End of season round-up

sco seniors bronze
PODIUM: Scotland women won bronze at the World Senior Curling Championships. Pic: twitter.com/jlockhart65

It’s been a packed end to the season, with the good (Team Smith’s European Masters win, bronze for Scotland women at World Seniors) mixed with the bad (Scotland/GB missing out on Olympic Mixed Doubles).

Here’s a quick round-up of how the 2016-17 season has come to its conclusion.

***

Firstly to St Gallen, where the European Masters involved three Scottish men’s teams – Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith).

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Alice Spence) were the sole Scots on the women’s side, but after two wins in the opening two matches versus Teams Schöpp (6-4) and Thompson (6-5) they lost their three remaining group matches to miss out on the final.

In the men’s event, it wasn’t a great tournament for Murdoch, as they only picked up one win from seven round robin games – 7-4 against Team Walstad.

Team Brewster did rather better, with wins against Murdoch (8-2), Pfister (5-3), Walstad (10-1) and McCormick (4-2) qualifying them for the 3v4 game versus McCormick, which the Scots won 4-2.

The best performance, though, came from Team Smith, who won four of their round robin matches – against Pfister (5-4), Murdoch (7-5), Brewster (7-3) and McCormick (8-5) – to edge by Brewster to make the final.

There they faced the ever-menacing Team Edin, and Smith finally got one over on the serial Slam-winning Swedes, as two in end four and one in end eight saw them pinch it 5-4.

***

The Champions Cup – for teams who have won major competitions during the season – took place in Calgary, Alberta, and involved three Scottish rinks – Teams Brewster and Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Duncan Menzies) on the men’s side, and Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) on the women’s.

Neither men’s team could progress from the round robin, with Brewster taking a win against Team Morozumi (9-3) but being beaten by Teams Laycock (5-4), McEwen (9-1) and Gushue (6-3).

Hardie, meanwhile, lost all four games – against Teams De Cruz (8-1), Carruthers (6-3), Jacobs (8-6) and Morris (6-3) – but this was undoubtedly a helpful experience for the team in a Slam environment.

The men’s title went the way of Team Jacobs, who overcame Team Koe 6-2 in the final.

Muirhead also missed out on the women’s playoffs – beating Flaxey (9-4) but losing to Pätz (7-2), Jones (7-6) and Wrana (6-2).

The women’s final was contested by Teams Homan and Hasselborg, with Homan scoring two in end eight to pinch it 5-4.

***

The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Lethbridge, Canada, saw Scotland represented by Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat.

They swept the round robin, with victories over Norway (6-3), Bulgaria (10-3), Ireland (8-5), Wales (11-2), Serbia (11-0), Denmark (8-2) and Italy (8-4).

Also in Scotland’s group, Ireland (Alison Fyfe and Neil Fyfe) won four and lost three (beating Serbia 10-2, Denmark 7-3, Bulgaria 11-4 and Wales 11-2, but losing to Italy 5-4, Scotland and Norway 10-4), with Wales (Dawn Watson and Adrian Meikle) coming in on W2 L5 (winning against Serbia 11-3 and Denmark 9-7, but defeated by Norway 6-2, Scotland, Italy 9-8, Ireland and Bulgaria).

England (Anna Fowler and Ben Fowler) just missed out on qualifying from the round robin, finishing on a W4 L3 record (beating France 8-5, Kazakhstan 17-2, Turkey 10-5 and Germany 9-6, but losing to the USA 7-2, the Czech Republic 6-4 and Canada 7-6).

The quarter-finals saw Ireland face Korea, losing 6-3, while Scotland – despite winning their group – faced Canadians Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers, and they were beaten 8-3 after giving up four in end seven.

Now scrambling to qualify for the Olympics, Aitken and Mouat faced Sweden – and scored four in end four as they beat them 9-2 – while the Irish pair lost to Russia 7-5.

It was the Russians Anastasia Bryzgalova and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii up next for Scotland, and again Aitken/Mouat lost to a very strong opponent, 6-5, as Russia scored singles in ends one, three, four, six, seven and the extra to edge a tight match.

Scotland had to beat Italy next and hope. They did that, 7-5, but Norway’s win over Finland denied them a spot at Pyeongchang 2018, with just two points in it on the ranking system.

Sport is seldom ‘fair’, and Scotland had the misfortune to face Canada and Russia after a flawless round robin.

What would seem flawed is a qualification process that places so much emphasis on a couple of games at one event, over the hard work and consistent tournament success of a Scottish duo who have spent the last four years working towards an Olympic spot, and were clearly heartbroken to fall short.

Switzerland, who went unbeaten through the championship, beat Canada 6-5 in the final to win gold, with China taking silver.

***

Lethbridge also hosted the World Senior Curling Championships, with Scotland represented by Ian Drysdale, David McQueen, Ronald Wilson, Graham Lindsay and Andrew Hemming (alternate) in the men’s event.

They finished the round robin with a W3 L3 record, as they saw off Finland 6-3, England 4-2 and Russia 12-2, but were beaten by Canada (7-2), Wales (6-4) and New Zealand (5-2)).

That meant a tiebreaker against Wales (Adrian Meikle, Richard Pougher, Chris Wells, Gary Waddell, Alistair Reid (alternate)), who had also won three and lost three, and again the Welsh came out on top, 5-4 this time, to put the Scots out.

England men (Thomas Campbell, Philip Barton, Mike Spain, Alastair Fyfe) ended up on W1 L5, with Ireland men (Peter Wilson, Johnjo Kenny, Bill Gray, David Whyte, David Hume (alternate)) on W5 L2.

Wales beat Israel 8-6 to make the last eight, but there they succumbed 8-1 to Canada; Ireland, though, qualified for the quarter-finals with a 5-4 win over Denmark.

Canada proved too strong for the Irish in the semi-finals, winning 5-2, but the Irish did secure bronze with a 6-3 win over Germany in the 3v4 game, while Sweden pipped Canada to gold.

As for the women’s competition, Scotland (Jackie Lockhart, Christine Cannon, Isobel Hannen, Margaret Richardson, Janet Lindsay (alternate)) qualified from Group B with five wins (against the Czech Republic (9-2), Slovakia (15-1), Australia (9-1), Finland (7-6 after an extra end) and Switzerland (8-4)) and one loss (versus the USA (6-4)).

England women (Judith Dixon, Val Saville, Helen Forbes, Deborah Higgins) were W3 L4 for the event, with Ireland women (Carolyn Hibberd, Marie O’Kane, Louise Kerr, Clare McCormick) W1 L6.

Scotland, having finished second in their group to the USA, had to beat Russia to make the last four, which they did 10-0.

Their semi-final pitted them against Colleen Jones’ Canada, and it was the host country who emerged victorious with a two in end eight to win 5-3.

Canada took gold and Switzerland silver, and Scotland ensured they joined them on the podium by beating the USA 8-5 (scoring four in end five) in the bronze medal match.

Skip Lockhart said: “It feels really good to get a medal and to go back with something after not playing quite the ‘A’ game we wanted against Canada.

“We had to fight really hard for that. It’s been a tough week but every medal makes the season worthwhile and we’ve still got years to play in seniors, so…bring it on.”

Scotland win World Women’s bronze as Canada sweep the board

muirhead world bronze
Scotland’s bronze medal winners: Glenn Howard, Kelly Schafer, Lauren Gray, Vicki Adams, Anna Sloan, Eve Muirhead (pic: twitter.com/evemuirhead)

Scotland’s Team Muirhead ended a see-saw week at the World Curling Championships with a bronze medal, a positive outcome from a competition that had seen Team Homan prove just too good for everyone else.

At one point the Scots looked unlikely to even make the playoffs, so for them to add another international medal to the Muirhead mantelpiece was a big plus ahead of next year’s Olympic Games.

Also this weekend, the Dumfries Mixed Doubles took place, with Camilla and Per Noreen of Sweden coming out on top.

***

Twelve teams battled it out at the 2017 World Women’s Curling Championships in Beijing, with playoff and Olympic qualification at stake.

Scotland (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)) had a dramatic start to the week, stealing ones in end 10 and then the extra end to beat the USA 9-8.

But after that point they struggled to find momentum. They went down to a surprise 7-6 defeat against Italy, and although they hit back by beating Russia 10-7 (scoring three in end one and stealing four in end four) and Denmark 7-2, they then suffered three successive defeats – against Sweden 7-3, Korea 10-6 and Canada 8-2.

Sitting at W3 L4, it was win or bust for Scotland from here on. They overcame the hosts China – who had a surprisingly poor week in front of their home crowd, only winning twice – by an 8-6 scoreline, and suddenly it was back on.

Switzerland, who started the week well but faded, were the Scots’ next victims, beaten 7-4 with a three in end nine and steal of one in the 10th, and once Germany were dispatched 7-2 the Muirhead rink found themselves one win away from making the playoffs alongside runway leaders Canada (W11 L0 in the round robin), Russia and Sweden.

The Czech Republic stood in their way, a team eyeing up a playoff spot themselves – the Czechs scored twos in ends five and seven to lead into the 1oth, but a superb draw behind a centre guard from skip Eve Muirhead, and a miss from counterpart Anna Kubeskova, set up the peel for two – which Muirhead made to win it 7-6.

That ensured Olympic qualification for Scotland (as Team GB) for Pyeongchang 2018, and after a Friday off the Scots faced Sweden in the 3v4 page playoff, a must-win match with a semi-final against Russia the reward for the victor.

It was Sweden (Team Hasselborg) who grabbed that chance, stealing one in end two and going on to score two in end six and three in end eight to win 8-5 and extinguish Scottish hopes of making the final.

But the two teams met again in the bronze medal match, Sweden having lost the semi to Russia, and it was third time lucky for Muirhead against Hasselborg in Beijing.

The teams traded ones and twos up to end nine, where Muirhead claimed a steal of one – and then did the same in end 10, both times forcing Anna Hasselborg to play tough, tough final stones and therefore winning it 6-4.

Taking a medal from a tough field was a good result for the Scots, skip Muirhead saying: “We’re absolutely delighted and that was a really strong team performance.

“We really wanted that medal.  It’s been a tough week, with a lot of ups and a lot of downs so to come away with a medal is really quite satisfying.

She added: “That was my first bronze, I’ve got world gold, silver and bronze now, so I’m delighted and it’s good to have a solid Worlds going into the Olympic Games.

“It takes a lot to come back and win bronze, it’s one of the toughest medals for a team to win.

“We’d be too greedy if we thought we should have had more this week, because I think the two best teams are in the final.”

The final saw Canada’s Team Homan do what no other side had done at a World Women’s Championships – go the entire week undefeated.

Russia (Team Sidorova) could not stay with them, giving up a two in end two, a steal of one in end three and then three in end six.

A two for Russia in end seven brought it back to end 6-3, but they knew it wasn’t their day when skip Anna Sidorova didn’t release her final stone of end eight before the hog-line and Rachel Homan drew in for two and an 8-3 victory that sealed the gold medals.

***

Back in Scotland, a Curling Champions Tour event – the Dumfries Mixed Doubles – was taking place, with 24 teams participating.

Sorted into four pools of six teams, there was good British representation – with English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh pairings involved – but only the mixed doubles big-hitters of Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat (first in Pool C, with a W5 L0 record), and Judith and Lee McCleary (second in Pool B, W3 L2) made the knockout stages.

The two remaining Scottish rinks met head-on in the quarter-finals, and on this occasion it was the McClearys who came out on top, stealing one in end three then scoring three in end five and four in end seven to triumph 9-3.

But McCleary/McCleary fell in the semi-finals, as Swedish pair Camilla and Per Noreen took two with hammer in end eight to win 6-5.

The McClearys did claim third, though, stealing one in the first end, scoring two in the third and stealing another one in end six on their way to beating Anastasia Bryzgalova/Alexander Krushelnitsky of Russia 6-3.

Noreen/Noreen took the title, scoring four in end four as they defeated Irantzu Garcia/Gontzal Garcia Vez (Spain) 7-3 in the final.

Team Hardie come out on top in Aberdeen

hardie aberdeen
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…

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

Scots dominate podium at Dutch Masters

team-gina-aitken-bruce-mouat
SECOND SPOT: Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken (pic: Tom J Brydone)

Scottish curlers filled out second and third place at the Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles this weekend, with Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat only just missing out on the top prize.

Three Scottish rinks competed at the Bernese Ladies Cup, but only Team Fleming made the playoffs – where they were beaten by eventual runners-up Team Tirinzoni.

And Team North America continued their domination of the Continental Cup, taking their fifth title in a row versus Team World.

***

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat, fresh from winning the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship at the end of 2016, went into the Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles event as one of the favourites.

And they secured passage from Pool A of the round robin stages with a perfect record – winning against Molder/Lill of Estonia 10-3, Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky of Russia 8-6, Fowler/Fowler of England 8-3 and Turto/Turto of Finland 9-3.

That record was emulated by Judith and Lee McCleary, the runners-up at the Scottish Championships, who finished Pool C on W4 L0 after beating Walczak/Knebloch (Poland) 15-4, Fyfe/Fyfe (Ireland) 10-3, Norberg/Stenberg (Sweden) 10-7 and Kalocsai/Van Dorp (Hungary/Netherlands) 6-5.

The English team, Anna and Ben Fowler, and Irish, Alison and Neil Fyfe, both finished the group stage on W2 L2 records – both missed out on the playoffs, but the English pair did at least take third spot in their pool (the Fyfes were one of three rinks on W2 L2 in their group but placed fourth), meaning they were into the Consolation event.

There they took down Menard/Baker of Canada 8-5, before losing out to Kalocsai/Van Dorp in the Consolation final, beaten 9-6 after an extra end.

Back to the main event, and the quarter-finals, where Aitken/Mouat found themselves 3-1 down to Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary after four ends, only to explode with a six in end five – which meant that two successive steals to end the match were not enough for the Hungarians, as the Scots took it 7-6.

Again the McClearys matched their compatriots, reaching the semi-finals with a 7-3 victory over Palancsa/Kiss (Hungary), who were the winners of this competition in 2016, having scored four in end one and stolen singles in ends six and seven.

That meant a head-on collision between Scots, and again it was Aitken/Mouat who took the spoils – scoring two in end one, one in end two, three in end three and four in end five to wrap it up 10-1.

The McClearys had one last match, the third-place playoff against Norberg/Stenberg of Sweden, which they won 11-5, with fours in ends three and six.

The final brought Aitken/Mouat a rematch with Russian world champions Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitsky, and the Scots enjoyed an ideal start – three in end one.

But the Russians hit back hard, scoring four in end two and stealing singles in ends three and four to lead 6-3 at halfway.

It wasn’t over yet, as Aitken/Mouat scored ones in ends five, six and seven to tie it up 6-6 – but two (thanks to a fine runback double) in end eight for Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky gave them the match 8-6 and the title.

***

Scottish women’s teams were back in action following a few weeks off over Christmas, with three taking on a world class field at the Bernese Ladies Cup, a triple knockout tournament.

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) started with a big win over Team Mathis, 10-2, but were knocked down to the B-Road by Team Schöpp of Germany, beaten 8-7.

They bounced back well, cruising past Team Kauste 10-2, and then beating Team Nielsen 7-3, but a loss to European gold medallists Team Moiseeva, 5-4, put them one defeat away from elimination.

Muirhead kept themselves alive on the C-Road by overcoming Schöpp at the second time of asking, 3-2, but a 7-2 loss against Team Sigfridsson in the C-Road final knocked them out.

Team Smith (Hazel Smith, Sarah Reid, Claire Hamilton, Kerry Clark) opened by edging Team Hegner 8-7, but there followed two straight defeats – against Team Wang 10-1 and Team Koana 5-4.

They kept themselves alive by overcoming Kauste 6-2, but Koana beat them again (7-5 this time), and they then lost 9-2 to Nielsen in the Consolation Cup to exit the event, which Nielsen went on to win.

Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) began their competition by defeating Team Keiser 6-5, then saw off Team Babezat 5-4, before defeat in the A-Road semi-final to Team Tirinzoni, 8-6.

They lost again on the B-Road, 7-2 to Moiseeva, but won 5-4 against Team Jentsch and then scored two in end eight to edge Team Christensen 7-6 – thus making the playoffs!

The quarter-finals proved to be Fleming’s limit, however, as they met the in-form Tirinzoni and lost out 7-3.

That shouldn’t take away the added level of consistency we’re seeing from Fleming this season compared to the last couple of years, as they continue to narrow the gap at the top of the Scottish women’s game.

The final was contested by two Swiss rinks, Tirinzoni and Pätz, and it was the latter who took the title following a 4-3 victory.

***

Finally, the Continental Cup – the Ryder Cup-style tournament between Teams North America and World – was held in Las Vegas, but for once there was no Scottish involvement.

Unlike the most recent Ryder Cup, there was no reversal of fortunes for the most dominant side in recent years – North America winning their fifth in a row.

The teams were level at the end of the first day, on 4.5 points apiece, but from there North America steadily pulled away – eventually winning 37-23.

So congratulations to the winners – Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert, Heath McCormick, Chris Plys, Korey Dropkin, Tom Howell, Reid Carruthers, Braeden Moskowy, Derek Samagalski, Colin Hodgson, Chelsea Carey, Amy Nixon, Jocelyn Peterman, Laine Peters, Jamie Sinclair, Alex Carlson, Vicky Persinger, Monica Walker, Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen.

January 2017 curling preview

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.