Team Smith and Team Muirhead fly out to Denmark today to represent Scotland at the European Curling Championships 2015.
What form are the Scots in, who are their rivals for medals, how does the competition work and how can you follow it? Read on…
Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead (alternate)) have had a terrific start to the 2015-16 season and saw off the more experienced teams of Brewster, MacDonald and Murdoch to qualify for Esbjerg.
In tour events, they reached the semi finals of the GSOC Tour Challenge (tier 2) and Swiss Cup Basel, before winning the Edinburgh International a couple of weekends back.
The teams to beat in Esbjerg will be the finalists from the last World Men’s Championship – Team Edin of Sweden and Team Ulsrud of Norway.
Ulsrud are Smith’s first opposition at the Europeans and will be a huge test, although Smith did beat them at the Swiss Cup Basel.
Other teams to look out for include Aku Kauste’s Finland, who finished fourth behind Sweden, Norway and Canada at the last Worlds, and the Dutch team Van Dorp, who have scored some notable results this season, including finishing runners-up to Smith at the Edinburgh International.
As for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid, Rachel Hannen (alternate)), they have significantly more experience at this level – skip Muirhead has picked up a European medal every year since 2010.
It’s been a steady season so far for the team, with a Stockholm Ladies Cup final appearance (they lost to hot-shot Team Homan) the highlight, before they saw off Teams Fleming and Gray to qualify for Esbjerg.
World champions Team Pätz of Switzerland and Team Sidorova of Russia look to be Muirhead’s main rivals for gold. Neither are in outstanding form this season, although Sidorova did make the final of the International ZO Women’s Curling Tournament last weekend.
Sweden’s Team Östlund are also contenders, as are the hosts Denmark, skipped by Lene Nielsen, who finished fourth at last season’s Europeans.
The 10 men’s and 10 women’s teams play each other in a round-robin format from Friday, November 20 to Thursday, November 26 – with tiebreakers to follow if necessary.
The top four teams in each competition go through to the semi-finals (1v4 and 2v3) on Thursday-Friday (November 26-27) ahead of the gold medal games on Saturday, November 28.
There are also relegation challenge games for the teams at the bottom end of the round-robin standings, with B-division (featuring England men and women, and Wales men) teams looking for promotion.
For a full run-down of the division formats, see here.
The Roaring Game Blog will be providing daily round-ups from Esbjerg, focusing mainly on Teams Muirhead and Smith but also looking at the wider picture – so watch this space.
I will also be helping out with stone-by-stone coverage for CurlingGeek here.
The World Curling Federation will have live scoring on their website, and live streaming of selected games here – and fans in Europe can watch some round-robin games and then the knock-out matches on Eurosport.