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A day Lauren Gray will never forget . . .

Her 22nd birthday was exactly a month earlier but, for Lauren Gray, December 3 is the date she will always remember as the most special in 2013.

FIFTH ELEMENT: Lauren Gray  is the alternate  for Eve Muirhead's Olympic rink. Picture:  Leslie Ingram-Brown
FIFTH ELEMENT: Lauren Gray is the alternate for Eve Muirhead's Olympic rink. Picture: Leslie Ingram-Brown

It began with her sitting, and passing, her driving test, while later that day she graduated with Honours from Glasgow University.

Yet what has to be the highlight of the day in question occurred between those substantial life landmarks. "The day I got selected [for the GB Olympic curling team] was massive for me," she says. "I had my driving test at 9am; I got the call [about her Olympic selection] at 11 and then graduated at 3pm, so I was just an emotional wreck by the end of the day. I don't know if it's properly sunk in even yet. It's been a bit of a whirlwind because, as soon as I got selected, we were away to the World University Games in Italy, then home for Christmas, then on to Berne."

At that Berne International last weekend, Gray had a chance to practise the role she will fill at the Olympics in Sochi next month where she will be the alternate to Eve Muirhead's rink: their reserve player.

The approach for the Great Britain women's team is very different to that of their male counterparts, who are effectively operating a rotating five-man squad. Muirhead's established quartet will play in their regular places throughout, with Gray simply there to cover for illness or injury.

The dummy run in Berne could hardly have gone better; another significant win was achieved by the reigning world champions. "Because it was Eve's last tournament before the Olympics, I went there as a trial role to support them because I hadn't spent time with them for a few weeks," Gray explained.

That placed her in what was surely an odd situation, since her own regular rink, skipped by Hannah Fleming, was also playing. With both groups involved in the national development programme, though, it all remains amicable.

"It just so happened that the only tournament both rinks have been in was Berne and, the way it worked out, we actually missed playing against one another there, so we've actually been operating in different circles," Gray explained. "Eve's been in Canada in the slams while we've been operating on the European circuit.

"Because Eve's rink is not playing in the Scottish [Championships] I wouldn't say there was any real rivalry between us."

That is not expected to remain the case since Fleming's rink - they were the 2012 junior world champions - were the beaten finalists as Muirhead annexed her latest Scottish title last year. As the world champions are absent from this year's tournament - it has been scheduled to be contested at the same time as the Olympics - they will be among the favourites next month.

They will obviously have to make their bid without Gray, but Abi Brown, a member of their junior world championship-wining rink, has been lined up to fill in.

While her soon-to-be Winter Olympics colleagues are enjoying the ­glamour of Las Vegas this week - they put down another marker by thrashing Jenny Jones' Canadian Olympic rink in their opening match at the Continental Cup - Gray is in her regular position at the Glynhill Ladies International in the more prosaic surroundings of Braehead Arena. "This is absolutely perfect for me," she admitted. "I was supporting the girls [Muirhead's rink] in Berne at the weekend.

"They did fantastically well and won the tournament but, when we came home on Monday they flew out to Vegas. After training hard all week I'm now getting a chance to compete this weekend, which keeps me playing competitively.

"If I [had gone] to Vegas, I wouldn't throw a stone and, at this point in my development and about to go to the Olympics, that wouldn't benefit me at all. It would be fabulous to go there [to Las Vegas] - and they're having a ball - but it's best for me to be competing."

On the basis of yesterday's results it is perhaps something of a cheap shot to suggest that the competitive practice was very much required but, by their own standards, they gave away a few of those themselves in dropping out of contention for the main prizes in minimum time.

A brace of hefty losses - 7-2 to Silvana Tirinzoni's rink (one of six from Switzerland among the 16 competing at Braehead) and 8-1 to that of China's Wang Bingyu - eliminated them from the main event.

That Wang's team is one of three Olympic rinks here - those skipped by Switzerland's Miriam Mott and Russia's Anna Siderova are the others - speaks to the quality of the entries.

The other two Scottish rinks - they are skipped by Jennifer Martin, daughter of 'stone of destiny' Rhona, and Lorna Vevers - also found life difficult on the opening day.

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