Curling star McMillan taking extra precautions on his plight for Winter Olympic glory

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Hammy McMillan Jr, third from right, is heading to the Winter Olympics as a European champion as part of Team Mouat
Hammy McMillan Jr, third from right, is heading to the Winter Olympics as a European champion as part of Team Mouat

CAUTIOUS curler Hammy McMillan Jr admits he’s willing to be extra vigilant to keep his Winter Olympic dream alive.

McMillan Jr, 29, will form part of Bruce Mouat’s male rink in Beijing next month as Team GB descend on a Games dominated by Covid-19 restrictions and stringent testing protocols.

And Olympic debutant McMillan Jr, whose dad competed at Salt Lake City 2002, is enforcing a strict routine of lateral flow tests, mask-wearing and self-isolation to ensure he can board his flight to the Chinese capital at the start of next month.

The Stranraer star said: "If you miss that flight, your Olympics is probably over.

"So for us, it's all about being as careful as possible to make sure we don't catch Covid, and we know how rife it has been at the moment. It's spreading like wildfire.

"Going home for Christmas, it was back to my mum's, and it was like: okay, my mum, her partner, and my two sisters – lateral flow tests!

"I said: ‘I want you doing them every day for the next three days before I come home, and if anyone comes to the house during Christmas, make them do a lateral flow test.’

"It was just about keeping myself as safe as possible, and I barely took a mask off my face."

McMillan Jr is one of Britain's most accomplished curlers and scooped silver at the 2021 World Championships in Calgary for Scotland.

That medal saw him follow in the footsteps of his father Hammy Sr, who achieved the same feat in 1986 and 1992 before banking gold in 1999.

It is still unclear if fans will be able to attend Olympic events in February – but overseas supporters are not allowed to travel to Beijing.

And so ahead of the biggest competition of his life, McMillan Jr was determined to enjoy some form of family time over the festive period.

McMillan, one of over 1,000 athletes who are able to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support thanks to vital National Lottery funding, added: "Dinner was standard Christmas dinner, so it was turkey with all the trimmings.

"There was no holding back – but there was a bit of banter from my sisters, though.

"One of them was at a wedding the day before I came home, and mum told her she wasn't allowed in the house for two days until she'd done a lateral flow test.

"So, she had to go to her boyfriend's house and stay, and she was texting me saying how she wasn't allowed in her own house because I was coming home!

"There was a bit of banter back and forth that way, but it was fun.

"It's all started to hit home this week – Monday was the first day of Olympic training prep in terms of having everything scheduled in and a few more gym sessions and team meetings.

"But I'm just taking it in my stride. I'm quite a laid-back character, but when I'm sat in that plane heading across, that's when it will really sink in."

Omicron caused chaos across the curling calendar in late December and early January, with Canada forced to cancel its Olympic mixed doubles trials owing to rising numbers of positive cases among athletes.

And McMillan Jr admits that it had disrupted some of his preparation ahead of travelling to Beijing.

"We had a Grand Slam event planned for early January that was meant to go ahead, and it was cancelled," added the Scot, whose curling dreams have been turned into reality by the crucial impact of National Lottery funding.

"Everything sort of got heightened when we got back from the European Championships. A few guys caught Covid.

"So, it was sort of close to the camp for a while."

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise more than £30 million each week for good causes including grassroots and elite sport. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtag: #TNLAthletes