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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 17:09 GMT

GB's curling heroes

Fresh from their gold medal celebrations at the Winter Olympics, Britain's women's curling team answer your e-mails.

At the start of the Winter Olympics, curling wasn't exactly at the forefront of the British sporting psyche.

But the thrilling exploits of Rhona Martin, Margaret Morton, Fiona MacDonald, Debbie Knox and Janice Rankin have captured the public's imagination, and 5.7m people watched live on BBC TV as the team beat Switzerland in a thrilling final.

Ask they bask in the glory of their victory; Britain's newest sporting stars join us to answer your curling queries.

Andrew Gregory, England

What was it like to hold the GB Flag, Rhona? Thanks all of you for such a thrilling Olympic games.

Rhona: It was wonderful - a great honour.

Terry Vukman, Canada

Do you feel that having to curl in two tie-breakers sharpened your game before you played Canada and Switzerland?

Janice: Yes, it probably did. We knew for us that the tiebreak games were really like finals because obviously if we lost the first tiebreak, then we were out and if we lost the second tiebreak, we were out so they were all one-off games.

And because we played well and had two good results, we were on a roll and it kept us going for the semi and the final.

Scott Moncrieff, Scotland

Congratulations on your outstanding skill and bottle to win through to the final and slide to Gold.

Most athletes have their idols, or someone to inspire them to help make their goals come true. So who inspires you all to win when things are looking like they are going wrong, be that during the games or through personal problems?

Well done on your golden success, it's been a while since I last had tears of joy.

Janice: I'm a bit of a fan of Roger Black, I have to admit! I'm quite an athletics fan anyway and I watched him on the Olympics and the World Championships and I know that he went through injury and illness. I just think what he has achieved has been really great.

Thushara, UK

What qualities do one need to be good curling player?

Janice: Definitely you need flexibility. You need good hand-eye co-ordination, a little bit of a competitive spirit - but curling is a game you can play for fun as well so if you don't have the killer instinct you can still play for fun and have a good time.

And good team-mates as well. We as a team all know each other really really well and that helps to brings us on as players as well as team members.

Ken Turner, Edinburgh

What other sports did you watch and enjoy during the Games?

Rhona: We saw the men's curling final.

Debbie: And we went to watch the British ski-jumpers.

Tim Barton, France

Although I love watching curling on the TV, do you think any changes need to be made to the sport, such as shorter matches, in order to achieve higher audiences?

Here in France I only got to see the last three ends in your final and the coverage of the men's final was even worse.

Janice: There was talk a couple of years ago about making the games eight ends for the world championships for the television but all the players voted against it and said it is a ten-end game and they wanted to keep it as that so I think it's there to stay.

There have been rules changes with the lead stones - now we have a thing called the tee-guard stone which is where if the lead stone is outside the house it can't be hit by the opposition. Therefore it builds up more shots.

Howard, UK/USA

Are you confident that curling will catch on with young people in Britain? And what do you think that you, as successful athletes, can do to promote the sport of curling now that the Olympics are over?

Rhona: I really hope what we have done does help raise the profile of the sport. It's a great opportunity to get younger schoolchildren playing the sport. Get them started young - that's what we have to do.

Janice: Hopefully we can go and chat to school groups. The schools programme, especially in Scotland, is really taking off. Hopefully we can give them demonstrations and inspire people to take up the game.

David, Scotland

Will you be back in four years' time to try and win it again?

Rhona: I don't know. We haven't discussed it all. We've got the Scottish Championships next week, the Worlds in April so we've got that to concentrate on first of all. Then, after the season's finished, we'll decide what we're going to do.

Debbie: We're still midway through our season. We really haven't discussed it all.

Kate, Cheshire

Where will you put your medals?

Debbie: I think we'll just wear them round our necks for a while! But they're quite heavy, though, so we'll have to decide soon!

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