Teams Fleming and McNay take the plaudits

TeamFleming-Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart
SMILES: Team Fleming. Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart (Perthshire Picture Agency)

Team McNay emerged victorious at the Dumfries Open, while over in Switzerland Team Fleming reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Masters Basel.

The weekend also saw the Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship take place, and Scotland (Team Hardie) begin their campaign at the World Mixed Curling Championship.

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The Women’s Masters Basel involved two Scottish rinks – Teams Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) and Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray).

Fleming took the simplest possible route to the playoffs, as wins over Witschonke, Norberg and Matsumura sent them straight into the quarter-finals.

Muirhead – the reigning champions – also began well, with victories against Widmer and Hegner, but a loss to Fujisawa (giving up three steals in the last four ends) knocked them down onto the B-Road.

A second defeat, to Sidorova, followed, but Muirhead then beat Widmer again and Sigfridsson to set up a last-eight clash with Fleming.

The all-Scottish match went Fleming’s way, as they scored twos in ends three and five and one in end eight to win 5-4, and Muirhead’s title defence was over.

Having put so much into that match, though, things rapidly fell apart for Fleming against Feltscher in the semi-finals… the Swiss rink winning 8-1.

The final went the way of Bingyu Wang’s rink, the Chinese team beating Feltscher 9-3 to claim the title.

For Hannah Fleming, who had not beaten Muirhead since 2013, this win (and overall tournament performance) will give her and her team-mates hope of narrowing the gap to their Scottish friends and rivals as the season goes on.

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The second event in this year’s Goldline Scottish Curling Tour, the Dumfries Open, saw 10 teams take part – initially separated into two pools of five.

Team Jamieson topped Pool A with four straight wins, while Team Gallacher clinched Pool B and the other direct route into the semi-finals.

To see who would join them, Bryce met Taylor and McNay faced Pougher of Wales in the quarter-finals – which went the way of Bryce (8-3) and McNay (7-5).

Both of those rinks then won in the last four, Bryce seeing off Jamieson 7-4 and McNay breezing past Gallacher 7-1.

The final was a see-saw affair, with Bryce stealing their way into a 3-0 lead but McNay scoring three in the third end to level, before the teams traded singles up to end seven, where McNay scored two.

Bryce were forced to one in the eighth end, taking the game into an extra end, but McNay held hammer and scored one to win 7-6 – meaning it was they (Cameron McNay, David Baird, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) who took the title.

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The Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship was held at Stranraer Ice Rink over the weekend, again with 10 teams in two groups.

The round robin stage ended with Teams Adam, Cannon, Kesley and McQueen making the semi-finals.

There, Adam beat McQueen 9-2 and Cannon overcame Kesley 8-5, setting up a final which was won 6-5 after an extra end by Adam (Graeme Adam, Alison McLennan, Stuart Wilson, Carolyn Hibberd).

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There were 16 teams involved in the first Asham Under-14 Slam of the season at intu Braehead.

The final saw Team Munro (Robyn Munro, Findlay Hare, Rory Dodds, Ben Kyle) beat Braehead Rockers 5-3 in four ends.

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Finally, at the World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, in Champéry, Switzerland, Scotland (Grant Hardie, Rhiann Macleod, Billy Morton, Barbara McFarlane) have two wins and a loss so far.

They opened with wins over Spain and Ireland, only to then lose 6-5 after an extra end to Korea.

Their next match sees them face Denmark; you can stay up to date with the scores from the tournament here.

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Gushue and Paetz win in Basel and Stockholm

TS_CurlingKyleSmith-8 - Pertshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart
Kyle Smith delivers a stone. Pic: British Curling/Perthshire Picture Agency (Graeme Hart)

The quarter-finals proved the limit for the Scottish rinks in action this weekend, with Team Mouat’s unbeaten start to the season finally ending in Basel, while Team Jackson gave a good account of themselves in Stockholm.

Team Drummond joined Mouat in the Swiss Cup Basel last eight, but neither could go any further, as the big European titles were claimed by current/former world champions in Teams Gushue and Paetz.

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There were four Scottish rinks in Switzerland for the Swiss Cup Basel – Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith.

Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) began with three straight wins – over Retornaz, Sciboz and Stjerne – to make the A-Road final, only for them to miss out 6-5 against Ulsrud of Norway.

That proved the beginning of the end for them, as two more 6-5 defeats – against Kauste and Van Dorp – finished their challenge.

Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow, Derrick Sloan) opened with a thumping 8-1 win over Wunderer, but then lost to Baumann and Bruggmann to drop to the C-Road.

But victories over Heinimann and Walstad took them to the C-Road final, where they won their rematch with Baumann 6-1 to secure a playoff spot.

Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) had won two tournaments in Ontario last month without losing a match, and they made it W15 L0 in Basel by seeing off Hess, only for the winning record to come to an end against De Cruz.

They responded by beating Snitil and Van Dorp, only to lose to De Cruz again to drop to the C-Road, where another win over Hess put them into the C final against Smith.

Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) had reached that point courtesy of wins over Staehli and Van Dorp, defeats to Gushue and Edin, and then victories against McCormick and Stjerne.

Team GB’s chosen ones for the Olympics lost to Mouat in the quarter-finals of the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, and it was the same story here – Mouat stealing their way into a 4-0 lead and winning 5-2.

That left Drummond and Mouat as the Scottish sides left standing for Sunday’s quarter-finals, but De Cruz scored twos in ends seven and eight to beat Drummond 7-4, while Mouat went toe-to-toe with Ulsrud but lost 5-4.

Canadian rink Gushue took their fifth Swiss Cup Basel title by defeating Ulsrud 5-2 in the final.

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At the Stockholm Ladies Cup, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) had their challenge ended early with three defeats – to Sundberg, Christensen and Paetz.

They did end on a high though, with a 5-4 win over Jentsch.

Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair), meanwhile, edged into the playoffs (via draw shot) with a W2 L2 record – beating Matsumura and Wang, defeated by Sidorova and Wrana.

The quarter-finals pitted them against Paetz, and a three in end six proved crucial for the Swiss rink in their 6-4 win – and they went on to secure the competition crown, beating Kim 9-8 after an extra end in a high-scoring final.

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Team Hamilton (Claire Hamilton, Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen), meanwhile, played their second competition in Canada – the Avonair Cash Spiel in Edmonton, Alberta.

They went out with three losses – to Marthaller, Kaufman and Nichol – although there was a Scottish winner of sorts… Nadine Scotland’s rink taking the title.

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Finally, the Kinross Junior Classic (Asham Under-21 Slam) also took place over the weekend.

Teams Kinnear, Morton, Craik and Haswell qualified from men’s Groups A and B, with Teams Findlay, Bryce, Morrison and Davie progressing from the women’s pools.

The men’s final pitted Craik against Kinnear, and it was the former – made up of James Craik, Mark Watt, Angus Bryce, Niall Ryder – who triumphed, scoring three in end two and four in end four on their way to an 8-4 win.

The women’s final brought victory for Morrison (Rebecca Morrison, Amy MacDonald, Hailey Duff, Leeanne McKenzie), who scored two in end one and three in the fourth to beat Davie 5-3.

Team Bryce pick up second title of season at Braehead

bryce win braehead open
Team Bryce, Braehead Open winners. Pic: facebook.com/CurlingTeamBryce

The first Goldline Scottish Curling Tour event of the season took place this weekend, with Team Bryce claiming the Braehead Open title.

Elsewhere, the new Team Hamilton competed at the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Canada, and fell just short of a quarter-final spot.

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The Braehead Open involved 22 teams in two sections, playing three pool matches ahead of the last 16.

The rinks making the quarter-finals were Teams Bryce, Carson Gray, Hardie, Hare, Ireland, Marshall and Woolston.

Bryce and Hare met in the final, which was 3-3 after five ends, but after Hare scored two, Bryce claimed three, meaning Bryce went into the final end 6-5 up but without hammer.

They managed to force the error, though, stealing one for a 7-5 win – and added to the Tallinn International they won earlier in the month, that’s two wins from two events for Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle).

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The new-look Team Hamilton (Claire Hamilton, Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) were the latest Scottish rink to head across to Canada – for the Colonial Square Ladies Classic in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In a triple knockout format, they began with a 7-6 loss to Flaxey to slip onto the A-Road, but wins over Eberle and Fleming set up a B-Road final with Jennifer Jones’ rink.

The Olympic champions won that encounter, and Hamilton’s campaign was ended in the C-Road final, as they lost to Holland, just one match short of a quarter-final place.

Still, a decent start for the team, ahead of their participation in the Avonair Cash Spiel next week.

Team Muirhead triumph as Scots shine in Canada

Muirhead HDF Shootout
HDF Insurance Shoot-out winners, Team Muirhead (pic: twitter.com/Team_Muirhead)

Team Muirhead continued their strong start to the season by picking up the HDF Insurance Shoot-out title in Edmonton, while three more Scottish rinks made the playoffs at the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall, Ontario.

Teams Drummond, Fleming and Smith performed well against a class field, only to fall short in the knockout stages.

All in all, coupled with Team Mouat’s double success in Oakville, it’s been a very promising start to the season for the Scots.

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The semi-finals had been the limit for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) in their first event of the season, the GSOC Tour Challenge, and they continued that fine form into the HDF Insurance Shoot-out.

Wins against Teams Scott, Robertson, Kleibrink and Ramsay, before a loss to Team Wang of China, sent them safely into the quarter-finals, where they defeated Team Rocque 8-4.

The semi-finals brought a 5-3 victory over Robertson, which set up a final against Team Hasselborg of Sweden – the rink which had knocked them out at the Tour Challenge.

After the teams traded twos, Hasselborg moved 5-2 ahead after seven ends, only for Muirhead to score three in the eighth and then steal two in the extra end to win 7-5 and claim the title.

It’s been an excellent start from the Muirhead rink – can they keep it up in their big Olympic year?

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At the AMJ Campbell Shorty Jenkins Classic, meanwhile, Teams Drummond and Smith took part in the men’s event, with Team Fleming on the women’s side.

Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Glen Muirhead, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were drawn in the same pool, and Smith won their head-to-head 5-3.

Both sat on W2 L2 records going into the final pool matches, where Smith beat Howard 6-5, and Drummond overcame world champions Gushue 4-3 after an extra end – Smith having also beaten Gushue to help them progress to the playoffs.

The quarter-finals saw Smith bow out, beaten 6-5 by Walstad of Norway, but Drummond made the last four by defeating Robillard 8-6.

They could not get past Olympic champions Jacobs in their semi-final however, losing 6-3, with Jacobs going on to beat McEwen 3-1 in the final.

Still, with two wins over Gushue and runs to the playoffs, it had been a very positive event for the Scots.

The same goes for Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), who qualified for the women’s playoffs thanks to wins over Tirinzoni, Arsenault and Belisle.

They lost 8-6 to Duncan in the quarter-finals, giving up a steal of two in the eighth, as Team Sinclair of the USA ultimately took the title, but for Fleming to make the playoffs when the likes of Flaxey and Tirinzoni did not is also encouraging.

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Finally, the first Asham Under-21 Slam of the season took place this weekend – the Greenacres Junior Masters.

Teams Baird, Carson, Craik and Whyte qualified for the semi-finals on the men’s side, with Teams Bryce, Davie, Farmer and Morrison coming through on the women’s.

The last four saw Baird beat Carson and Whyte beat Craik, while Davie beat Morrison and Farmer defeated Bryce.

The men’s final brought victory for Whyte (Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Fraser Kingan, Euan Kyle), who stole one in the extra end to win 7-6.

And the women’s final was won by Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Anna Skuse, Emma Barr), 7-5 over Farmer.

Mouat double up with Oakville Fall Classic title

Mouat win Oakville Fall Classic
Team Mouat with their second trophy in two weeks. Pic: facebook.com/teammouat

Team Mouat have enjoyed a storming start to the season, adding the Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic title to last week’s Stu Sells Oakville Tankard win.

Bruce Mouat shuffled his pack over the off-season, bringing in Grant Hardie and Hammy McMillan, and the results have been instant.

More on them in just a moment, but first here’s what happened at the first Grand Slam of the season…

Solid start for Muirhead

First competition of the new season for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), and a run to a Grand Slam semi-final.

The Tour Challenge in Regina, Saskatchewan, provided the first real opportunity for the sport’s big guns to size each other up, and it turns out the British Olympic women measure up well.

They made the playoffs the hard way – beating Harrison and Homan, but losing to Wang and Sweeting, meant a tiebreaker against Tippin, which they won 5-4.

Skip Muirhead then shot 88% to guide her side past Pätz in the quarter-finals, but Hasselborg of Sweden were too strong in the last four, winning 6-5 after a crucial steal of two in end six.

Not a bad platform for Team Muirhead to build on for the rest of the season.

Muirhead told British Curling: “Reaching a Grand Slam semi-final on our first outing of the season is no mean feat.

“The competition out here is the best in the world with the highest level of curling there is.”

Also performing well in their first event of the new season were Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), who took part in the Tier 2 section in Regina.

Like Muirhead, they won two (against Eberle and Silvernagle) and lost two (versus Feltscher and Sidorova) in the round robin stage, forcing them into a tiebreaker.

Fleming pushed Lawton all the way, but lost out 6-5.

The eventual women’s champions were Team Sweeting (Tier 1) and Team Einarson (Tier 2).

Struggles on men’s side

Things were not quite so promising for Teams Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) and Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) on the men’s side at the Tour Challenge.

There’s plenty of work for Smith to do ahead of the Olympics, underlined by four defeats – to McCormick, Edin, Simmons and Epping – in their Tier 1 pool.

In Tier 2, Drummond managed to go one better than at last week’s Oakville Tankard by winning a game (against Jacobson), but losses to Brown, Gunnlaugson and Lyburn ended their challenge early.

The men’s winners were Team Gushue (Tier 1) and Team Gunnlaugson (Tier 2).

Mouat at the double

Away from the Grand Slam, but still in Canada, Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) took part in the Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic.

Brewster lost their first three pool games (to Mabergs, Kim and Steski), which meant that their victory over Zou was only a consolation.

Mouat, by contrast, cruised through the group stage, beating Retornaz, Baumann, Maus and Dickie to book their passage to the quarter-finals.

Further wins against Horgan (6-5) and Schwaller (8-7, stealing one in an extra end) sent them into the final, where they faced Chang-Min Kim of Korea.

It was a tight match, with only singles scored as it went to an extra end, but Mouat held hammer and scored their one to win 4-3.

That’s two events entered and two titles gained for Team Mouat to start the season, and they’re yet to lose a single match (played 14, won 14).

It’s going to take a good team to stop these boys if they keep this up!

Bryce and Mouat get Scots off to a flier

Mouat win Oakville Tankard
Team Mouat, 2017 Stu Sells Oakville Tankard winners. Pic: twitter.com/DMurdoch17

That didn’t take long, did it? One week, two events, two Scottish wins in World Curling Tour events.

We’re barely into September, but a slightly altered Team Bryce and a rather more different Team Mouat have already secured their first titles, in Tallinn and Oakville, respectively.

With our first Grand Slam of the season just around the corner, here’s hoping that Scottish curling can carry this initial form further into the season.

Bryce rise to the challenge

While four Scottish teams headed west to Canada, Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) went east to Estonia, for the Tallinn Challenger.

They cruised through the round robin stage, finishing with four wins (against Teams Truksans, Lill, Svensgaard and Jungen) and no defeats.

They faced Team Eremin (Russia) in the last four, and a 7-3 win put them into the final against Team Gulbis of Latvia.

Again Bryce were just too strong for their opponents, scoring three in end three and stealing two in the fourth on their way to a 7-2 victory and the Tallinn Challenger title.

Skip Cameron Bryce told British Curling: “The whole team played really well, although we are still learning with our change of line-up for the season.”

The team now return to the new National Curling Academy, to prepare for the Braehead Open (September 22-24).

Mouat takes Tankard triumph

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith ensured Scotland was well represented at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard in Ontario, but it was Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) who finished top of the pile.

I said in my season preview that I was excited to see what these boys could do on tour this season… it looks like I have my answer already.

Things were not so rosy for Team Drummond, though, as they lost to Mouat, McCormick and Deruelle to bow out early.

It’s early days for this rink, certainly, but they will be hoping for more at next week’s GSOC Tour Challenge (Tier 2).

Team Brewster have also rung the changes, and they had something of a rollercoaster in Oakville – a defeat to Fournier to drop onto the B-Road, wins over Corbett and Kim, a loss to Clark, victory over Stjerne, and finally a defeat to McCormick to end their involvement.

Team Smith, by contrast, have kept the same roster (only adding Glen Muirhead as alternate ahead of the Olympics), and they made the quarter-finals in Oakville.

Not that it was a smooth journey. Beaten by Kim first up, they then saw off Zou and Horgan, lost to Simmons to land on the C-Road, but then overcame Fournier and Gunnlaugson to make the playoffs.

Those quarter-finals pitted them against Mouat, who had sailed into the last eight thanks to four straight wins – against Ainsley, Drummond, Horgan and Clark.

Mouat dominated the all-Scottish meeting, taking three in end one, then a steal, and then twos in ends four and six to win it 8-3.

Mouat’s semi-final was tighter, but one in end eight was enough to see off Horgan, setting up a final against Kim of Korea.

The Korean rink scored three in end four to lead 3-1, but twos in ends five and seven, plus a steal in the eighth, gave Mouat a 6-4 victory – making it W7 L0 at the event.

For this team to have gelled this quickly is highly impressive, especially given the quality of the other teams on show.

So that’s $8,000 in the bank for Mouat already; their next event is the Oakville OCT Fall Classic (alongside Brewster) – can they maintain their hot streak?

2017-18 curling season preview

Olympic Curling Teams - Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme HartTHE CHOSEN ONES: Great Britain’s men’s and women’s curlers for Pyeongchang 2018 (Team Muirhead and Team Smith). Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart

Who said anything about a quiet summer break?

There have been some huge changes in the landscape of Scottish curling over the last few months.

There’s the personnel changes, of course.

David Murdoch’s playing days are over, with one of the stalwarts of the Scottish game retiring from competitive curling and switching to coaching.

The subsequent reshuffles have thrown up some intriguing team combinations for the new season.

Murdoch’s third Greg Drummond has moved up to skip, piloting a rink which also consists of Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon and Michael Goodfellow.

Heading in the opposite direction to Paterson is Scott Andrews, who joins an all-new Team Brewster, with Tom Brewster also welcoming Duncan Menzies and Alasdair Schreiber to his quartet.

Team Bryce have added Ross Whyte to their roster, while Bruce Mouat’s new rink has a bit of a rockstar look to it.

Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan are all on board – it’s a team packed with talent, so I’m excited to see what they can do in Scotland and on tour this year.

There are changes on the women’s side too, notably Sochi 2014 medallist Claire Hamilton coming into skip Gina Aitken’s team – Aitken moving to third in place of Rowena Kerr.

Some teams have stuck with the same formula of course, including the rinks selected to represent Great Britain at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (oh yes, it’s an Olympic year!) – Team Muirhead and Team Smith.

There have of course been changes outside of the teams themselves, including the opening of the National Curling Academy in Stirling, which will hopefully see Scotland/Britain keep up with the world’s top – and emerging – curling nations.

The Curling Champions Tour and World Curling Tour have merged, and – closer to home – it’s good news to see the Scottish Curling Tour expand and gain a swanky new website.

Scotland (Aberdeen to be exact) will host the 2018 World Junior Championships, which can hopefully build on the interest generated by the Olympics (the countdown to #lovecurling trending again is underway…) the month before.

The Olympics have pulling power that individual winter sports can only dream of, so it’s vital that curling (Scottish curling in particular) uses its events this year to draw more fans, and maybe the next generation of players, to the game.

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Last week gave us a taste of what’s to come, with Teams Bryce and Jackson representing Scotland at the latest ‘Curling Night in America’ event in Omaha, while Judith and Lee McCleary flew the Saltire at the Audi quattro Winter Games in New Zealand (making the quarter-finals but losing to eventual champions Estonia).

This weekend sees things move up a gear. The first Grand Slam event of the season is on the horizon – the Tour Challenge (Tiers 1 and 2), on September 5-10 – and so there are four Scottish rinks over in Canada.

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith will all fight it out for the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, with eyes on Smith in particular.

Victory in Oakville (in the Oakville OCT Fall Classic) was one of the highlights in an impressively consistent (also consistently impressive) season which saw them get the nod for the Olympics.

How will they handle that extra pressure as Pyeonchang approaches? They’re still a young team, but they’ve been together for a long time and they know how to beat the world’s best.

Eve Muirhead has described an Olympic appearance (and medal) as putting a target on your back, and we’ll get our first chance to see the Team GB women at the Tour Challenge in Regina, where Team Fleming will also compete.

Excited yet? You should be. The changes over the summer simply add another dynamic to what promises to be a thrilling Olympic season.