Bruce Mouat was only seven when Scotland’s Rhona Martin threw what’s now known as the ‘stone of destiny’ to clinch Great Britain a Winter Olympic curling gold.
The 27-year-old says he doesn’t remember the moment in Salt Lake City two decades ago — but is sure his dad would have been glued to the screen.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, the sport created in Scotland and played on lochs across the country over several generations, was about to become an integral part of young Mouat’s life.
Great Britain curler Bruce Mouat has spoken out about how making changes to his personal life has opened doors for him as an athlete
The year was 2002. That thrilling last stone by Martin set off scenes of pure elation for Team GB, who had earned their first gold medal at a Winter Games in 18 years since Torvill and Dean whirled their way to the top of the podium in figure skating.
Twenty years later, Mouat will look to do the same when he competes in the men’s curling team event and the mixed doubles in Beijing. And he’s not pretending for one minute that anything less than a medal will do.
‘That’s what I’m aspiring to do,’ he admitted. ‘The Olympics is the big one for me. We have the World Championships every year, but the Olympics is so rare. If you get the chance to participate in one, you grab it with both hands.’
After a pulsating year of competition, winning the mixed doubles World Championship with Jen Dodds and clinching the men’s European Championship last month, Mouat enters his maiden Olympics at the top of his game.
Under his leadership, his team of fellow Scots Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan and Ross Whyte have been in dominant form on the ice with their strategic and methodical tactics outpacing and outmanoeuvring their opponents. They arrive in China as the top-ranked men’s side.
Mouat is targeting gold in Beijing this month and says coming out as gay has helped him focus on competing in the Games
Such a lofty ranking isn’t a matter of luck. Mouat has spent years strategising analysing his rivals’ game plans. Curling, he says, is also known as ‘chess on ice’.
‘Every end is different,’ he explained, ‘so to think on your feet is important. I find it exciting when you find yourself in different situations from ones you’ve been in before and trying to outmanoeuvre your opponents.
‘We use a lot of different analysis to figure out what we’re going to play and, in recent years, we’ve started to look into video analysis and data collection for each end. We try to figure out what percentages are best in every given situation.
‘So we have put a lot of effort into making sure we are finding that extra one or two per cent, where we can be the best in the world.’
Mouat’s strategical analysis didn’t actually begin on a curling rink. It was in Nethy Bridge that he honed his skills — while playing video games with his grandpa. ‘There was a video game called Granite that came out that my grandpa ended up buying me,’ he said.
‘I downloaded it to my computer and there are photographs of me and my grandpa playing it together. He’s sitting there trying to figure out what to do! It was something we both enjoyed and from there I learned a lot of strategy that probably helped me become a skip.’
Mouat (2nd left) stragetically analyses his opponent in the game he calls ‘chess on ice’
Mouat has always loved the sport. It was his older brother who was taken along to learn it in 2001, after his dad found a newspaper article asking for junior members to join Gogar Park Young Curlers in Edinburgh. He spent his days there watching from the sidelines while too young to participate but, after anxiously biding his time, he made his mark on the ice.
In Edinburgh, he met his mixed doubles partner, Jen, when he was seven and she was ten.
‘Her family had curled previously, so she was already a member at Gogar Park Young Curlers and I had just turned up,’ he revealed.
‘It took a few years to finally get on the same sheet of ice, since she was in a group higher than me, but eventually we ended up playing on Sunday mornings.
‘I don’t remember the exact moment we started playing together as a team but we found we were both in the same programme and got an opportunity to play mixed doubles together, and that has really flourished. We’re now world champions. It was such a great opportunity for us back in May when we won the event in Aberdeen — and going into the Olympics is so very special.
‘Our personalities are similar,’ added Mouat. ‘We enjoy banter on the ice as well as taking it seriously. Knowing each other from way back has benefited us. We communicate in a way we know won’t upset each other. We give each other constructive feedback and we’re fortunate that we get on really well and just seem to click.
The 27-year-old’s friends and team around him have played a huge part in his career and life
‘It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is. But we just want the best of each other. We now have two members of our junior club who not only play together, but who are becoming Olympians together for the very first time.’
The pride Mouat exudes in describing this is palpable. His friends and the team around him have played a massive part in his life over his most formative years.
Since 2014, that support has been even more crucial to his development, both as a person and as a player.
It was in that year that Mouat took a leap of faith and came out as gay to those playing alongside him on a regular basis.
‘Around 2014, I told my junior men’s team,’ said Mouat. ‘I had a bit of concern telling them, because we were all teenage boys at the time and the guys were all talking about girls and growing up, that kind of stuff. For me, not having the same experiences and not wanting to talk about those sort of things, I felt it was finally the right thing to do.
‘I told them and they said straight away that if I had any issues or anyone gave me gyp, they would fully support what I was doing.’
It was, he admitted, a massive weight off his shoulders: ‘Before that, I was having some issues within myself and my own mental health. It was more to do with not feeling accepted within the community of curlers.
‘As soon as I opened up, however, I felt that immediate acceptance and it really opened my mind up to concentrating on the curling and not really caring what was going on around that.
Mouat (far right) said he felt ‘immediate acceptance’ after revealing he was gay in 2014
‘Having that kind of pressure on myself in 2013/14 and trying to hide away from telling my team-mates was causing me a lot of concern.
‘As soon as I told them, it was out there. Literally, I only had to tell about three or four people and it just spread like wildfire. So that was great for me because everyone knew and I was able to concentrate on becoming the best curler I could be — and that obviously helped my team-mates because I was the skip and we were starting to win events.
‘Having the relief and the knowledge that my team supported me no matter what, helped us win the World Juniors in 2016.’
Mouat waited several more years before coming out more publicly.
However, at a Q&A session with the World Curling Federation in 2021, he was asked a question through the app that led to an open, frank discussion about his sexuality.
‘People obviously already knew, and it wasn’t a great surprise to anyone,’ he laughed.
‘But that was quite a special moment, to get those messages. I got a ton of support and a lot of people thanking me for speaking openly about it, which is amazing. I was grateful to be able to talk about who I am and I wasn’t scared to do it.
‘Further down the line, I did a piece on it for Rainbow Laces Day which spread the news even wider. For me, doing it in curling was a very freeing experience. A lot of people have supported me.
He has had nothing but support and has urged others to find people they trust if they feel comfortable to reveal their sexuality
‘I don’t know if there are a lot of gay people in the curling community, there’s certainly not a lot of elite curlers who are gay. There are a few in Canada that I have spoken to and with whom I’m pretty friendly now.
‘I got some advice from one of them, about how he came out and the support he got. It’s similar to what I had. As far as I’m aware, I haven’t had any problems or issues with anyone who knows I’m gay.’
For the Scot, coming out is very much a personal choice. He believes it’s something people have to feel comfortable with, an individual decision that differs from person to person.
‘I’m starting to see the benefits in talking about my story and it’s nice to get personal messages about it,’ he said. ‘If people are willing to share their story and want to come out, the only message I’d have is to feel comfortable enough to do it.
‘Tell a few people when you have a core group of people you can trust. You know you can always fall back on them if you ever do get any negative reaction to it.’
Trust and happiness go a long way to a winning-team mentality. Mouat and his rink will now aim to use that in Beijing when they go for gold.
‘The performances we have put in the past year have allowed us to aim for medals,’ he declared.
‘We’re aware the Olympics are tough and there’s a lot more competition and pressure that comes with it, but we’ve worked hard outside of the rink to help us prepare and not let the environment swallow us up.
‘We hope to go there and do as best we can. If that’s two medals for me, it would be a dream come true.’
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