the success that she’d dreamed of without this. However, closer to home, her family and team are her biggest support and provide her with immense amounts of motivation. With only four members in a curling team, Fay described the bond between them as being very close both on and off the ice, therefore supporting each other through thick and thin.
Elite sport, however, doesn’t come without sacrifices and time management and balancing life is absolutely critical to performance. With five on ice and two strength and conditioning sessions per week as well as fortnightly competitions across Europe, a full-time university degree and a part-time job, Fay has had to learn how to become organised and prioritise what means the most to her in her life. She emphasised that it’s so important to enjoy everything that you do as it will make it easier to meet deadlines and complete everything, whilst maintaining a high level of motivation. Fay also pointed out the importance of adaptability as dates and plans can change at the last minute and you need to always be prepared.
Looking back on her favourite experiences through curling so far, Fay retold her first ever curling trip abroad to Canada at just 15 years old. As part of the Matt Murdoch Curling Foundation, she attended a training camp, which showed her the opportunities that were available to her outside of Scotland and acted as a turning point in her early curling career as it fuelled her determination to perform in the sport. Fay stated that she absolutely loved curling because of the opportunities it has provided her with to travel and make friends across the world. It has given her confidence and taught her responsibility in a whole different environment and set of circumstances. In terms of advice for others getting involved, Fay made it clear that it caters for and can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities. She recommended attending a Try Curling session hosted by Scottish Curling at ice rinks across Scotland as a good way to get involved for those who are interested.
Whilst it is still unclear what lies ahead for Fay and her team, she still has her eyes set on representing Team GB at the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympic Games. On behalf of The Glasgow Guardian, we wish Fay the best of luck and support for her future competitions!