Bruce Mouat: Capital curler on coming out as gay and going for gold in Beijing at the Winter Olympic Games
Aiming to become the first British athlete to claim two golds at the same Winter Games, the 27-year-old Napier University graduate is not only going into the Olympics on top of his game. He is also going into it more comfortable than ever in his own skin.
In an interview with The Scotsman, he revealed that coming out as gay scared him at first but he now thinks it has been the best thing he’s done.
He explained: “Back in 2013 I was finding life really difficult. Who I was and the fact I was having to hide away. The team I was playing with at the time, we were getting really high in the junior leagues and travelling to European events, weekends in Switzerland and Norway, and they were lads who all wanted to talk about girls and I didn’t. I wasn’t able to be honest with them and I was really unhappy.”
It was a conversation with a sports psychologist that persuaded him to come out, first to family, then old school friends in Edinburgh and finally his fellow curlers.
“It was such a massive relief and made me wonder why I hadn’t done it earlier,” he continued. “I came out to my buddies as a kind of security blanket in case things were to go badly with curling.
“I can’t say I wasn’t extremely nervous about telling people in the sport for I couldn’t think of another gay British curler.
“Going way back to when I started playing seriously, it had seemed to me that a lot of the curling community was wrapped up in farming and there were many whose families had been curlers for generations. Suddenly not having any of that in my background scared me.
“But they were just accepting as my buddies had been. My team and everyone. That was important because curling was and is such a big part of my life. I see more of the guys I play with and against than I do my family. Everyone was great.
“They instantly said how much they were going to support me and how they would always have my back. That was exactly what I needed to hear.
“Honestly, I expected some folk to go: ‘Oh, we knew!’ I don’t know why but no one seemed to have a clue. When the current team got together I did wonder for a moment: how will they react? But it was comfortable from the start, banter straight away. We’ve got a great dynamic between us and I think the success we’ve had proves that.”
Mouat’s introduction to curling came when he was six. He played a lot of sports when he was a pupil at George Heriot’s School, but it was the strategic aspect of curling that he enjoyed the most. Born-and-bred in Edinburgh, he took up the sport in his home city. The son of a courier company boss, his first experience of the sport at Murrayfield Ice Rink was a frustrating one.
He recalled: “Dad saw a notice in the paper for [capital club] Gogar Park: junior members needed. I was six, too small and not allowed on the ice, but Colin who’s two and a half years older could play so I had to spend 18 months nose pressed up against the glass being deeply jealous of him because right away I could see that curling was fantastic fun.
“I started and Dad was next – we’ve won competitions together. And when Mum found out there were family bonspiels she got involved.”
As he bids for glory as the men’s team skip and partner to childhood friend Jen Dodds in the mixed doubles, Mouat won’t have his family to support him rinkside.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any fans at all at the Olympics,” adds Mouat, whose mother Marie, father Bob and big brother Colin will have to be content watching on TV. “It’s a shame they can’t be there but, you know, ultimately I’m going to the Games to medal. This isn’t a family holiday and while I’ll miss them, maybe it’s for the best that I won’t have the extra distraction.”
It means Mouat and teammates Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan, ranked No1 in the world, can focus on the job in hand.
Mouat has dreamed of Olympics success since the age of 10. He was too young to be allowed to stay up for Rhona Martin’s “Stone of Destiny” in the Salt Lake City Games of 2002 – “but I watched that winning shot a thousand times later.” Eve Muirhead’s bronze in Sochi in 2014 was also “inspirational”.
Now it’s all about Mouat. In the mixed doubles he and Dodds, also from the Capital, are the world champions and have a friendship which dates back two decades.
He added: “It’s wonderful to think back to when I was eight and Jen was ten and we were wee rivals at Gogar Park, competing against each other in Scottish events. Now, having started out in the club’s Young Curlers, we’re teaming up at the Olympics. Jen is bubbly, energetic, full of life and so easy to play with. Every time I go on the ice with her I know I’m going to have a laugh. But while we like banter we’re desperate to win.”
The pair have been friends since they were six years old, and won the world title together in Aberdeen last year.
Mouat added: “Doing well would be very special and would mean a lot to our club back home as well. Everyone at Edinburgh curling has been so great to us and supported us throughout our careers way before we became potential Olympians.
“Hopefully it'll motivate people to take up the sport. That would be something to cherish for a long time.”