Scottish champions Team Brewster are in Basel, Switzerland, this week for the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship.
At World Women’s, Team Muirhead discovered just how difficult it is to make the playoffs at these top level events, and their male compatriots face a quality field too.
So what are their chances of remaining in contention for medals at the end of the week?
Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) have had something of an up and down season.
Their highlights include being runners-up at the Baden Masters (August) and Dumfries’ Lely Challenge (December), as well as winning the men’s title at the Curling Night in America event, also in December.
In February they dominated the Scottish Championships, losing their second round robin game but winning every match after that, including the final against Team Murdoch, 5-4.
They lost to Murdoch in the final of last weekend’s Aberdeen International, but to make it to that point they had to overcome Team Ulsrud of Norway in the semi-final – one of their real rivals for medals in Basel.
The Brewster rink may not be hugely experienced as a unit at this very highest level, but their skip certainly is – Tom Brewster won World silvers in 2011 and 2012, plus bronze in 2002 and 2013.
Alternate Scott Andrews was on board for those 2011, 2012 and 2013 championships, so can certainly help the greener members of the team, while inexperienced is certainly not a tag you can apply to their coach, Mike Harris.
The Canadian is an Olympic silver medallist (1998), and has since worked in curling commentary for CBC/Rogers/Sportsnet – he knows the world game and how to outplay/out-think the top teams.
If Brewster can show the consistency of performance they did in Perth in February – with a tendency towards playing a sensible game, keeping it tight until an opportunity to score big presented itself – then there’s no reason they can’t be challenging the teams at the head of the standings.
And there will be some very capable teams for them to challenge, not least the defending champions – Team Edin of Sweden.
Niklas Edin’s young rink have stayed together from last year, spending much of this season in Canada, banking experience against the strongest fields world curling has to offer – and taking a couple of weeks out in November to win gold at the European Championships!
Perennial challengers, and custodians of the fanciest pants in curling, Ulsrud’s Norwegians should also be in contention, and the same goes for Kevin Koe and his Canadian rink.
Having overcome what was widely considered the strongest Brier line-up in history, Koe are gunning for gold and it will take a fine performance from another rink to deny them, given their experience and quality.
Team Kauste of Finland will look to make that leap onto the podium after fourth-place finishes at the 2015 Worlds and then the Europeans in November, while Teams Michel and Shuster of Switzerland and the USA respectively will be no pushovers.
The Japanese women delighted fans with their smiles on the way to silver in Swift Current, and their counterparts Team Morozumi – and fellow Pacific-Asia qualifiers Team Kim of Korea – will also look to make an impression as the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang draw ever closer.
The 57th edition of the World Men’s Curling Championship takes place in the St Jakobshalle in Basel, the same venue where this event was held in 2012.
The round robin runs from Saturday, April 2 (with Scotland facing Korea and then Norway on the opening day) through to Thursday, April 7 – followed by page playoffs, culminating in the medal games on Sunday, April 10.
And look out for an interview with Scotland skip Tom Brewster on this site tomorrow!