Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Annie Laird now in Olympic squad

Karen Addison, above, will not travel to Vancouver as the fifth player for Eve Muirhead's Olympic curling team. Karen was named as the alternate back in May (see here, and here) and has travelled and played with the squad since. But she did not go to Bern recently, nor was she to be seen at the Glynhill Ladies International last weekend, leading to speculation that she might have left the squad, see here.

That has been confirmed today. The press release from British Curling says,
"Karen Addison, formally selected in December 2009 as fifth player in the women’s team – a non-playing role – has been withdrawn from Great Britain’s women’s curling team for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, which start on 12th February.

She will be replaced by Annie Laird, a world champion from the 2002 team skipped by Jackie Lockhart, who herself will play at third in the 2010 Olympic team.

As a result of the transition, British Curling (the organisation charged with preparing Britain’s Olympic curling teams) nominated these changes to the British Olympic Association (BOA) for ratification. British Curling can therefore confirm that, following the necessary processes, including time for Karen to appeal the decision, Karen Addison has been deselected from the Team GB women’s curling team.

Although given the opportunity, Karen, who had previously expressed reservations around her role in the team, chose not to appeal this decision.

British Curling has now replaced Karen with Annie Laird, and both of these changes have now been ratified by the BOA. British Curling would like to take this opportunity to thank Karen for her contribution to the programme and to wish her all the best for the future. We will continue to offer her our full support for the remainder of the season.

Commenting, Chris Hildrey, Chair of British Curling said, “We are confident that this change will not impact on performance in Vancouver as it concerns a change to the alternate position, rather than the team on the ice. The fifth player provides cover in the event of illness or injury, and we believe Annie is an excellent new alternate who can provide the necessary back-up. We wish this new line-up every success.”

The role of the alternate player in competitive curling has always been somewhat controversial. The fifth has to be a cheerleader and supporter of those on the ice, help the coach in a variety of other activities such as during the practice sessions, and the late night stone testing. They have to be able to play in the team should one of the others be ill or injured. This happened at the weekend when the USA's Olympic Team alternate Tracy Sachtjen was brought on when lead Natalie Nicholson was ill on the Saturday evening.

Then of course, there is, these days, the possibility that the alternate will be used if another team member is not playing well. The 'tactical substitution' is favoured by some, and abhorred by others. As a traditionalist, I'm in the latter camp, but what do I know! I can only see that it can do nothing for team morale, unless of course the five players, and coach, are very close and understand each others thinking on this. Lack of that, and you get Vernon. Enough said. What had been discussed about Karen's role in the GB team, and how she would be used, I have no idea.

It certainly appears from what has been written in the press release that Karen has been unhappy with her role. But for how long? Things must have become quite fraught for it have come to today's events. But that's speculation for the future, and all will no doubt be discussed when those in charge start thinking about the next Olympic cycle, and how Team GB will be found for Sochi 2014.

I'm saddened at having to write all this. And I can only imagine how much a distraction this has been for Eve, Jackie Lockhart, Kelly Wood and Lorna Vevers, as they prepare to set out for their holding camp in Canada.

Annie Laird takes Karen's place, and I wish her best wishes in her role. Good luck to our new GB five!

The BOA's Team GB website for the Vancouver Games is now active. I guess a few changes will need to be made. Karen Addison is the first athlete listed in the GB team. I note she celebrated her 39th birthday yesterday.

Top photo is of Karen Addison practising at the Le Gruyere European Curling Championships in Aberdeen. The photo above is of Annie Laird competing at the Glynhill Ladies International at Braehead this weekend. Both are © Bob Cowan