Mouat double up with Oakville Fall Classic title

Mouat win Oakville Fall Classic
Team Mouat with their second trophy in two weeks. Pic: facebook.com/teammouat

Team Mouat have enjoyed a storming start to the season, adding the Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic title to last week’s Stu Sells Oakville Tankard win.

Bruce Mouat shuffled his pack over the off-season, bringing in Grant Hardie and Hammy McMillan, and the results have been instant.

More on them in just a moment, but first here’s what happened at the first Grand Slam of the season…

Solid start for Muirhead

First competition of the new season for Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), and a run to a Grand Slam semi-final.

The Tour Challenge in Regina, Saskatchewan, provided the first real opportunity for the sport’s big guns to size each other up, and it turns out the British Olympic women measure up well.

They made the playoffs the hard way – beating Harrison and Homan, but losing to Wang and Sweeting, meant a tiebreaker against Tippin, which they won 5-4.

Skip Muirhead then shot 88% to guide her side past PĂ€tz in the quarter-finals, but Hasselborg of Sweden were too strong in the last four, winning 6-5 after a crucial steal of two in end six.

Not a bad platform for Team Muirhead to build on for the rest of the season.

Muirhead told British Curling: “Reaching a Grand Slam semi-final on our first outing of the season is no mean feat.

“The competition out here is the best in the world with the highest level of curling there is.”

Also performing well in their first event of the new season were Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright), who took part in the Tier 2 section in Regina.

Like Muirhead, they won two (against Eberle and Silvernagle) and lost two (versus Feltscher and Sidorova) in the round robin stage, forcing them into a tiebreaker.

Fleming pushed Lawton all the way, but lost out 6-5.

The eventual women’s champions were Team Sweeting (Tier 1) and Team Einarson (Tier 2).

Struggles on men’s side

Things were not quite so promising for Teams Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) and Drummond (Greg Drummond, Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon, Michael Goodfellow) on the men’s side at the Tour Challenge.

There’s plenty of work for Smith to do ahead of the Olympics, underlined by four defeats – to McCormick, Edin, Simmons and Epping – in their Tier 1 pool.

In Tier 2, Drummond managed to go one better than at last week’s Oakville Tankard by winning a game (against Jacobson), but losses to Brown, Gunnlaugson and Lyburn ended their challenge early.

The men’s winners were Team Gushue (Tier 1) and Team Gunnlaugson (Tier 2).

Mouat at the double

Away from the Grand Slam, but still in Canada, Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Duncan Menzies, Scott Andrews, Alasdair Schreiber) and Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) took part in the Biosteel Oakville Fall Classic.

Brewster lost their first three pool games (to Mabergs, Kim and Steski), which meant that their victory over Zou was only a consolation.

Mouat, by contrast, cruised through the group stage, beating Retornaz, Baumann, Maus and Dickie to book their passage to the quarter-finals.

Further wins against Horgan (6-5) and Schwaller (8-7, stealing one in an extra end) sent them into the final, where they faced Chang-Min Kim of Korea.

It was a tight match, with only singles scored as it went to an extra end, but Mouat held hammer and scored their one to win 4-3.

That’s two events entered and two titles gained for Team Mouat to start the season, and they’re yet to lose a single match (played 14, won 14).

It’s going to take a good team to stop these boys if they keep this up!

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2017-18 curling season preview

Olympic Curling Teams - Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme HartTHE CHOSEN ONES: Great Britain’s men’s and women’s curlers for Pyeongchang 2018 (Team Muirhead and Team Smith). Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart

Who said anything about a quiet summer break?

There have been some huge changes in the landscape of Scottish curling over the last few months.

There’s the personnel changes, of course.

David Murdoch’s playing days are over, with one of the stalwarts of the Scottish game retiring from competitive curling and switching to coaching.

The subsequent reshuffles have thrown up some intriguing team combinations for the new season.

Murdoch’s third Greg Drummond has moved up to skip, piloting a rink which also consists of Ross Paterson, Gregor Cannon and Michael Goodfellow.

Heading in the opposite direction to Paterson is Scott Andrews, who joins an all-new Team Brewster, with Tom Brewster also welcoming Duncan Menzies and Alasdair Schreiber to his quartet.

Team Bryce have added Ross Whyte to their roster, while Bruce Mouat’s new rink has a bit of a rockstar look to it.

Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan are all on board – it’s a team packed with talent, so I’m excited to see what they can do in Scotland and on tour this year.

There are changes on the women’s side too, notably Sochi 2014 medallist Claire Hamilton coming into skip Gina Aitken’s team – Aitken moving to third in place of Rowena Kerr.

Some teams have stuck with the same formula of course, including the rinks selected to represent Great Britain at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (oh yes, it’s an Olympic year!) – Team Muirhead and Team Smith.

There have of course been changes outside of the teams themselves, including the opening of the National Curling Academy in Stirling, which will hopefully see Scotland/Britain keep up with the world’s top – and emerging – curling nations.

The Curling Champions Tour and World Curling Tour have merged, and – closer to home – it’s good news to see the Scottish Curling Tour expand and gain a swanky new website.

Scotland (Aberdeen to be exact) will host the 2018 World Junior Championships, which can hopefully build on the interest generated by the Olympics (the countdown to #lovecurling trending again is underway…) the month before.

The Olympics have pulling power that individual winter sports can only dream of, so it’s vital that curling (Scottish curling in particular) uses its events this year to draw more fans, and maybe the next generation of players, to the game.

***

Last week gave us a taste of what’s to come, with Teams Bryce and Jackson representing Scotland at the latest ‘Curling Night in America’ event in Omaha, while Judith and Lee McCleary flew the Saltire at the Audi quattro Winter Games in New Zealand (making the quarter-finals but losing to eventual champions Estonia).

This weekend sees things move up a gear. The first Grand Slam event of the season is on the horizon – the Tour Challenge (Tiers 1 and 2), on September 5-10 – and so there are four Scottish rinks over in Canada.

Teams Brewster, Drummond, Mouat and Smith will all fight it out for the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, with eyes on Smith in particular.

Victory in Oakville (in the Oakville OCT Fall Classic) was one of the highlights in an impressively consistent (also consistently impressive) season which saw them get the nod for the Olympics.

How will they handle that extra pressure as Pyeonchang approaches? They’re still a young team, but they’ve been together for a long time and they know how to beat the world’s best.

Eve Muirhead has described an Olympic appearance (and medal) as putting a target on your back, and we’ll get our first chance to see the Team GB women at the Tour Challenge in Regina, where Team Fleming will also compete.

Excited yet? You should be. The changes over the summer simply add another dynamic to what promises to be a thrilling Olympic season.

Players’ playoff pain for Muirhead and Smith

edin players
HAT-TRICK: Team Edin won their third Grand Slam title of the season at the Players’ Championship. Pic: twitter.com/grandslamcurl (Anil Mungal)

Both Team Muirhead and Team Smith put in strong performances at the Grand Slam of Curling Players’ Championship, exiting at the playoff stages – both to the eventual winners in Toronto.

The Muirhead rink squeezed into the last eight in the women’s competition – at an event they have won three times – but on this occasion they were beaten in the quarter-finals by Team Jones, who ultimately took victory in the final.

Kyle Smith’s quartet went one better – making it to the men’s semi-finals – but there they were undone by Team Edin, who went on to become champions.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) began their run in emphatic style, scoring two in end three and four in end seven for an 8-2 victory over Team Epping.

But they were on the wrong side of that scoreline in their next match, giving up threes in ends one and five in defeat to Team Edin of Sweden.

Undeterred, they came back with an 8-3 win over Team Laycock – scoring three in end one, two in end three and two in end seven – before edging past Team Jacobs, as they took a two in the first end and then traded singles, claiming the one point needed in the eighth for a 5-4 triumph.

An 8-6 loss to Team De Cruz in their final round robin match could not deny them a spot in the quarter-finals, where they once again met Jacobs.

Smith scored three in end two and one in end four to lead 4-3 at halfway, staying in control with two in end six and one in the eighth to clinch it 7-6.

In the final four they were pitted against Edin, and again it was the Swedes who came out on top – thanks to a steal of two in end five and another two in end seven, for a 6-2 victory.

That doesn’t take away from a super run at their first Players’ Championship by the Smith rink, who have enjoyed a real breakthrough season in Grand Slam competition – and are the focus of the below video feature.

Edin went on to claim their third Grand Slam title of the season, defeating Team McEwen 5-3 in the men’s final with steals in ends seven and eight.

***

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Kelly Schafer (filling in for Lauren Gray at lead)) have some history with the Players’ Championship, having won the women’s title three times in Toronto.

They were off to a losing start this time though, as Team Sweeting scored twos in ends three and six, then took their one with hammer in the eighth, to beat the Scots 6-5.

Muirhead got back on track against Team Jones – stealing in ends one, two and three to lead 4-0, then adding three more points in ends six and seven for a 7-3 win – but that was followed by a 5-2 loss to Team Hasselborg.

They then lost 6-4 to Team Fleury – giving up critical steals in ends five and six – but eked out a quarter-final spot courtesy of victory over Team Englot, as they stole their way to a 5-0 lead after two ends and held on to take it 8-6.

The last eight brought a rematch with Jennifer Jones’ rink, and this time the Canadians nicked it 6-5.

Muirhead stole in end one but Jones claimed three in the second, only for the Scots to answer with two and a steal of one to lead 4-3 after four.

Jones, though, scored singles in ends five, six and seven – and Muirhead could only manage one in end eight, handing their opponents the win.

The Jones rink went on to win the title – their sixth! – by overcoming Sweeting 8-4 in the final.

***

There is plenty more curling coming up this week, starting with the European Masters in St Gallen (April 19-22) – with Teams Brewster, Murdoch (the holders) and Smith in the men’s competition, and Team Fleming in the women’s.

Then from April 22-29 we have the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championship, both in Lethbridge, Canada.

Scotland are represented by Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat at the World Mixed, and by Team Drysdale (men’s) and Team Lockhart (women’s) for the World Seniors.

Brewster secure home victory at Perth Masters

brewster-win-perth-masters
Team Brewster, Perth Masters champions (photo: facebook.com/TeamBrewsterCurling)

Team Brewster began 2017 as they ended 2016 – with a title, this time at the Perth Masters.

Last year saw Tom Brewster’s quartet win the Scottish Championships, European Playdowns and Karuizawa International, and they got this year off to the ideal start.

Also this weekend, Team Smith were involved in another Grand Slam of Curling event, the Canadian Open, while Team Jackson have successfully qualified Scotland for the World Women’s Junior Championship.

***

Thirty-two teams from around the world arrived for the Perth Masters, which is becoming a major Curling Champions Tour event – with live online coverage to match.

Ten Scottish teams began the triple knockout competition, and three of those made the playoffs – Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Dave Reid, Duncan Menzies) and MacDonald (Ewan MacDonald, David Edwards, Duncan Fernie, Euan Byers).

Brewster began with wins over Foss (7-1), Snitil 6-2 and MacDonald (7-1), but lost their A Road final 5-3 against last year’s runners-up, Team Ulsrud of Norway.

It mattered little, though, as they then beat Pfister 4-1 and MacDonald (again, 5-1 this time) on the B Road to secure a playoff spot.

MacDonald, having beaten Kauste 10-4 and Pfister 6-4 but suffered their first defeat to Brewster, took victories over Ramsfjell (6-1) and Eskilsson (7-3).

There then followed their second loss to Brewster, but a 7-3 success against fellow Scots Bryce saw them into the knockout stages.

As for Hardie, they opened by overcoming Walstad 5-4, but then lost 5-3 to Eskilsson.

On the B Road they defeated compatriots Bryce 5-4 (stealing one in the extra end) but were then knocked down to the C Road, Pfister edging their match 3-2.

So Hardie needed three straight wins to make the playoffs… and that’s just what they got, against Schwaller (7-5), then two other Scottish rinks – Murdoch (5-4, again stealing one in the extra end) and Mouat (7-3).

Come the quarter-finals, Brewster stole singles in ends seven and eight to eke out a 6-4 victory against Liu Rui of China.

But the last eight proved to be the limit for Hardie – beaten 8-2 by Baumann of Germany after giving up four in end four – and MacDonald – losing out 4-2 to Ulsrud in a tight match.

Brewster had to board the steal train again in their semi-final with Baumann; having been 3-0 down, they scored twos in the seventh and eighth ends for another 6-4 win.

In the final they faced Walstad, who had shocked their fellow Norwegians Ulsrud in last four, and the match was tied 3-3 after five ends.

But three for Brewster in end six, followed up by a steal of two in the seventh, handed them victory by an 8-3 scoreline and meant they were Masters of Perth!

Tom Brewster – celebrating his record fourth Perth Masters title – told British Curling: “This is a fantastic event – it’s really well organised, the ice is always good.

“It’s always a strong field and to come out on top is a real honour.

“It goes down in the record books because people see this as one of the biggest events in Europe.”

 

See photos from the event on the competition website, or via Brydone Images.

***

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) took part in the Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, but unfortunately they were not involved for long.

In a triple knockout competition, they lost 5-4 to Team Jacobs, 9-5 to Team Korte and 6-3 to Team Epping, which saw them eliminated.

The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Gushue, and it was the Canadians – with skip Brad Gushue clearly back in the swing of things after injury, as he threw 100 per cent in the final – who triumphed 8-3.

As for the women’s title, that went to Team Scheidegger – not one of the best known Canadian rinks, but one which has found fine form this season, including winning the HDF Insurance Shoot Out, where they defeated Team Muirhead in the final.

Here they faced Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland, and won it 5-4 thanks to a steal of one in the eighth end.

***

Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr (alternate), coached by Cate Brewster) have qualified Scotland for the women’s section of the 2017 World Junior Championships.

Playing at the World Junior-B Championships in Östersund, Sweden, they won all six of their round robin matches – against Spain (11-4), Latvia (6-3), Estonia (5-3), Norway (5-2), Romania (13-2) and the Czech Republic (7-1).

That set up a quarter-final rematch with Norway, which yielded an 8-2 victory, largely thanks to a steal of three in end four, plus one in end five, and finished off by two in end seven.

 

And in the semi-finals they scored two in end three, having been 2-0 down, before stealing singles in ends four through to seven, for a 6-2 triumph – and Worlds qualification!

They play Turkey for gold, a match shown live here.

England also had teams at the B Championships, but neither managed to reach the playoffs – the men were defeated in all seven of their matches, while the women took three wins to three losses.

January 2017 curling preview

playdowns-murdoch
Team Murdoch are among the rinks who kick off their 2017 at the Perth Masters (photo: British Curling/Tom J Brydone)

2017 has arrived and, with the Christmas break over, the curling competition calendar fills up again.

A Grand Slam, the Scottish Juniors Championship and two major events on Scottish soil – the Perth Masters and Glynhill Ladies International – are excellent appetisers for the Scottish Championships in February.

Here’s a guide to what’s coming up…

***

Meridian Canadian Open (Grand Slam of Curling)
January 3-8, North Battleford, Saskatchewan (Canada)
Team Smith are the sole Scots competing in the latest stop on the Grand Slam tour. They had an excellent first half of the season, and this is another chance for the young team to test themselves against the world’s best – Edin, Epping (the holders), Gushue, Jacobs, Koe et al – in a triple knockout format. Teams Hasselborg, Homan (the reigning champs), Jones, Sidorova and Tirinzoni are among those competing in the women’s section. Follow the competition here.

World Junior-B Curling Championships 2017 (World Curling Federation)
January 3-10, Oestersund (Sweden)
Team Jackson, having been relegated to the Junior B-Division last season, have the chance to redeem themselves by getting Scotland back up to the top table of junior women’s curling. Placed in a group with the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Romania and Spain, they will hope to make the knockout stages, with the top three qualifying for WJCC 2017 in Gangneung, Korea, next month. Selected games are being shown on World Curling TV, and you can follow scores here.

Mercure Perth Masters (Curling Champions Tour)
January 5-8, Perth
Thirty-two men’s rinks – coming in from across the world, from China to Switzerland – descend on Perth for this Curling Champions Tour event, which is in a triple knockout format. Ten of those 32 are Scottish, including Teams Brewster, Bryce, Hardie, Mouat and Murdoch. There’s no guarantee of a home victory, mind you, especially when the likes of Teams De Cruz (Switzerland), Kauste (Finland), Morozumi (Japan) and last year’s finalists Ulsrud (Norway) are in town. Scores can be found here and live streaming here.

Scottish Curling Senior Men’s Championship qualifiers (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 6-8, Ayr and Forfar
Curlers aged over 50 take to the ice in Ayr and Forfar aiming to qualify for the Senior Championships in February – the winners of which will represent Scotland at Worlds in Lethbridge, Canada, in April. In these men’s qualifiers the holders, skipped by Gordon Muirhead, are back again to defend their title. Follow the scores here and here.

Scottish Junior Curling Club Challenge (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 7-8, Murrayfield
An event open to junior curling clubs, it consists of three divisions, with clubs being promoted and relegated between divisions depending on their performance. Each club entry is represented by two teams – they must field a minimum of two females, and the club entry takes a combined score from the results of their teams. Follow the event here.

Bernese Ladies Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
January 12-15, Bern (Switzerland)
Bern welcomes 32 women’s rinks – including three from Scotland – for a triple knockout competition. The Scots all have Swiss opposition up first – Team Fleming have been drawn against Keiser, Team Muirhead versus Mathis and Team Smith with Hegner. Other rinks to look out for include Teams Flaxey (Canada), Moiseeva (Russia), Sigfridsson (Sweden), Tirinzoni (the defending champions, of Switzerland) and Wang (China). Follow scores from this tournament here.

Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles (Curling Champions Tour)
January 13-15, Zoetermeer (Netherlands)
Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat and Judith McCleary/Lee McCleary, Scotland’s premier mixed doubles teams, are among 20 rinks to take part in this competition in the Netherlands. Teams play group matches to decide who’ll make the knockout stages. As well as many of the world’s mixed doubles mainstays, there are duos from England – Anna Fowler/Ben Fowler – and Ireland – Alison Fyfe/Neil Fyfe – involved too. You can keep up to date with the event here, and games will also be live streamed on the Champions Curling Tour YouTube channel.

Scottish Curling Junior Championships (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 18-22, Aberdeen
Team Jackson look to retain their junior women’s title and (depending on how they get on at the World Junior-B Championships earlier in the month) go to Worlds. Their main competition looks to be Team K Aitken, but Teams Davie and MacDonald are also in with a shout. There will definitely be a new champion on the junior men’s side though – Team Mouat are aged out, so Teams Bryce and Whyte are the frontrunners for tournament victory and Worlds qualification. Event scores will be shown here.

Ceramtec German Masters (Curling Champions Tour)
January 19-22, Hamburg (Germany)
Twenty-four teams, separated into six groups, are in Germany for this men’s competition – including the holders, Team Murdoch. The other Scots participating are Teams Brewster, Mouat and Smith. Their main rivals look to include Teams Bottcher, De Cruz, Stjerne, Ulsrud and Van Dorp. The live scores will be posted here.

Glynhill Ladies International (Curling Champions Tour)
January 19-22, Braehead
There are also 24 teams registered for what is becoming another major event in Scotland, this time for the women. Teams G Aitken, Fleming, Muirhead and Smith fly the flag for Scotland in Braehead, while reigning champions Team Tirinzoni return. Teams Feltscher, Kubeskova, Moiseeva, Paetz and Sigfridsson also join the party, which consists of pool stages (four sections) then knockout stages. The event website is here, with live streaming also planned here.

Asham Under 14 Slam – Intu Braehead (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 28, Braehead
The second of three events in the U14 Slam series is being held in Braehead, with best of four end games. The previous competition, at Forfar, saw the high road final won by Team Gallacher. For more information on the event as it takes place, see this page.

Four Nations (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
January 28-29, Greenacres
Rinks from across the British Isles descend on Greenacres (Howwood) for the latest Four Nations. Last season it was the Irish who took the triple crown title – which of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales will come top of the pile this time around? The event page is here.

28th Winter Universiade (International University Sports Federation)
January 29-February 8, Almaty (Kazakhstan)
Finally, we have the World University Winter Games held in Kazakhstan. Curlers to have taken part in this event in just the past few years include Brendan Bottcher, Oskar Eriksson, Hannah Fleming, Anna Sidorova, Anna Sloan and Kyle Smith. This time round it’s Gregor Cannon, Bobby Lammie, Bruce Mouat, Alasdair Schreiber and Derrick Sloan (men’s) and Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen, Rowena Kerr and Angharad Ward (women’s) who are representing Team Great Britain. The event website is here.

Aitken and Mouat win fourth Scottish mixed doubles title

aitkenmouat-scottish-champs-2016
Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, Scottish champions (photo: facebook.com/royalcaledoniancurlingclub)

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat rule the roost in Scottish mixed doubles curling once again, retaining their national title and securing their fourth in all.

They came out on top after a final with Judith and Lee McCleary where they stole their way to victory in Braehead.

Across the Atlantic, Teams Muirhead and Murdoch took part in the GSOC National, but unfortunately neither managed to make the playoffs.

***

Eight pairs took part in the Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship, battling it out for the national title and a spot at the next World Mixed Doubles Championship in Canada.

Sophie Jackson and Ross Whyte had a bumpy start to the competition, beaten 8-1 by Judith and Lee McCleary, but from there they reeled off six straight wins, including defeating reigning champions Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat 7-6 after an extra end.

Joining Jackson/Whyte at the top of the round robin standings on W6 L1 were Aitken/Mouat and McCleary/McCleary, the former winning their head-to-head clash 6-5, also after an extra end.

Aitken/Mouat’s draw shot saw them placed top, so in the semi-finals they would face the winner of the tiebreaker between Karina Aitken/David Aitken and Sarah Reid/Ross Paterson, who both finished the round robin on W3 L4 records.

Aitken/Aitken won the tiebreaker 10-7 but were no match for Aitken/Mouat in their family affair semi-final (Gina’s mother Morna standing in for the unwell Karina), the holders scoring three in end one and stealing twos in ends two and three for a rapid 7-0 lead.

There was a four for Aitken/Aitken in end four, but Aitken/Mouat hit back with a four of their own in the fifth, and a further steal of one wrapped up the game 12-4.

In the other last four match, McCleary/McCleary also got off to a fast start, scoring two in the first end before stealing one in end two and two in end three.

Jackson/Whyte scored two in end four but a four for the McClearys in end five meant that, despite two in end six and one in the seventh for the younger pair, it was they who won out 9-5.

And so the final pitted Scotland’s most established mixed doubles pairings against one another, being regulars on the Curling Champions Tour mixed doubles circuit.

McCleary/McCleary forced Aitken/Mouat to one in the first end, but from there the latter rode the steal train to victory.

After a stolen single in end two, Aitken/Mouat added a further two to their tally when Lee McCleary’s last came up light – and another couple of fine draws claimed another steal of one for 5-0 at halfway.

McCleary/McCleary missed a difficult double takeout opportunity in end five, giving up another steal of one, before more well-placed stones from Aitken/Mouat drew further steals in ends six and seven, handshakes offered at 8-0.

Gina Aitken told British Curling: “We got stronger towards the end of the week, we have played a lot of mixed doubles this year leading up to this national title, so whereas other teams are having to shake off the dust and get into mixed doubles format, we were just ready for it.

“Now this is an Olympic discipline it is interesting to see the level of interest increasing and curlers taking this more seriously as there is more at stake.

“We are really excited that we have qualified to represent Scotland again at the world championships in Canada next April. Playing in Canada is just great.

“Our main goal is to qualify GB for the Olympics and if we peak at the right time hopefully we can bring back a medal.”

Aitken and Mouat will fly the Scottish flag in Lethbridge, Canada, at next year’s World Mixed Curling Championships, on April 22-29.

Joining them there will be Anna and Ben Fowler, the siblings once again qualifying to represent England on the international stage.

***

The latest Grand Slam of Curling event, the National, took place in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and involved two Scottish rinks.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) gave up twos in ends two and five as they lost their opening pool stage match 6-1 to Team De Cruz of Switzerland.

Further losses to Teams Epping (5-3), Morris (7-6, losing a two in end eight) and Koe (6-4) saw them exit the competition without scoring a victory.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) fared little better, beginning with defeat against Team Sidorova of Russia, losing 6-5 having given up three in end four.

The Scots hit back in style, scoring three in end three and two in end four as they overcame Team Rocque 8-3, but losses against Teams Einarson (5-3) and Tirinzoni (6-3) sealed their fate.

The men’s semi-finals saw Team Carruthers overwhelm Team Edin 7-0 and Team Jacobs defeat Team Gushue (their skip Brad back to full fitness) 5-3.

The final then ended in triumph for Jacobs in their hometown, stealing singles in ends six and eight to beat Carruthers 4-2.

In the last four of the women’s section, Einarson won out 9-6 against Team Feltscher, while Tirinzoni edged McCarville 6-5.

And Einarson made it a Canadian double (non-Canadian teams have been doing so well at Grand Slams this season that the fact is noteworthy!) with an 5-3 victory over Tirinzoni in the final, stealing one in end five and scoring two in the seventh for their first career Slam title.

***

Finally, the Skill Awards Challenge took place in Perth, with 16 teams made up of young curlers who have all achieved an RCCC Skill Award playing four-end matches.

Team Stranraer (Niall Ryder, Harry Glasgow, Finlay Alldred, Rory Dodds) won the high road final 3-2 against Perth YC 1 – see all linescores here.

December curling preview

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Will Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken retain their Scottish mixed doubles title this month? (Photo: British Curling)

After a hectic November and as we approach Christmas, the curling season slows a little – but there’s still plenty going on.

Teams Muirhead and Murdoch compete at a Grand Slam – the National – while there are also events across Europe and the world involving Scottish rinks.

In Scotland we have a Scottish Curling Tour event, competitions for young curlers and an increasingly competitive national mixed doubles championship.

***

This last weekend, the Scottish Curling Junior Championships Qualifiers took place in Perth, with 14 rinks vying for a place at the junior championships next year.

Team Bryce went unbeaten with six wins from six, and they were joined in securing qualifying spots by Teams Baird, Carson, Cormack, Craik, Joiner, McNay and Whyte.

The Double Rink Championship took place in Stranraer, an event open to RCCC-affliliated clubs (each represented by two rinks), with Dunfermline coming out as champion after winning 12-4 and 7-3 in the final against Suttieside.

And the Canada Cup of Curling – a major cashspiel for Canadian curling’s creme de la creme with a prize pot of $140,000, plus spots at Olympic qualifying and the Continental Cup – saw wins for Team Carruthers (men’s) and Team Jones (women’s).

***

National (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: December 6-11
Number of teams: 30 (15 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch; Team Muirhead
Last year’s winners: Team Gushue; Team Homan
Website: thegrandslamofcurling.com/curling/national
Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario) hosts the third Grand Slam event of the season, and this will be the second season that the tournament includes a women’s section. Team Murdoch are the sole Scottish representative in the men’s section, facing Teams De Cruz, Epping, Morris and Koe in the round robin. Team Muirhead, fresh from winning European bronze, will take on Teams Sidorova, Rocque, Einarson and Tirinzoni.

Scottish Curling Mixed Doubles Championship (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: December 7-11
Number of teams: 8
Last year’s winners: Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-curling-mixed-doubles-championship-4
Braehead hosts eight teams fighting for the Scottish title and qualification for the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Lethbridge, Canada. Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat have had a stellar year in the new Olympic curling discipline, but Judith and Lee McCleary also have plenty of mixed doubles pedigree – and other big names from the Scottish curling community are out to challenge those established duos. The competition consists of round robin matches, tiebreakers if needed, semi-finals and final.

Skill Awards Challenge (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: December 10
Last year’s winners: Team MacIntosh (Dundee)
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/skill-awards-challenge-4
Held at the Dewars Centre in Perth, this is a competition open to junior curlers who have achieved an RCCC Skill Award. Last season 16 teams participated, with the Dundee rink of Alex MacIntosh, Caitlin Jones, Jamie Meade and Alastair Ferguson winning the High Road final.

Dumfries Challenger Series (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: December 15-18
Number of teams: 30 (16 men’s; 14 women’s)
Scottish teams:
Last year’s winners: Team Mouat; Team Gray
Website: scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk
The usual suspects will contest the title in Dumfries – Team Hardie had a fast start to the season but it was Team Kubeska who took the Edinburgh International title, before Ally Fraser’s rink claimed victory at the Forfar Open. Last year’s women’s winners, meanwhile, have disbanded, so that section of the competition is certainly up for grabs.

Lockerbie Junior International (U21 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: December 16-18
Number of teams: 20 (10 men’s; 10 women’s)
Last year’s winners: Team McNay; Team Murray
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-21-slam-lockerbie-junior-international-2
Team Bremane, from Latvia, join 19 Scottish rinks – many of the junior men’s rinks will have recently faced off at the Scottish Junior Championship qualifiers. There’s no Team Bryce, though, nor Teams K Aitken or Jackson on the women’s side, so it looks an open and exciting competition in prospect.

Mixed Doubles Curling Challenge (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: December 16-18
Number of teams: 18
Website: cclimmattal.ch/index.php
No Scottish pairs are heading to Urdorf, Switzerland, for this event, but there are 18 teams from 11 countries involved, including mixed doubles stalwarts Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky, Szekeres/Nagy and Turmann/Lill, as well as the likes of Brendan Bottcher and Andrea Schöpp.

Forfar (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: December 28-29
Number of teams: 20
Last year’s winners: Team McNay
Website: competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-forfar-3
Twenty teams, a mix of male and female, are divided into five sections. Team Haswell look the rink to beat, though no doubt Teams Craik, Davie and Farmer will be among those to give it a right good go.