ANNA SLOAN is attempting to slip quietly though the congested reception area of the Glasgow School of Sport when an eager pupil interrupts her exit.

“Could I have your autograph?” the girl asks. The Lockerbie curler seems somewhat startled by the request but flips her broom to one side and scribbles on the scrap of paper, leaving the girl with a smile to accompany her signature.

Yet the pupil is not the only one cheered by the incident; for Sloan, it is a rare foray from the shadow of sometime flat-mate Eve Muirhead. As the ingénue who was entrusted with the responsibility of skipping Great Britain at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Muirhead has unwittingly become a conductor for attention.

The rest of her rink were reduced to incidental cameos, just as they will be when the team travel to Moscow for next month’s European Championships, with Sloan joining lead Claire Hamilton, second Vicki Adams and alternate Kay Adams in the background.

It is easy to imagine such a scenario could cause friction but Sloan insists nothing could be further from the truth. “Eve’s quite humble so she doesn’t make a big deal of the attention and it doesn’t bother the rest of us in the slightest,” the 20-year-old says. “We’ve known each other for years and always been great friends so we can have a laugh about it. Besides, if we go down to Lockerbie, I’m the one that everyone knows.”

Such is the nature of Scottish curling. The way in which towns such as Lockerbie and Perth incubate pockets of excellence is an intriguing facet of the sport’s development. Sloan suggests it can be attributed to both a lack of other leisure activities and family links, noting that the involvement of her parents and grandparents made it inevitable that she would take to the rink adjacent to her secondary school.

Perhaps more pertinently, such a background is not permitted to inhibit ambition. As soon as she was old enough to compete, Sloan was travelling Scotland and immersing herself in the culture of curling before her talent became a passport for further travel.

Having been part of the rink that won gold at both the 2009 and 2011 World Junior Championships -- skipped, of course, by Muirhead -- the Glasgow Caledonian student led her own team to success in the European Youth Olympic Winter Festival and then to the World University Games in February, casting the final stone to beat Russia in the gold-medal match. “That was incredible, the attention we got,” she says of the Turkish trip. “To be honest, I was just happy to get home and away from it. It was on national television and I think they were trying to launch curling so we were mobbed by people looking for autographs, photos and even Facebook friend requests. I think I came off after the final and had about 140 new friends.”

That success also showcased her skill as a skip; something she hitherto demonstrated by beating Muirhead en route to winning this year’s Scottish Championships. Some personalities would have difficulty accepting a more restricted role but Sloan insists on accentuating the positives, suggesting that having another capable candidate playing as a third can only be beneficial to the team.

Besides, her focus is fixed further down the line, with Sloan opting to miss her final year of junior competition to become the youngest member of a callow rink with designs on the Sochi Olympics in 2014. None of the quintet is older than 22 but they will travel to Moscow next month for their first major senior event together in confident mood.

“We are probably the youngest team in the competition but we’ve played most of the others before and know what to expect,” says Sloan, an alternate last time. “In the juniors you can maybe get away with dropping a bit but it’s more important to be consistent in senior competitions. We think we can do that and we’re hoping to build a young team, work through the stages together and hopefully by the time 2014 comes we’ll be young enough to withstand the physical pressures but experienced enough to medal.”

The theory is supported by determination. Curling might not seem the most physically demanding of sports but teams can be competing for up to six hours every day, meaning the girls have a gruelling training regime befitting a more arduous discipline. Strength and conditioning sessions are held three times every week, with a further four stints of cardiovascular work as well as the time they spend on the ice every day.

Little wonder, then, that Sloan has utilised the flexibility granted by her status as a Winning Student scholar to take some time off her university course in sport and active lifestyle promotion. Temporarily released from those commitments, she spends part of her week in Lockerbie and part in Stirling, where she and Muirhead share a flat and train together. “I’m just on my way to meet her now, actually,” she reveals, having extricated herself from the autograph hunter.

Maybe, for once, the topic of conversation might be Sloan’s stint in the spotlight.


  • Anna Sloan is one of 125 athletes supported by Winning Students, which offers funding and academic flexibility to help performers in their sport as well as their studies.