I want to be known for putting English Curling on the map
Anna Fowler, British Curler, is aiming for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, and wants to be an example to other English curlers that they too can reach the top.
Curling has a rich history. Dating back to 1511, the sport originated in Scotland and was played on frozen lakes.
It also holds a special place in the heart of the British people as, at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Rhona Howie (formerly Martin) became the first Brit to win a Winter Olympic medal since Torvill and Dean.
When you watch the footage of the Curling final, with Rhona taking her final shot to secure gold, followed by the frenzied sweeping and nervous anticipation, you realise there is something unique about the sport that was born on the Lochs of Scotland.
And, just as the sport has heavy Scottish links, so too does British Curling. With all of the programme athletes being Scottish, Team Fowler’s selection was an anomaly.
But Anna Fowler is determined to challenge the status quo..
Having grown up in Kent, near one of only two curling rinks in England, Anna expresses that whilst she enjoyed numerous sports, she found curling ‘addictive.’
“It gets compared to golf, but I think it is also similar to pool or snooker. Everybody has the ability to make one good shot, but the skill of the game is to be able to control the shot every single time
“That’s essentially the skill of the game and golf is also in the same way addictive because you make one great shot and you’re thinking ‘I’m really good at this’, and then the next isn’t so great.”
Having competed in the sport at junior level, Anna always harboured ambitions to take the sport to the next level.
Whilst there is some support from the English Curling Association, she knew that in order to achieve her full potential and take the sport as far as possible, she needed to get onto the British Curling programme.
This was a path that no other English curler had walked. Whilst Team GB has an elite, full-time programme, there had never been an English alternative. But Team Fowler broke the mould when selected for the British programme.
“It was a big moment because it showed that this sport had developed enough in England for us to be recognised and to have had good enough results to be on the British programme.”
Anna competes in the mixed doubles discipline, with her brother Ben, and acknowledges that competing with family brings a unique dynamic that adds a lot of value to their performances.
“It’s extremely rewarding working with a family member, and it means we get to experience fantastic things together.
“It’s really important for our dynamic because we don’t leave things unsaid. We’re not tiptoeing around the issues, we just say it and move on, with no offence taken.”
“We also know how to motivate one another. We try to make sure that the other is in a good headspace and if they make a great shot, it’s important to consider how you make sure that they are continuing to play as well as they can.”
Team Fowler not only became the first English team to represent British Curling, but also made a success of it. As the only English team competing on the World Curling Tour, they finished 8th and, in the mixed doubles World Curling Championships, they placed 9th.
But Team Fowler’s career hit a snag.
“British Curling, funded by UK Sport, reduced the number of mixed doubles teams on the programme in favour of an extra women’s team. That was really disappointing.”
Rather than let it stop them, the pair are now self-funding their season. They are still competing on all fronts but are having to prop up their sporting career with full time employment.
Whilst it is difficult, Anna sees it as an opportunity to focus on both her career and sporting prospects.
Alongside self-funding, the pair have several sponsors to support their journey, with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics being the main objective.
But before then, the team have the National Championships and, with all going to plan, the World Championships in the first half of 2020.
Whilst it is every athlete’s dream to go to an Olympic Games, something bigger than personal pride is driving Anna: she wants to show that world class Curling is a possibility for English athletes.
“I think it’s important to be recognised as someone who broke the mould and put England on the map as a curling nation.”