Curling: First female head makes an impact

Kate Caithness
Kate Caithness
Kate Caithness is a woman who has made an impact in a man's world.

She is the first female president of the World Curling Federation and the only female president of any Winter Olympic federation.

The passionate Scot is the only female on the seven-strong board of the World Curling Federation.

"It's an interesting split. There are only six men and me," Caithness told the Otago Daily Times during last week's Asia and Pacific championships in Naseby.

She does not see it as an uphill battle.

"Oh no. I'm up for the challenge," Caithness said. "It is never a problem. I enjoy it very much.

"I can certainly stand up for myself. Let's put it that way. I'm a strong woman."

She acknowledges sports administration "is still very much a man's world. There are no two ways about that."

Caithness gives practical advice to women who join boards that are dominated by men.

"Just be yourself," she said.

"I've worked hard to get there and am not just making up a quota. I'm there by right and not just because I'm a female.

"Women can get to where they want to be in sport. They just have to do the hard yards and go the extra mile to get there."

Caithness has made an impact since she became president in 2010 and there are now 50 member countries of the World Curling Federation. The latest is Kosovo, which was admitted this year.

"Twenty-four non-curling countries have expressed an interest since the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010," she said.

"We have increased our staff and hired more curling development officers and introduced new facilities."

Caithness promoted wheelchair curling and was instrumental in making it a Paralympic sport in Turin in 2006.

A key plank of Caithness' policy is to have dedicated curling ice rinks and not rinks that are shared with ice hockey, skating and other ice sports.

The public is often under the misconception that the ice used in different winter sports is the same.

'That's not the case," she said.

"Curling ice and hockey ice are totally different. If we don't have dedicated curling ice, people can't play to the best of their ability.

"If a hockey or skating rink is changed to curling ice once a week, it is never going to be the best ice. It has to be curling ice."

Another important role for Caithness is to "spread the gospel of curling worldwide.

Last year, I was 150 days away from home."

She is also a member of the International Olympic Committee's Programmes Commission.

"I'm the only winter sport representative on this commission that makes recommendations to the IOC board about any new sport that wants to become part of the Olympics."

Curling has become more popular around the world since it became an Olympic sport in 1998.

"It is the fastest-growing winter sport," Caithness said. "It is growing at a positive rate in the Asia and Pacific region."

It was Caithness' first visit to New Zealand. She met distant cousins Hamish and Sandra Caithness during a visit to Dunedin.


The facts

• Home town: Inchbare, Scotland.
• Family: Ron (husband), 2 sons, 2 grandsons.
• Club: Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
• Administrative record: Vice-president World Curling Federation (2006-10), president (2010-12), International Paralympic Sports Council Management Committee (2005-09), Paralympic Games Committee (2006-09), International Olympic Committee's Programmes Commission (2010-12).