Welcome to another interview in the ECA In Profile series. Today we’re looking back at the long and successful career of England player, Kirsty Balfour. Kirsty has achieved most of her successes whist representing England as part of the England Ladies Team, but most recently played as lead of Team Woolston at the World Mixed Curling Championships. She will also play in the national championships this season, competing to once again represent England.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!
Position in team: Lead, I’ve played them all but favour Lead or Third
Years Curled: I started playing in 1990
How did you first get into curling?
My dad curls so I used to go along to watch him and play with the stones at the end of the rink. When we moved from East Lothian to the Borders I could take curling up properly as we only lived 15 minutes from the ice rink.
Where do you now play most of your curling?
Border Ice Rink in Kelso
What is your best curling memory?
I have so many happy curling memories but the 1998-1999 season was a special one. I was in my final year at university and wasn’t supposed to play that season. I ended up joining Sheila Swan’s team in the December where we went onto win the Lockerbie Juniors and made the semi-finals of the Scottish Juniors. I then played 3rd to Neil Joss and we won the Scottish Mixed Championships in our then home ice rink, the old Aberdeen Ice rink in Dyce. Not a bad season for someone who wasn’t meant to play!
What has been your proudest moment whilst representing England?
Winning the European ‘B’ Division in 2007 in Fussen with Caroline Reed, Joan Reed, Claire Grimwood and Sarah McVey. This was my first year playing skip so was probably my most relaxed year as I put no pressure on myself. The following year we managed to maintain our position in the ‘A’ Division which was also a proud moment.
Who is your inspiration?
I wouldn’t say there is just one person who inspires me. On a daily basis I am inspired and motivated by my family, colleagues, friends and patients.
Who do you think the best curler in the world is?
When I was playing ladies it would have to be Anette Norberg.
Describe your pre-match routine.
I’m pretty laid back with my pre-match routine.
- Before heading to the rink, check my bag a number of times to make sure I have all my kit
- Get to ice rink get organised
- Little bit of stretching
- A few minutes of thinking and a good chat with team mates
Have you ever had a curling related disaster?
No real disasters, but there has been many an adventure trying to get to the Europeans over the years. The most memorable one was getting to Ornskoldsvik in 2008 which involved our flights being cancelled from Newcastle due to a snowstorm. We then spent about 6hrs in the airport playing arrow words (Caroline Reed’s favourite) and watching the mini snowplough trying to clear the runway. We ended up having to fly to Stockholm via LHR where we then had to stay in an airport hotel in bunk beds before flying onto Ornskoldsvik the next day. Needless to say our bags and “Boris” our broombag didn’t arrive at the same time as us!!!
Do you have any tips for juniors and less experienced curlers?
- Get as much on ice experience as you can be it practice or game time
- That some losses are going to hurt but ultimately the wins will come
- It’s a sport and things are sometimes not going to go your way
- We play it because we love the sport
What do you do when you aren’t curling?
If I’m not working or on-call for work I try to play as much golf as I can, catch up with friends, a bit of reading and going to live music events.
What are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice?
- Having played in all positions I have a good understanding of the game and like to think that I can play well in any position.
- Understanding that sometimes it just isn’t your day
- Ability to see plan A-Z
- Now that I play lead keeping a calm head and being the team motivator, though I’m not sure if the others would agree!
My weakness used to be the out-turn but having played with Andy for the past 4 years it’s now not an issue!! I rarely get to play an in-turn now!!
What do you love about curling?
I love being part of a team, the tactical side of the sport and the many friends and memories I’ve made over the years.