Hairdresser Holly takes curling to an Olympic level

Published: Friday 12 January 2024

This image shows Holly competing on the rink.

A trainee hairdresser from Hamilton is taking her curling skills to new levels...a Youth Winter Olympics in South Korea.

However, 16-year-old Holly Burke’s tools of choice are not straightening irons and a comb, but a broom and a granite stone, as she prepares to take to the ice as a member of Team GB’s six-strong all-Scottish Youth Curling squad. 

The talented teenager who left Hamilton Grammar last summer, will represent Great Britain in the Mixed Rink in Gangwon, South Korea later this month, having been inspired by the Olympics of 2018 to get into the sport, aged just 11. 

Now, just five years on, Holly has proven her skill on a variety of stages, leading to a call-up to the Youth Olympic squad. A member of the Scottish National Curling Academy, and the Scottish Curling Future Leaders Programme, she has represented Scotland at the National Junior Curling Tournament mixed doubles and been placed third in the Scottish Junior Championships in both 2022 and 2023. 

She has also worked hard to earn her place in the GB Youth Team for South Korea, having excelled at a selection day earlier this year at the National Curling Academy, presenting to, and answering a series of questions from, panel members, before taking to the ice to display her curling ability. 

At the same time, Holly has balanced her studies and a part-time job in South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture’s (SLLC) busy visitor centre café at Chatelherault Country Park. 

There are an estimated 1.5 million curlers across Scotland at all levels, more of whom, like Holly, are shrugging off the sport’s often old-fashioned image. 

This is a head and shoulders picture of Holly wearing her Team GB tracksuit, and framed by images of curling stones.


She explained: “Curling is a strategic, fiercely competitive, and physically challenging sport, which requires real athletic ability to be successful at the highest level. 

“And it’s one that I would urge all ages to get involved with; it's an amazing sport with many different aspects, like team building, competitiveness, friendship and so much more which can be played for leisure as much as for titles. 

"Yet, as with most sports, taking to the ice at the Olympics is the highest level of competitive curling and takes years of training and practice,  I’ve worked hard and put in the effort and feel I have already earned lifelong rewards like friendship, travel, and experiences I could never have expected. 

"It means so much to me and I feel incredibly honoured to be able to represent my country at the Youth Winter Olympic Games. To be selected is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I'm so grateful for."

Holly and her teammates fly out to the Far East on Sunday (January 14) for a couple of days acclimatisation before play starts. 

A few days later their friends and family will follow, including Holly’s proud parents, Caroline, and Paul. New College Lanarkshire where Holly studies hairdressing and SLLC, her employers at Chatelherault are also fully behind her. 

Added Caroline: “We are so proud of her; she has worked very hard for this opportunity and we are grateful to both NCL and SLLC for the flexibility they have given to allow her to balance studies, work and the sporting opportunity of a lifetime.” 

South Lanarkshire Council Provost, Margaret Cooper, is sending a message of support to Holly and her fellow Team GB curlers on behalf of the community. 

She said: “South Lanarkshire has a very long and successful reputation in sporting excellence, across a wide range of sports, and Holly is proudly adding youth curling to that list. 

“I have to also highlight the hard work, day in and day out that goes into creating this new generation of athletes and commend their clubs, coaches, and families for the commitment they put into supporting our young people to reach this very highest level of competition.

“On behalf of the people of South Lanarkshire, I wish Holly every success in South Korea and in all of her future endeavours.” 

*The 2024 Games are the 4th Winter Youth Olympics and will run from 19 January – 4 February in the Gangwon Province, South Korea. Curling is one of 15 sports on the programme; others include figure skating, ice hockey, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and luge.