The good news just keeps coming for Scottish curling. Not bad timing with the Winter Olympics round the corner.
Having opened the National Curling Academy this year, Scottish rinks have made their impact at the World Mixed Curling Championships (gold for Team Hardie), the Grand Slam of Curling (National men’s title for Team Mouat)… and now the daddy of the lot.
Team Smith and Team Muirhead, Great Britain’s chosen ones for the Olympics, have returned from the European Championships with gold and silver medals after quite brilliant campaigns in St Gallen, Switzerland.
Team Muirhead party like it’s 2013
Four years ago, with just months to go until the Sochi Olympics, Team Muirhead won European Championship gold by beating Sweden in the final… and now they’ve done it again!
The 2017 vintage (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)) began their campaign with a defeat – to Sweden, 5-2 – but then rattled off six straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.
They saw off Russia (8-7), Denmark (6-1), Italy (8-1), Germany (8-5), Turkey (8-3) and the Czech Republic (8-4), before finishing the round robin with a loss to Switzerland (9-7 after an extra end) and victory against Hungary (9-3).
Coming third in the women’s standings meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni), and after stealing two in the third end, the Scots gave up three in the fourth.
A steal in end six moved the Swiss 4-2 ahead, but after exchanging singles Muirhead hit back with three in the ninth end, and then a steal in the 10th to win 7-5 and make the final.
They faced Team Hasselborg for the gold, with the Swedes looking to win their 11th straight match in St Gallen to take the title.
The rinks exchanged singles, with Sweden leading 2-1 at halfway, but an open hit for two in the sixth end put the Scots ahead, and steals in ends nine and 10 saw them win the match 6-3 – giving them their golden moment.
Medal breakthrough for Team Smith
On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead (alternate), Viktor Kjäll (coach)) were back at the Europeans, after previously representing Scotland in 2015.
It’s not been a vintage season so far for the rink, but they got off to a great start here, winning their first three round robin games – against Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).
That run came to a halt against Germany, as they lost 6-4, and then it was a case of ‘win one, lose one’ for the rest of the round robin, as defeats to Sweden (5-4) and Switzerland (9-4) were balanced out by victories over Slovakia (8-1), Ulsrud (8-7) and the Netherlands (5-2), as the Scots finished third in the standings on W6 L3.
That meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland, and what a yo-yo encounter it was, with the Scots stealing three in the second end but being pegged back to 5-5 at the fifth-end break.
The teams exchanged twos, before the Swiss stole in the eighth end to lead for the first time, 8-7, only for Smith to blank the ninth and score two in end 10 to make the final.
There they faced their near-constant nemesis, Team Edin of Sweden, who were looking for a fourth straight European title.
Early on, it looked like business as usual, with Sweden moving 3-0 ahead, but two in end four and a steal in the fifth drew the Scots level.
Two in the eighth end put them ahead, but the Swedes responded with two of their own in the ninth and then claimed a massive steal of four in the 10th to win 10-5 – a scoreline which did not reflect the closeness of the game.
Although it was not the colour of medal Team Smith wanted, it is still a first senior medal for the rink – and an ideal confidence boost ahead of the Olympics.
Bronze for Jackson
Away from the European Championships, but still in Switzerland, Team Jackson completed the set of medals for Scotland with bronze at the EJCT event in Thun.
Wins against Teams Ramsfjell, Tanner, Witschonke, Lo Deserto and Wuest sent them straight into the semi-finals, where they suffered their first defeat – against Team Danshina.
That meant a 3v4 match with Witschonke to finish, which they won to clinch the bronze medal.