Strong finish to Team Fleming’s Worlds debut

Team Fleming_British Curling,Graeme Hart
GOOD SHOW: Team Fleming, who represented Scotland at the World Women’s Curling Championship. Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart

Wins over both Olympic finalists gave Team Fleming a ninth-place finish on their World Women’s Curling Championship debut, just one win off being in playoff contention.

They ended up with a W5 L7 record in North Bay, and given that they lost five games before picking up their first victory, it was a case of what might have been for the Scottish rink.

We’re used to seeing Team Muirhead representing Scotland at these events, but Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright, Sophie Jackson (alternate)) won their place fair and square, by becoming Scottish champions and then beating Muirhead in the World Championship Playoff event in Perth.

Their lack of experience on the biggest stage seemed to take its toll in the opening few draws, however, as they lost to Russia, 8-4, and then Italy – 7-6, after taking a 6-4 lead after eight ends but then giving up steals in the 10th and extra ends.

Further defeats to the USA (8-6), the Czech Republic (11-4) and Switzerland (10-2) followed, as the Scots fell into a tailspin.

But they managed to pick up that crucial first win by beating Germany 8-5 (stealing three in end five), and although they then lost to Canada, 8-6, they did well to take the table-topping hosts right through to the 10th end.

Scotland then saw off Japan 10-7 and China 8-7 (another steal of three in the fifth end), before an 8-7 loss to Denmark halted their momentum and set up their tricky final games against Sweden and Korea – the same teams who had claimed gold and silver at Pyeongchang 2018.

Fleming stole three in end two and then scored twos in ends five and 10 to beat the Swedes 8-5, and followed that with a 6-5 victory over Korea after an extra end.

So that gave them ninth place out of 13 teams, and given that three teams finished on W6 L6 records (and two made the playoffs), they really weren’t far off at all.

Their finish to the round robin showed that they can compete with the best, and having made their debut at the top table, they can take that experience into future international events.

Ultimately gold went to Canada (Team Jones), who beat Sweden (Hasselborg) 7-6 after an extra end in the final, while Russia (Moiseeva) took bronze ahead of the USA.

***

This week it’s the turn of the World Men’s Curling Championship to take centre stage, with Team Mouat representing Scotland in Las Vegas.

They warmed up for the event, where they look to challenge favourites Canada (Gushue) and Sweden (Edin) for gold, with victory at the Aberdeen International Curling Championship last week.

Group stage wins over Teams Pfister (6-4), Baumann (4-3), Bryce (7-4) and Van Dorp (5-3) were followed by a 5-2 loss to Muirhead, but they picked it up again in the knockout stages.

They knocked out fellow Scots Team Drummond in the quarter-finals, 7-4, and then showed they really have the sign over Team Smith this season by beating them 9-6 in the semis.

Team Schwaller of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, and twos in the first, third and seventh ends gave Mouat a 7-4 victory.

They go to Las Vegas with a really good shot of bringing back a medal… so long as they can carry the form they’ve shown throughout this season when it matters most.

***

We’ve also been treated to quite a bit of mixed doubles recently, with Judith and Lee McCleary taking third place at the Westbay Hungarian Mixed Doubles Cup last week, and the International Mixed Doubles Dumfries event taking place this week.

With Bruce Mouat heading off to the World Men’s Championship, Gina Aitken paired up with Duncan Menzies, and they finished joint top of Pool A with Michele Jaeggi/Sven Michel of Switzerland.

Pool B was headed by Jayne Stirling/Fraser Kingan – Scotland’s representatives at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in April – ahead of Hailey Duff/Robin Brydone, while Lisa Davies/James Craik topped Pool C.

The quarter-finals brought wins for Aitken/Menzies, Jaeggi/Michel, Stirling/Kingan and Zuzana Hajkova/Tomas Paul of the Czech Republic, and in the last four Jaeggi/Michel beat Hajkova/Paul 7-6 while Stirling/Kingan won their all-Scottish battle with Aitken/Menzies 8-7 after an extra end.

And Stirling and Kingan ensured a home victory in the final!

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