Scottish mixed doubles champions Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat are representing their country in Karlstad, Sweden, from April 16-23.
The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship involves 42 teams, split into six groups of seven – with countries as diverse as Lithuania, Qatar and New Zealand.
The Roaring Game Blog (RGB) spoke to Aitken and Mouat before they set off for Sweden to preview the competition.
RGB: When did you first play mixed doubles and how did that come about?
Gina Aitken (GA): The first time was three or four years ago. We saw the Scottish mixed doubles was on, entered for fun and we won! So we kept up with it from there.
Bruce Mouat (BM): December 2012 would’ve been the first together with Gina. It was a new thing for us, but we made the playoffs, got on a good streak and won. I had played before, though, in October that year with another friend.
RGB: What do you enjoy most about the discipline?
GA: The different tactical approach, with fewer stones in play. There are only five shots each end to score, so you’ve got to make them count.
BM: As a skip, figuring out the angles and how aggressive to go. The big runbacks are always fun too!
RGB: Has mixed doubles helped your play in the four-person game?
GA: Yes, you play with a different approach, more aggressive, which gives you a new perspective to take into the four-person game.
BM: Definitely. When I started playing curling I was too aggressive, so it has helped me work on strategy, angles and shot selection with so many options available.
RGB: What support have you had to get to this point?
GA: This year we’ve had my dad [David Aitken] as coach, looking at the different tactics, especially the power play. We discuss the options in games, the key opportunities and how to take advantage of them. It’s a new discipline and so everyone’s still exploring it.
BM: We train together at least once a week, as well as doing individual work on fitness and so on. We’ve had support from British Curling, who’ve set up training for us, and the clubs.
RGB: How helpful was the Latvian Mixed Doubles in your preparation for Worlds?
GA: It was a good competition so close to Worlds. Mixed doubles is so different [to the four-person game] that it takes a while to get back into it. We were able to try some things out in Latvia and had a great time.
BM: There were a lot of strong teams in Latvia, so it really helped us prepare for Worlds. We saw the tactics adopted by other teams, whether sweeping or aiming at the broom. So we can work on what we want to do and adapt to others’ play.
RGB: What targets have you set for Worlds?
GA: To come top eight. We did that before in Canada [in 2013] and believe we can do that again. Ultimately we want to go as far as we can.
BM: We had a discussion with our coach, Gina’s dad, and we aim to make the playoffs for ranking points. If we do get there, we’ll then be aiming for gold – we want to win this.
RGB: Has mixed doubles’ entry into the Olympics affected the time/focus you give to it?
GA: The Olympics has meant people are paying more attention to it. For me, I’m conscious of the qualification process for GB. We are thinking about it, but it doesn’t affect our play – we’re always going out to do our best.
BM: It definitely gives me another option – I’m open to the different curling formats. Mixed doubles is enjoyable, but I’m always aiming to make the Olympics in the traditional format. But of course I’m not going to turn down a chance to compete in mixed doubles at that level.