AN Olympic legend has called for more support for a Renfrewshire curling rink as it struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Rhona Howie trained at the Greenacres rink, in Howwood, before leading Team GB to gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Now she fears for the sport’s future unless the Scottish Government provides more financial help for businesses such as Greenacres.

Rhona told The Gazette: “Scotland has been amazing on curling’s world stage for many, many years. We’ve been so successful.

“The thought of curling diminishing in the country is really worrying for me and, if rinks can’t reopen because there is no financial support, we are in trouble as a sport.’’

Ice rinks across the country face uncertainty after being forced to close their doors due to lockdown restrictions.

Rhona, who competed at the Olympics under her married name of Martin, has hailed the role played by the Greenacres rink in developing the sport she loves.

She wants the Scottish Government to increase the financial help on offer to the likes of Greenacres and also make it much easier to access.

“The whole year has been uncertain and we fully understand the safety measures the government have put in place but it’s about looking forward to the future of curling in Scotland,” she added.

Bosses at Scottish Curling have said that, without direct support from Holyrood, many rinks face the prospect of closure, with young curlers left with nowhere to realise their potential.

Richard Harding, owner of Greenacres, said: “Normally we’re really busy during the daytime at this time of year and, this season, we were expecting lots of curlers from elsewhere after the closure of the Braehead rink. 

“It’s so disappointing, as we went to great lengths to make sure people felt safe during the few weeks we were open – and I think we achieved that.

“The furlough scheme has been very helpful, there’s no doubt about that, and Greenacres will open when we can but we need support to stay sustainable when we’re shut.’’

Scottish Curling and The Scottish Ice Rink Association say that, as curling is a sport where social distancing is relatively easy and safety protocols can be put in place, the risk of transmission of Covid is mitigated considerably.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This has been an enormously challenging time for the sport sector and we appreciate the sacrifices made by supporters and athletes over the past months to help us tackle the virus.

“We are doing everything we can with the powers we have to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion. 

"We recently announced we are establishing a £30 million discretionary fund to enable local authorities to support businesses impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19).

“We will continue to work with partners in the sporting sector, including sportscotland and local authorities, around how we best support the sector”.