With the Winter Olympics beginning on February 9 (that’s just four weeks away), Teams Muirhead and Smith’s preparations to represent Great Britain are almostcomplete.
Last weekend Team Smith made the quarter-finals of the Perth Masters, which was chock-full of Olympians; this weekend Team Muirhead are in International Bernese Ladies Cup action.
Once again the Dewars Centre welcomed a high-class field of 32 teams (from Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as 10 from the home nation) for the Perth Masters.
Teams Edin (Sweden) and De Cruz (Switzerland) showed their international pedigree by qualifying directly from the A-Road, while there was a surprisingly early exit for Scotland’s Team Mouat.
The first Scottish rink to make the playoffs were Team Bryce, winning their B-Road final against Van Dorp, and they were joined by Baumann of Germany.
That left the remaining teams on the C-Road to battle for the last four quarter-final spots, and Team Smith managed to overcome Retornaz to book their place, but Team Brewster succumbed to Ulsrud of Norway, with Teams Simmons (Canada) and Stjerne (Denmark) also making it through.
Both Scottish rinks exited at the last eight stage, though, as Bryce went out to Ulsrud 5-3 (crucially giving up a steal of two in end six), and Smith lost 6-3 to De Cruz in a rematch of their European Championship semi-final (the Swiss stealing three in the sixth end).
Ulsrud then lost 7-2 to Edin in the semi-finals, and the Swedish rink would meet De Cruz in the final after the Swiss team saw off Baumann 7-3.
And ultimately it was Edin showing the hottest form going into the Olympics, winning 7-4 to take the title.
This weekend it’s the women who take centre stage, with Team Muirhead joined by compatriots Fleming, Hamilton and Jackson at the International Bernese Ladies Cup.
It’s another good field, with Teams Jentsch, Moiseeva and Paetz among the Scots’ opponents, and you can follow the scores here.
Also this weekend, we have the CCT Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles, which features Judith and Lee McCleary, and Jayne Stirling and Fraser Kingan, from Scotland.
A successful first half of the 2017-18 season for Scottish curling teams ended in a most fitting way, with Team Mouat picking up yet another title, in Dumfries.
There was more good news from overseas, as Teams Drummond, Muirhead and Smith all made the playoffs in their competitions in China and Japan.
I’ll reflect on all of those results, and do a quick review of the season so far, just in time for us to step into Christmas.
Nine Scottish rinks were joined by teams from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain and Switzerland for the Dumfries Challenger Series event last weekend.
There were some surprising round robin stage results, which saw Teams Brewster and Bryce make early exits after finishing W3 L2, and Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan, Euan Kyle (sub)) barely squeeze into the knockouts, also on a W3 L2 record.
The quarter-finals brought victory for Teams Schnider (7-5 versus Jungen), Hess (5-4 against Hare), Krause (6-2 over Marshall) and the last Scottish rink standing, Mouat (7-2 against Staehli).
Hess then beat Schnider 6-4 to make the final, where they were joined by Mouat, but only after they had come from 6-2 down after six ends to steal in the extra end and beat Krause 7-6.
Victory in the final was a bit more routine for Mouat, stealing one in the third end and two in the sixth to beat Hess 5-3 and clinch the title.
Great Britain Olympians Teams Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) travelled out to Japan to take part in the Karuizawa International.
On the men’s side, Smith topped Pool C, with four straight wins over Kasahara (8-1), Shimizuno (6-0), SooHyuk Kim (6-2) and Ogihara (7-2).
They won their quarter-final, too, 6-4 against De Cruz of Switzerland after scoring three in the fourth end and two in the sixth, but lost out in the semi-finals to Chang-Min Kim (5-4), although they did bounce back to take third place by beating Mabergs 6-4 while Morozumi took top spot.
Team Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) enjoyed a good end to the year, too, finishing third at the Qinghai International in China.
In the group stages, they saw off teams from Canada and Russia, then China juniors, before losing to Switzerland and beating the USA, Norway, Sweden and China to make the semi-finals.
The last four brought a rematch with Rui Liu of China, and this time the local favourites claimed victory, but Drummond rebounded to beat Norway (Ulsrud) 8-5 to clinch third spot.
The final Asham Under-21 Slam of the season also took place, in the form of the Lockerbie Junior International.
Eight men’s teams and 10 women’s rinks took part, with Sections A and B on both sides of the competition.
The men’s semi-finals saw Team Kinnear score fours in ends five and six to beat Craik 9-2, and Team Denmark defeat Baird 7-4.
As for the women, the last four brought victory for Team Denmark (7-4 over Bremane of Latvia) and Team Davie (4-3 against Bryce).
So both men’s and women’s finals pitted a Danish team against a Scottish one, and in each the Scots came out on top – Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Duncan McFadzean, Ryan McCormack, Matthew McKenzie) winning 6-3, and Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Anna Skuse, Emma Barr) victors by a 6-5 score.
Until then, a moment for reflection. With the Winter Olympics less than 50 days away, Scottish/British curling couldn’t really have asked for a better first half to the season.
The European Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, in November were a triumph for Scotland, with Team Muirhead taking gold and Team Smith silver.
If they can distill those winning ingredients again in Pyeongchang, there’s no reason why they can’t medal again on the Olympic stage.
Team Mouat have also been outstanding, especially given their new line-up. Things were already going pretty well, with two titles in two weeks in September (the Oakville Tankard and Oakville Fall Classic), but that was nothing compared to the National in Sault Ste Marie in November.
On their way to winning that Grand Slam – the first ever by a Scottish men’s rink, with Bruce Mouat the youngest skip to win one – they defeated the cream of Canadian men’s curling: Jacobs, Koe and McEwen!
Mouat team member Grant Hardie also skipped Scotland to the World Mixed Championship title, while there was overseas success aplenty for Teams Bryce, Drummond, Fleming, Jackson, Morrison…
These are just the headlines in what has been a frantic, but fantastic, start to the season.
Let’s hope it continues into 2018, but until then… have a Merry Christmas!
A little further north of Minnesota, the hotbed of curling (and therefore the gold medal favourites in every Olympic Games) saw its Olympic representatives decided.
Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were in Eveleth, Minnesota (USA), for the Curl Mesabi Classic.
They began well, with wins over Teams Rhyme (5-2) and Martin (6-5), but defeats to Rocque (3-2) and Schultz (6-4) forced them into a tiebreaker with McPhee, which they won to make the quarter-finals.
The last eight pitted them against Rocque again, and once again the Grand Slam regulars were too strong, with twos in ends three and six helping them to a 6-2 victory – and Rocque went on the win the title, beating Roth in the final.
The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings culminated in Ottawa, Ontario, this weekend, and it’s Teams Homan and Koe who will represent Canada at next year’s Olympic Games.
Team Carey topped the women’s round robin with eight wins from eight, but after Homan defeated reigning Olympic champions Jones in the semi-final, it was the current world champions who triumphed 6-5 in the final.
On the men’s side, Koe finished W7 L1 to book their place in the final; McEwen beat Gushue in the semi, but could not repeat the trick – Koe winning 7-6.
They will be joined at Pyeongchang 2018 by Denmark men (Stjerne), Italy men (Retornaz), China women (Wang) and Denmark women (Dupont), after they emerged from the Olympic Qualification Event in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
That means that the Olympics will feature the following teams:
Men – Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, USA; women – Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Russia (subject to International Olympic Committee decision), Sweden, Switzerland, USA.
Finally, this weekend also saw the Perth edition of the Asham Under-14 Slam take place at the Dewars Centre.
A total of 16 teams competed across four sections, before the High Road final was contested between Teams Chalmers and Maguire.
McGuire (Inca Maguire, Holly Wilkie-Milne, Laura Watt, Emma Allan) won 5-1 to clinch the title.
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.
A solid weekend gives us lots to take into training. Special thanks to all of our sponsors for the support and for the comments throughout the past few days 😊🏴 #hardlinenation#foxglide
Team Mouat made curling history this weekend, becoming the first Scottish men’s rink to win a Grand Slam title, with Bruce Mouat the youngest ever skip to win a GSOC event.
They triumphed at the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, seeing off Canada’s best before beating Team Chang-Min Kim of South Korea in the final.
But first, a quick update on Scotland’s teams at the 2017 European Curling Championships…
Muirhead and Smith well positioned
We are three days into the 2017 European Curling Championships in St Gallen, Switzerland, and both Scottish teams hold W4 L1 records in the round robin stage.
On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead) have made a far better start than their previous campaign in Esbjerg in 2015, winning their first three – beating Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).
A blip followed, as they lost 6-4 to Germany, but Monday afternoon saw them bounce back in style, by beating Slovakia 8-1.
As for the women, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) faced a tough first couple of games – losing 5-2 to Sweden but beating Russia 8-7 (after an extra end).
Their next three games were more comfortable, as they overcame Denmark 6-1, Italy 8-1 and Germany 8-5.
Mouat’s moment of history
Now to events over the Atlantic, and the Boost National in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario – which featured Teams Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregory Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan).
Drummond exited without winning a match, losing to Teams Koe (7-3), Jacobs (9-2), Lyburn (8-7) and Gunnlaugson (10-7).
By contrast, Mouat – who’d already had an amazing season, with back-to-back wins at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard and Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic, and Grant Hardie winning the World Mixed Curling Championships – were in it for the long haul.
They only just squeezed through from the round robin, though, having won two – against Balsdon (8-4) and Morris (8-2) – and lost two – against Gushue (7-6) and McEwen (7-2).
That meant a tiebreaker with Olympic champions Team Jacobs, and threes in ends one and five helped them to an 8-5 victory.
Another three (in end four), plus steals in ends one, two, five and six, helped them ease past Team Koe 7-1 in the quarter-finals, setting up a rematch with McEwen.
This time it was Mouat who triumphed, with two in the first end, three in the fourth and a steal in the fifth firing them to a 6-4 win – meaning they were only the second Scottish men’s rink to make a Grand Slam final after Team Smith at the Tour Challenge last season.
As the top Canadian teams fell by the wayside, a Mouat v Chang-Min Kim final was a surprising one, and the Scots began it with a steal of one.
Kim scored two and then stole, only for Mouat to hit back with three in the fourth end, and a steal in the fifth and score of four in the seventh wrapped up a brilliant 9-4 win to claim the historic title.
“The final was closer than the score suggests but we managed to take control after a few missed shots from myself in the second and third ends with a big three in the fourth.
“It’s unbelievable to think we are the first Scottish men’s team to win a Slam.
“I am so proud of our effort this week and the fact that we never doubted ourselves when we were playing the top teams in the game.”
The women’s title went to Team Jones, who beat Team Scheidegger 8-7 in the final.
Bryce and Fleming make their mark
Not to be outdone, Teams Bryce and Fleming have also put together strong runs in Canadian competition.
Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) competed in the DEKALB Superspiel in Morris, Manitoba.
Their first match brought a loss, 7-6 to Team Jordan Smith, but having dropped to the B-Road they reeled off four straight wins to make the playoffs – beating Teams Friesen (7-0), Schwaller (6-5), Bohn (7-1) and Forrester (7-4).
The quarter-finals proved the end of the line though, as Schwaller of Switzerland got their revenge with a 6-5 victory after an extra end.
Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) have been in Alberta, for the Red Deer Curling Classic – and they took the shortest possible route to the quarter-finals, winning their three matches on the A-Road against Teams Marthaller (7-2), Brown (7-6) and Gushulak (5-4).
The last eight brought a clash with Team Moiseeva of Russia, and steals in ends seven and eight gave the Scots a 5-3 win.
They faced Team Fujisawa of Japan in the semi-finals, and that was where their run ended – with their opponents winning 7-5 after an extra end.
McClearys make the quarters
In a very, very busy weekend, we also had the Mixed Doubles Bern tournament in Switzerland, with Judith and Lee McCleary representing Scotland.
They made the playoffs with a W5 L2 record, having overcome Teams Iseli (11-1), Wendel (10-2), Stolt (6-4), Srnska (9-5) and Kasner (9-8) – the losses being to Mei (8-2) and Moskaleva (9-2).
Jaeggi/Michel ended their challenge, though, winning their last-eight encounter 8-2.
Also at the tournament, Anna Fowler of England paired with Thomas Jaeggi, and they won three and lost four to go out in the quarter-finals of the consolation event.
…And finally, the latest Asham Under-14 Slam took place at Curl Aberdeen, with Team Carson (Orrin Carson, Logan Carson, Archie Hyslop, Charlie Gibb) winning the high road final by beating Braehead Rockers 7-0.
Team Jackson retained their women’s title at the Braehead Junior International, while Team Carson made it a Scottish double by triumphing on the men’s side.
There was also action in Forfar this weekend, while Teams Brewster and Hamilton took part in competitions further overseas.
Braehead welcomed 18 men’s teams and 14 women’s for the Junior International event on the European Junior Curling Tour (EJCT).
There were seven Scottish rinks on the men’s side, with five making the knockout stages – and a sixth (Team Craik) just missing the playoffs by a few centimetres in the draw shot rankings.
Teams Baird and Gallacher topped Pool A, with Team Whyte joining Team Nygren (Sweden) at the summit of Pool B, and Teams Kinnear and Carson dominating Pool C.
The quarter-finals brought wins for Carson (8-2 against Baird), Nygren (6-4 over Gallacher), Ramsfjell of Norway (5-3 versus Kinnear) and Whyte (6-1 against Lochmann of Switzerland).
Come the last four, Carson beat Nygren 8-4 and Ramsfjell saw off Whyte 6-2.
In the final, twos in ends three, four and six helped Carson (Luke Carson, Ben Cormack, Euan MacDiarmid, Mark Taylor) win 7-5 to clinch the title, while Nygren beat Whyte 5-4 for third spot.
There were six Scottish teams in the women’s competition, and four of them – Teams Davie, Farmer, Jackson and Morrison – progressed to the playoffs.
In the last eight, Davie saw off Chmarra (Poland) 6-4, Jackson defeated Morrison 6-4, Tanner (Switzerland) beat Farmer 6-5, and Witschonke of Switzerland eased past Podrabska (Czech Republic) 9-2.
The semi-finals were all-Scottish and all-Swiss affairs, with Jackson beating Davie 6-3 and Witschonke defeating Tanner 7-2.
As for the final, it was rather one-sided, as Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) got two on the board in the first end before blowing it open with five in the fourth and a steal of two in the fifth to win 9-1.
Davie won the third-place match 7-6.
A solid performance in the final means we have retained our title as Braehead European Junior Curling Tour winners! 🏆
The latest stop on the Goldline Scottish Curling Tour was the Forfar Curl Fest, involving 12 teams.
The semi-finals were won by Team Barr (against Marshall) and Team Dick (versus Prentice), with Grant Barr’s rink going on to take victory in the final.
Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) were in Canada for the Ashley Home Store Curling Classic, and finished Pool C with a W4 L1 record.
Wins against Teams Laycock, McQuiggan, Pierce and Tardi, with their only defeat coming against Mike McEwen’s rink.
The quarter-finals proved their limit, however, as they lost 4-3 (after extra end) to Team Koe, who went on to beat Team Edin in the final.
And Team Hamilton (Claire Hamilton, Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen) headed to Estonia for the Tallinn Ladies International Challenger, and beat Teams Link, Pavlyuchik and Telnova to make the playoffs (only losing to Team Widmer).
Like Brewster, they went out in the last eight, again to an extra-end defeat – 5-4 against Team Kauste of Finland – as Swiss rink Widmer won the final against Baksheeva (Russia).
It was a case of ‘close but no cigar’ for both of Teams Bryce and Muirhead at the weekend.
Bryce made the semi-finals at the Latvia International Challenger, only to lose out to Team Stjerne, while Muirhead also got to the last four at the GSOC Masters, where they were beaten by Team Einarson.
There were two Scottish teams at the second Grand Slam of the season, the Masters, with Team GB’s Olympic representatives taking on the world’s best in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were in Pool B of the men’s event alongside Teams Gushue, McEwen, Shuster and Ulsrud.
Opening defeats to Gushue (7-6) and Ulsrud (7-6) put them on the back foot right away, and although they managed to beat US rink Shuster (6-2), defeat to McEwen (6-3) ended their playoff hopes.
The title was won by reigning world champions Gushue, who beat Team Edin of Sweden 8-4 in the final.
In the women’s field, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) faced Teams Flaxey, Hasselborg, Sidorova and Sinclair in Pool A.
Wins against Sidorova (6-5) and Flaxey (7-6) got them off to an ideal start, and after a 6-4 loss to Sinclair, a 10-7 victory over Hasselborg secured their place in the knockout stages.
The quarter-finals pitted them against Team Pätz of Switzerland, with the Scots winning 5-4, thanks to two in end seven and a steal of one in the eighth.
But the last four proved their limit, as Canadians Einarson beat them 6-3 (with twos in ends three and six) – Muirhead’s conquerors finishing as runners-up to Jennifer Jones’ rink in the final (6-5).
Skip Eve Muirhead said: “Crowds have been great and to have such an atmosphere when playing is really something special; Canada really do know how to put on curling events!
“”Overall our two weeks have been a great success, beating three of the teams we are going to be coming up against in the Europeans and Korea, so this is all stepping stones towards these major events.”
The Latvia International Challenger involved Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) on the men’s side, and Team Wilson (Maggie Wilson, Jennifer Marshall, Laura Barr, Eilidh Yeats) – plus English rink Team Farnell – on the women’s.
Both British women’s teams had their challenges ended early, with Farnell going W0 L4 and Wilson W1 L3 – their win coming against Team Rudzite of the home nation, 7-6 after an extra end.
Bryce did much better though, continuing their rich vein of form at the start of this season, as they made the playoffs with wins over Teams Bremanis (7-2), Lill (10-4), Truksans (7-1) and a loss to Hess (7-6).
Following their 7-4 victory over Team Gulbis in the last eight (stealing three in the second end), Bryce’s challenge was ended by experienced Danes Team Stjerne, who won 7-2 and went on to claim the title, while Bryce ended with a 7-3 defeat against Team Wunderer in the third place match.
Also this weekend, the Lanarkshire leg of the Asham Under-21 Slam took place.
After 24 teams faced off across six groups, the high road final was contested by Teams Craik and McCormack, with the former (James Craik, Angus Bryce, Matthew McKenzie, Niall Ryder) scoring four in the third end on their way to a 6-2 triumph.