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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 18:50 GMT

Rankin's glorious return

By BBC Sport Online's Sophie Brown

The past month has seen a couple of big changes in the life of Janice Rankin.

The curler from Inverness left home for Salt Lake City last month as a 29-year-old unknown and now returns as a 30-year-old Olympic gold medallist, whose success has taken Britain by storm.

Rankin said all of the team had been taken aback by the media attention that their win had brought them.

"It's all very strange, unbelievable really," said the 1992 world junior champion.

Although Rankin thoroughly enjoyed her time in Salt Lake City, she says she will be happy to be home.

"I'm looking forward to seeing my friends when I get back - and other family members.

"I was lucky because my parents, my husband and my in-laws were all out in Salt Lake to watch and that meant I didn't miss much about not being at home," says Rankin.

Not that the 30-year-old, who married a fellow curler last summer, has had too much chance to enjoy home comforts this season.

"This year has been a bit different because we've been away abroad a lot," she says.

With the Scottish and World Championships around the corner, the team will not be able to put their feet up just yet.

And although the team stepped in the limelight overnight, a lot of hard work and training lies behind their achievement.

"Normally I would be on ice three or four times a week and then in the gym three or four times a week as well.

"I go to the gym before work and then go to the ice rink after work to practise.

"Then we would get together as a team on the weekend.

"Because we're all from different parts of Scotland, it's difficult to get together during the week."

Such a time commitment requires intense dedication - and an understanding employer.

"My work have been really good," says Rankin, who is employed as a recruitment administrator.

"They gave me unpaid leave for all the time I needed to go abroad this year.

"And then I get a lottery award for subsistence to cover my wages so that was all a big help."

Now she is more likely to need help in how to handle being recognised wherever she goes.

"It is taking a bit of getting used to," she admits. "But we're happy to enjoy it while it lasts."

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