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- Scottis male curler
The Winter Olympic fire was lit inside curler Hammy McMillan Jr when his dad returned from competing at Salt Lake City with a toy mascot for his son, writes Josh Graham.
But 20 years on, McMillan Jr is desperate to take the family name further and land his own golden souvenir at Beijing 2022 after being selected for Team GB as lead on Team Mouat.
It is the culmination of the best part of five years of hard work for McMillan Jr, skip Bruce Mouat, second Bobby Lammie and third Grant Hardie, who were crowned European champions for the second time when representing Scotland in November.
“My dad went to three Winter Olympics, most recently Salt Lake City in 2002,” said McMillan Jr, 29, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding.
“I was about nine or ten; I remember what was going on and I remember him being away and actually how he was never off his bike - that was his form of fitness back in 2002.
“One of the memories I do have is that Salt Lake City had three mascots, and I’ve got two little sisters, so he actually brought home a teddy mascot for all three of us.
“Did I know I was going to get to follow in his footsteps? No, not really but once curling got to that point where I wanted to do it full-time - that was my goal.
“We want to be standing on top of that podium at the end of the week, that’s our target. We’ve had a good season this season so far, playing against the best guys on tour and winning gold at the Europeans.”
Team Mouat’s evident camaraderie is helped by the fact that McMillan Jr and Hardie are cousins.
The pair got into the sport after their grandfather returned from Canada and decided to build an ice rink in their home town of Stranraer in Scotland, and they have not looked back since.
“Everyone started playing in our family, that’s where dad did it and from that point on we were in every ice rink in Scotland watching my dad when we were younger - it was something I always wanted to do,” added McMillan Jr, whose curling dreams have been turned into a reality by the impact of National Lottery funding.
Covid-19 will prevent McMillan senior from being in China to watch his son follow in his footsteps.
But the virus is yet to burst his son’s bubble after his rink picked up silver in the World Championships in Calgary in April, losing to Swede Niklas Edin’s men - a result they avenged in the European final in Lillehammer.
“We were there for five weeks in the bubble and I had a lot of friends on other teams who found it tough. But we had a really good bubble experience because we won silver and then went straight into two Grand Slams and ended up winning both.
“We were on a constant high when we were out there - there weren’t many low or dull moments, and we thoroughly enjoyed the bubble.”
Similarly strict conditions are set to be par for the course in the Chinese capital and the pressure will be ramped up as viewers gear up for their four-yearly curling fix.
“The Olympics are a bit more heightened - there’s a lot more media attention and there’s the whole of the UK and the world that have eyes on you,” explained McMillan Jr.
“Sometimes when we are away competing with Scotland, it’s just the Scottish fans that know what we are doing.
“But when you represent Team GB, the whole country loves curling and I think it’s one of the most watched sports at a Winter Olympic Games, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
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