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Ross Whyte picked up his first winners medal of 2020/21 as British Curling staged its season’s finale at the National Curling Academy only a week after the youngster claimed a World Championship silver medal. 

Just days after arriving home from Canada, the 21-year-old was back in action at Rockfest, an event which mixed up British Curling’s men’s and women’s Performance Foundation teams, as well as formats, to provide an end of term test for the next generation of athletes who are bidding to become future Olympians.

Whyte had made that trip to the Worlds as alternate (travelling reserve) for Team Mouat and even got a brief chance to take the ice in the bubble conditions in Calgary, as he helped his compatriots through an impressive campaign which took them to the final. 

The up-and-coming skip, whose team had surged through the World Curling Tour rankings in their first season on the men’s senior tour in 1919/20, had earned that invitation by pushing Mouat closest at every event staged by British Curling through the season, his team finishing as beaten finalists every time.

He was consequently delighted to be able to take advantage of their absence and claim the top prize at Rockfest after a weekend that saw Team Whyte combine with Fay Henderson’s rink to form the hybrid Team Hendyte. 

“It’s been a good year for us and we’ve always been there and thereabouts without getting across the line, so it was nice to do that today,” he said.

Rockfest saw the six men’s and women’s Performance Foundation teams form three combinations of eight players, with Team Hendyte up against Team Farmyce (skipped by Beth Farmer and Cameron Bryce) and Team Wilcraik (skipped by Maggie Wilson and James Craik) in four different formats - mixed fours, mixed doubles, hot shots and skins – and the closeness of the competition was demonstrated when the outcome was only finally decided on counting back draw shot challenge over the weekend. 

With his recent experience of playing amongst the world elite, Whyte reckoned that demonstrated how much everyone has benefited from the work done in the NCA this season and in particular the range of competitions that have been introduced to compensate for the inability to compete internationally.

“You get a lot out of the quality of practice we’ve been able to do here in terms of ensuring that technique is really good and the competitive edge you get from these events that have been set up in the NCA has been fantastic. I don’t know if it would have been as effective without that,” he said. 

“I think you could see how much we’ve benefitted from that when Team Mouat were at the World Championships last week, having had a pretty hard time of things in competitions here before going over to Calgary, because game situations are completely different scenarios to practise when you’re dealing with pressure situations.”

From a personal perspective, he could meanwhile reflect on what he could bring back to his rink and his fellow Performance Foundation players, from his latest trip with Team Mouat, having regularly travelled with them to major championships in recent years. 

“It’s hugely valuable to go to a World Championships,” he said.

“The last few times I’ve been away with the boys it’s been great. You really learn tons even just speaking to the boys and the coaches and seeing what is going on at world level and getting a feeling for that will make it a lot less scary when we get the chance to go ourselves.

“It definitely helps by giving you an idea of what to expect, so it’s maybe not as daunting, it’s just another competition.” 

Rockfest was the eighth event in all staged by British Curling this season and Performance Foundation Manager David Aitken reckoned it had been another huge success noting, in particular, the spirit in which it had been played.

“This was a great chance for our coaches and backroom staff to see these developing players in action, so it was always going to be valuable from that perspective at the end of what has been an extremely challenging season,” he said.

“What was particularly heartening in terms of overall morale, however, was the buzz that we could feel throughout the competition as the players made it clear that the only downside was that the season is finishing, because they have all appreciated just how lucky we have all been to have this facility that has allowed us to keep practising and competing throughout lockdown. 

“The standard of play was exceptionally encouraging, too, which helps us to build on the confidence generated by seeing our top teams challenging for trophies at the highest level. I am sure that there are players who were taking part in Rockfest this weekend who will go on to represent Scotland and Team GB at World Championships and Winter Olympics in the future.”

Rockfest Results:

Team Mixed MD Hotshots Skins Total
Wilcraik 8 6 8 7 29
Farmyce 8 8 4 31.5 51.5
Hendyte 8 10 0 33.5 51.5

Team Henderson & Team Whyte, Team Hendyte won the inaugural Rockfest title on draw shot challenge (DSC).

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