Team Hardie come out on top in Aberdeen

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TROPHY TIME: Aberdeen International winners Team Hardie (pic: facebook.com/aberdeeninternationalcurling)

A busy weekend saw the start of the World Women’s Curling Championship, as well as events in Scotland, Europe and Canada.

Team Hardie were the standout success, winning the Aberdeen International event, while there was also bronze for Team Aitken/Mouat in their latest mixed doubles endeavour.

But first to Beijing, where Scotland women have had a rollercoaster start…

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The 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship sees Scotland represented, once again, by Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)).

Two days in and, at time of writing, three games played – Scotland sit on a W2 L1 record.

They began against the USA, and after a three in end one, they were hauled back to 3-3 after four, only to answer with another three in end five.

But they then gave up five points over the next three ends, to trail 8-6, and were forced to one in the ninth.

But steals of one in end 10 and the extra end saw them snatch a 9-8 victory.

The outcome from their next match was less positive, as they were shocked by an inexperienced Italian team.

Diana Gaspari’s rink scored three in end seven and two in end nine, meaning the Scots needed three in end 10 to force an extra – an opportunity opened up but the shot was missed, so Italy won 7-6.

Scotland needed to bounce back quickly and did so, overcoming Team Sidorova of Russia, always a strong force at these championships.

Again the Scots started well with three in end one, and a steal of four in end four saw them lead 8-1.

Russia fought back, creeping up to only trail 8-5, but ones in ends eight and 10 got the job done for the Muirhead rink, who face Denmark and Sweden in Monday’s action.

The early pace-setters as of Sunday – Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, all W3 Lo from the first two days.

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Back in Scotland, and a Curling Champions Tour event – the Aberdeen International Curling Championship – had drawn a high quality field.

In a triple knockout format, the A-Road qualifiers were Team McEwen of Canada (defeating Team Stjerne (Denmark) 10-3 in the A-Road final) and the Scots of Team Murdoch (who overcame Team Ulsrud of Norway 7-6 to qualify).

Murdoch’s compatriots were having a tougher time of it, as it was Teams Deruelle (Canada) and Eskilsson (Sweden) who made the quarter-finals via the B-Road, meaning that Teams Brewster, Bryce, Craik, Hardie, Hutcheon, Mouat (minus their skip – more on him later), Smith and Whyte all ended up on the C-Road.

Of those, only Hardie and Whyte (thanks to a win over Ulsrud) made the C-Road finals, and while Hardie defeated Stjerne 4-3 to make the last eight, Whyte lost 10-5 to Team Schwaller of Switzerland.

Schwaller claimed another Scottish scalp on the Sunday, beating Murdoch 5-2 in their quarter-final, leaving Hardie – 7-2 winners over Deruelle – as the last Scots standing.

In the semi-finals they faced McEwen – serial Grand Slam champions and recently bronze medal winners at the Brier… not that any of that fazed Hardie, as they stole one in end one and two in end four, before adding three in end six to clinch it 7-3.

Hardie faced Team Liu of China in the final, and after the teams traded ones, it was the Scots who claimed two in end three, then forcing Liu to one in four and scoring another two in end five – which proved enough as the next two ends were blanked and they ran their opponents out of stones in the eighth to claim victory 5-2.

So congratulations Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Duncan Menzies and David Reid, the team having had another good season – just missing out on playoffs at the Scottish Championships again, but proving they can mix it with the best by claiming another Scottish Curling Tour title.

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There was more Scottish success overseas, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat took bronze at the Westbay Hungarian Mixed Doubles Cup.

They cruised through their group with four wins from four – beating Szekeres/Nagy 8-7 (after an extra end), Sykorova/Misun 9-0, Morand/Borini 14-4 and Florek/Herman 9-3.

Also competing in Budapest were Judith and Lee McCleary, who also won their opening four matches – overcoming Szabo/Foti 7-4, Komarova/Goryachev 5-2, Wiksten/Wiksten 9-0 and Pathy-Dencso/Szabo 8-7.

That meant both Scottish pairs were into the quarter-finals, but that was as far as McCleary/McCleary could go, as they gave up a four in end six to lose 7-4 to home rink Palancsa/Kiss.

Aitken/Mouat, though, made the last four by defeating Heldin/Sjoberg of Sweden 8-5, which was largely down to a score of five in end two.

Defeat to Komarova/Goryachev, 9-7, ended their hopes of the title, but while the Russians went on to win gold, Aitken/Mouat bounced back to defeat Szekeres/Nagy again, by a 7-3 scoreline this time, which secured bronze.

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Finally, the latest Grand Slam of Curling event took place in the shape of the Elite 10 in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia.

The 10-team competition featured match play scoring – the game decided by the number of ends won by each team (full explanation here).

It came down to a final between Teams Jacobs and Morris, and it was the latter (Jim Cotter, John Morris, Tyrel Griffith, Rick Sawatsky) who claimed the Slam title with a 1-up triumph.

Switzerland win World Women’s, Team Murdoch take Aberdeen title

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Switzerland celebrate World Women’s gold (photo: World Curling Federation – twitter.com/worldcurling/status/714237677248204800)

Switzerland won their fourth World Women’s Curling Championship title in five years, Binia Feltscher’s rink defeating Japan in the final in Swift Current, Canada.

Russia saw off Canada for bronze, with Scotland’s Team Muirhead having narrowly missed out on the playoff places after losing their final three round robin games.

Meanwhile, Team Murdoch beat Team Brewster to claim the inaugural Aberdeen International Curling Championship, and Judith and Lee McCleary came third at the Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup.

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The World Women’s Curling Championship came to its conclusion this weekend, but unfortunately for Scotland, they were not in contention for medals.

Having started slowly with a 5-3 loss to Sweden, the Scots (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) reeled off seven straight wins – against Korea (8-6), Germany (10-3), Italy (8-7), the USA (6-5), Denmark (9-3), Finland (6-5) and Russia (7-1).

But their match against Switzerland proved to be as pivotal as it was costly. The Scots were 5-1 up after five ends but the Swiss stole their way back into the contest to take it to an extra end – where Binia Feltscher made a superb in-off to score one and win 7-6.

It was tight at the top of the standings, which meant Scotland had to win one of their last two games to make the playoffs, but both ended in defeat.

Japan romped to a 10-4 victory over Muirhead’s rink, and Canada hammered the final nail into the coffin, scoring three in end six and four in end nine to win 9-4.

Skip Muirhead said afterwards: “It’s hard to take that we’re out but we lost the last three games and at major championships you just can’t do that.

“It’s harsh because I think we played well most of the week. I guess the Swiss game has come back to bite us, but that’s sport.”

In the playoffs, Switzerland scored three in end seven and two in end nine to beat Japan 8-4 in the 1v2 game, before Russia saw off Canada 7-4 in the 3v4 match.

Japan bounced back to defeat Russia 7-5 in the semi-final, scoring two in the extra end – Russia winning bronze (a third in a row for Anna Sidorova’s rink) with a 9-8 win over Canada.

Come the final, Switzerland led 2-1 after five ends, but Japan scored two in end six. Switzerland retook the lead with three in end seven, only for Japan to answer with three of their own in end eight.

The Swiss scored two in end nine, and stole two in end 10 when opposing skip Satsuki Fujisawa’s draw went long out the back – meaning a 9-6 win for Switzerland and yet more gold medals for the country in this competition.

It was Team Feltscher’s (Binia Feltscher, Irene Schori, Franziska Kaufmann, Christine Urech) second Worlds win (having also taken gold in 2014). Schori said: “We are so excited. It’s unbelievable, it’s so great.

“We can’t realise it right now [that this is our second title] – maybe tomorrow, we are so excited, it’s awesome.”

As for Japan, this was their first ever World Women’s medal.

For photos from the event, see the galleries here and here, while there is also a World Curling TV feature on Kelly Schafer, former Scottish Olympian and co-chair of this event.

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Back in Scotland, the first ever Aberdeen International Curling Championship took place, with Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) victorious.

The competition involved 20 teams – including rinks from China, Russia, Slovakia and the USA – divided into four sections.

The Red Section saw Teams Brunner (Switzerland) and Ulsrud (Norway) qualifying, Team Smith of Scotland missing out on last stone draw (LSD) after all three rinks finished W3 L1 – but only after coach Viktor Kjäll had stepped back onto the ice as skip!

Teams Kauste (Finland) and Shuster (USA) were the qualifiers from the Blue Section, while Murdoch were joined in making it out of the Yellow Section by fellow Scots Team Mouat (despite skip Bruce Mouat being away).

And the Green Section saw Team Brewster come through with four wins from four, ahead of Team Van Dorp of the Netherlands, who pipped Teams Drozdov (Russia) and Bryce on LSD.

In the quarter-finals, Brunner defeated Shuster 6-3, Ulsrud edged Kauste 6-5, Murdoch beat Van Dorp 9-1 and Brewster were 9-4 winners over Mouat.

Come the last four, Brewster stole in ends seven and eight to beat Ulsrud 5-3, while Murdoch overcame Brunner 7-1.

That set up a rematch of the men’s final at last month’s Scottish Curling Championships, but this time with a different outcome.

Murdoch scored twos in ends one and five, before stealing one in end seven to win 5-1 and take the title.

Check out photos from the event here.

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Finally, Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup 1 took place in Riga.

Scottish pair Judith and Lee McCleary claimed third place, behind Camilla Noreen/Per Noreen of Sweden and runners-up Jenny Perret/Martin Rios (Switzerland).

In Group B, the McClearys defeated Regža/Freidensons of Latvia 9-6, drew 7-7 with Colceriu/Coliban of Romania and beat Molder/Lill of Estonia 12-3.

They then beat Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary 10-4, and edged Perret/Rios 7-6, before losing their final match 5-4 to competition winners the Noreens.

Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup 2 – featuring another Scottish pair, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – takes place from Thursday this week.