NHS staff 'unfazed' by Omicron, insists curling champion Vicky Wright

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  • Vicky Wright
    Scottish female curler
  • Eve Muirhead
    Eve Muirhead
    Scottish curler
Wright (back left) plans to continue nursing while preparing for Beijing
Wright (back left) plans to continue nursing while preparing for Beijing

By Rachel Steinberg

The NHS is ready to handle Omicron, insisted staff nurse and European curling champion Vicky Wright.

The Dumfries athlete, 28, put her sporting career on hold last year to join the front-line fight against Covid-19.

And as Plan B was announced in England, Wright’s quartet—skipped by three-time Olympian Eve Muirhead—are preparing for a backup battle of their own.

They are staring down a last-chance Beijing Olympic qualifier in the Netherlands after narrowly missing out on a quota place at the World Championships in March.

“It’s a funny one,” said Wright, who still works a shift a week on the ward. “Since day one of Covid we’ve always just been head down, get on with it.

“And that is still how it is. Whatever fate, whatever challenges we face in the NHS, we just get our heads down and get on with it.

“That’s always been the attitude and the morale. We’re there to work, we’re there to help people, and I’m very fortunate that the ward I work on, the staff are amazing.

“And yeah, we’re just like, ‘right, what’s next? We can do this. We’re never fazed by anything.”

Team Muirhead clinched European gold earlier this month in Lillehammer. It was vice-skip Wright’s first continental title, and a maiden gold for team-mates Jennifer Dodds and Hailey Duff, who made her major championship debut in the process.

It was a major boost of confidence for Wright’s rink, who must finish top three in this week’s Leeuwarden qualifier if they want to join the Bruce Mouat-led men’s side in Beijing, where Mouat and Dodds will also contest the mixed doubles tournament.

Scottish curler and NHS nurse Wright is hoping to become a first-time Olympian
Scottish curler and NHS nurse Wright is hoping to become a first-time Olympian

But Wright hasn’t had much time to reflect on the victory—or much of her life since March 2020.

“It’s kind of non-stop because I’m still working,” she said. “I’m still doing one shift a week just now at the hospital.

“So you never really switch off from Covid because you’re looking after Covid patients every time I go to work. It’s just a constant whirlwind to be honest.

“I think once the pandemic is over, that will be the time to actually reflect on it, but I don’t know if that’s going to be coming anytime soon.”

Scotland, one of the world’s curling powerhouses, finished two places outside the top six, and Olympic qualifying, at the women’s World Championships in Calgary.

It was a gut-wrenching blow to Muirhead’s rink, but Wright, who was 12 when she started curling, said her day job allowed her to put the whole thing in perspective.

“At work I’m facing life and death circumstances every day,” she said.

“Whereas here, I’ve got this amazing opportunity to achieve my dream. Things in the past that annoy me at sport, they’re so minuscule in the grand scheme of life.

“I’m just very lucky to have this chance to have a shot at my dream where a lot of people are in a lot worse situations than I am. So I don’t take it for granted.

“I just put my head down and stop moaning if I’ve had a bad day at training because in the grand scheme of things it’s not really anything.”

Wright is delighted when her patients recognise her (Picture: Perthshire Picture Agency/PA)
Wright is delighted when her patients recognise her (Picture: Perthshire Picture Agency/PA)

Well, not quite. A dream fulfilled is, after all, nothing to shake a broom at, especially if you’re a girl who grew up watching Rhona Martin slide her ‘Stone of Destiny’ to Salt Lake City 2002 gold.

“It would be a long time coming,” admitted Wright with a sigh. “And I really, really hope we manage to achieve it.

“We’re going to go out there and give it our all. And fingers crossed it does come off.”

Wright isn’t planning on handing in her notice anytime soon—but might need to put in a request for a bit of annual leave.

“It will just be how far in advance I take off, hopefully ahead of flying out to Beijing.

“[My patients] do recognise me. I say, ‘hi, this is me, this is my day-to-day job.’

“I’m just a normal person. I’m very fortunate to have the best of both worlds. I’ve got my career which I love, and I’ve got a sport that I love.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m able to do both.”

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