Ewan MacDonald admits winning all three of his world championship curling golds for Scotland against the classy Canadians was “pretty special”.
MacDonald will be centre of attention at Inverness Town House on Thursday night when Highland Council hold a civic reception for him, an idea sparked then led from start to finish by his friend and former coach Tom Pendreigh.
And the 47-year-old, who was at the very top of his sport, winning world titles in 1999, 2006 and 2009, will reflect on those stellar moments on ice.
Each time, the Inverness ace had to overcome his main rivals for the prize.
In ‘99, as he played second for Hammy MacMillan, they defeated Jeff Stoughton’s hosts in New Brunswick.
Spin on seven years, Scotland, skippered by David Murdoch, were 7-4 victors over Jean-Michel Menard’s Canada side in the USA.
And, completing the treble in 2009, Murdoch’s men edged a thrilling gold-medal showdown 7-6 back in New Brunswick.
MacDonald, a two-time European Championship winner with Scotland, was inducted into the World Curling Hall of Fame in April in Canada.
Along with his wife Amy and son Jake, 20, they saw Scotland’s Bruce Mouat-led stars win 9-3 against their hosts in Ottawa.
Always looking for edge v Canadians
The rivalry against the curling powerhouses Canada was crucial for MacDonald, who explained plenty of time was spent on working out just how to beat them, to become the world’s best.
He said: “It has changed a bit now. The Canadians are still there, whereas when we played, they were the dominant force.
“I spent my sporting life figuring out the best way to beat them.
“A lot of what you did was figuring out how to get the edge on them. That came down to also having an edge on them off the ice as well.
“You were always on the front foot, so when you got on to the ice, they didn’t have anything over you.
“These days, a lot of European countries, Scotland included, are right up there. Look at the dominance of Sweden for example.
“But certainly, in my time, it was about beating Canada. To beat Canada in my three (world) finals was pretty special.”
High-level preparation mattered
Many guests attending on Thursday will be those who played pivotal roles in MacDonald’s golden success.
One such man is Kenny More, an analyst who took Scotland to new levels, according to MacDonald.
He said: “That analysis element he gave us put us ahead of a lot of other countries. It was fantastic.
“Key people and work such as that made a real impact in terms of our performance. His delivery was fantastic.
“We worked with psychologists and physios and all those people around as our support mechanism.
“Curling is always seen as this traditional, low-key sport, but we were actually quite ahead in our era.
“You look at strength and conditioning, for example. The programme we went through, you would be amazed by its importance, what we were lifting and our dedication to it.
“A lot of people don’t appreciate that and think all you’re doing is throwing stones. An awful lot more goes on.
“If you’re at that level and you’re well prepared, your performance should reflect it ultimately, and I believe that’s why we had the success we had.”
Coach and friend had early rapport
Pendreigh’s impressive coaching achievements include leading Scotland’s men to a European title in 2003, and a world crown three years later, as well as silvers for the men again in the 2005 worlds and 2006 Euros, the UK GB wheelchair curlers at the 2006 Paralympics, and the Scottish junior men at the 2007 Winter Universiade.
A long-time family friend, the 68-year-old, who owns Kilmarnock-based British Curling Supplies, explained how he and MacDonald had a rapport from early on.
He said: “We curled together locally, and at Ewan’s first Scottish Championships, which were in 1996.
“Hammy McMillan was in the main team which Ewan joined in 1998. The team I was in were still reasonably competitive, so we would always come up against them in the Scottish Championships.”
Tom’s support was so vital to Ewan
And for Team GB athlete MacDonald, having Pendreigh as his coach at key, high-profile competitions, providing the right words and the right time made a telling difference.
He said: “You need someone inspirational in that environment.
“Technically, we were good, but Tom was tremendous and knew exactly what to say at the right time. Trust is a massive thing, so you have to be able to talk and have belief in them as well.
“Tom was inspirational in that regard and great to be around. He was motivationally very good, very ‘up and at it’. He brought the best out in the guys and myself.”
Son Jake making his mark in curling
MacDonald, meanwhile, is thrilled to see son Jake making good progress in curling, but he insists there’s no pressure or chat about trying to follow in his footsteps.
He said: “Jake is loving his curling. He’s in one of the supported junior teams.
“He’s in a team which is playing the junior circuit. He’s making great progress and he’s got the right aptitude for it.
“He is motivated, driven to succeed and sees a bit of a future in it. Jake would like to get to the same levels, and I’m delighted he’s got that level of focus.
“I always encourage him not to feel the pressure and just do it for himself. It’s about him.
“You just have to give it your best crack and if it doesn’t happen you can look back knowing you’ve given your best.
“People around him in the junior scene maybe know where he’s come from, but he’s working hard for himself and that’s great. He’s his own person and he will figure it out.”