ONE sport captures the imagination of the British at the Winter Olympics like no other, the arcane but fascinating pursuit of curling.
Tunbridge Wells has the only curling venue in England, and Crowborough’s Beacon Academy have been excelling at the sweeping arts.
The school has recorded huge success at three prestigious, internationally renowned events.
Sydney Boyd and Felix Price, along with former Beacon student Joe Sugden, travelled to Finland to represent England at the World Junior B Curling Championships at the turn of the year, playing against opponents up to the age of 21 from around the world.
England’s Junior Boys team were successful against Austria and Latvia and narrowly missed out on victory against the eventual winners China and runners-up Russia – both games were decided with the final shot.
The Junior Girls also beat two opponents, Australia and Romania, and came very close to beating Hungary in a contest which finished 7-6.
All three students were introduced to the sport through the school’s thriving Beacon Curling Club, which was founded in 2013 by Humanities teacher and England curling coach Owen Rees.
The students are now reaping the rewards for their hard work and commitment to the sport. Sydney says: “I started curling in Year 8 after Mr Rees gave an assembly on the club. I had seen it the year before in the Winter Olympics and I wanted to give it a try.
“It’s a team sport, and so it’s fun to play with lots of other people. The curling community are really nice, everyone is really friendly.”
Sydney was competing at the World Juniors for the first time, while this was Felix’s third experience at this level – and he now also coaches Beacon’s curling teams every week.
“Mr Rees is very driven to get as many young people into the sport as possible,” says Felix. “The way he has grown the Beacon curling club from eight to almost 50 players is pretty cool.”
Mr Rees commented: “Curling offers lots of opportunities. Players can go really far with it.”
Competing in Finland was just the tip of the iceberg, however. Two weeks later, four teams of Beacon Academy curlers entered the Under-21 Open Curling Championship at Fenton’s Rink near Tunbridge Wells, and the team of Annabelle Martin, Keara Hunnisett, Ellie Smith, Jessica Shorman and Eliza Bassett won the title.
They also tried to defend their title at the English Schools Curling Championships at Fenton but narrowly lost out in what proved a very exciting and competitive event.
Beacon’s Blue team had a nail-bitingly close final game against Walthamstow Hall. Both teams had ten points after winning five games.
Beacon were pipped to the winning post when the tie-breaker was decided on the number of ends, Wally Hall having 13 to the Academy’s 12. However, the Beacon teams still finished second, third, fourth and fifth
One parent, Becki Russell, describes how her daughter Keara has excelled at the club and is now ‘hooked’ on curling.
“Keara enjoys the fact that it’s something different, loves being part of a team and enjoys the camaraderie,” she says.
“It is a club that doesn’t need special sporting skills, just a friendly, enthusiastic attitude. The atmosphere between the children is nothing you see anywhere else.”
Beacon Curling would like thank their sponsors, Dawson Hart Solicitors for their support.
How to play
A 42-pound ‘stone’ is pushed down a sheet of ice, while two players furiously sweep the surface in front of the rock to get it as close as possible to the target, or ‘house’.
The brushing heats up the ice, causing it to become slick, which reduces friction and allows the stone to travel further and straighter as a result.