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…

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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.

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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.

Aitken/Mouat win in Bern, Fleming second in Red Deer

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Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken won the first ever Bern Mixed Doubles title (photo: facebook.com/TeamAitkenMouat)

While European Championship curling has come home to Scotland this week, it has been overseas where Scottish teams have excelled.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat won the inaugural Bern Mixed Doubles title in Switzerland, where Judith and Lee McCleary also claimed the Consolation competition prize.

And over in Canada, the three Scottish teams involved in the Red Deer Curling Classic all made the playoffs, with Team Fleming finishing as runners-up in the women’s section.

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There will be 2016 European Championship round-robin and playoff summaries to come, but for now here’s a quick rundown of how the British teams are getting on after three days’ play in Braehead.

At time of writing, in the men’s A-Division, Scotland (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Duncan Menzies (alternate)) have a won three, lost three record.

Oddly enough, they’ve beaten Norway, Sweden and Switzerland – and lost to Denmark, Austria and Finland – which shows that the men’s competition is really up for grabs.

As for the women’s A-Division, Scotland (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate)) are the sole women’s side yet to lose.

They have beaten Italy, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Switzerland to lead the pack early on.

You can follow the Scottish teams’ progress throughout the week with live games shown on BBC Sport and Eurosport/World Curling TV, with match reviews and interviews via the Royal Caledonian Curling Club and British Curling, plus David Murdoch’s daily column for Herald Sport.

In the B-Division, England men sit on a W2 L3 record, Wales men on W3 L2 and England women on W4 L2. Follow scores from their remaining games here.

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Moving outwards from Scotland, our next stop is Bern in Switzerland, where an inaugural mixed doubles competition took place this weekend.

There were two Scottish teams involved – Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat, and Judith and Lee McCleary – among 32 participants from across Europe, from Spain to Russia.

In the triple knockout format, Aitken/Mouat won their first match against Iseli/Iseli of Switzerland 10-2, and remained on the A-Road by thumping French pair Morand/Borani 14-4 (stealing five in end two).

They set up an A final by overcoming Jaeggi/Freiberger of Switzerland 7-0, but were defeated 6-4 by Hajkova/Paul from the Czech Republic.

On the B-Road they overcame Hungarian pair Szekeres/Nagy 7-2 but lost out 9-3 in the B final against Turmann/Lill of Estonia, before making the playoffs at the third time of asking by defeating Huembelin/Gubler (Switzerland) in emphatic fashion, 13-2.

McCleary/McCleary also won their first three matches, 8-6 against Swiss duo Wild/Wild, then 7-3 versus Noreen/Noreen of Sweden, and 9-2 over Grunder/Hartmann from Switzerland.

But like Aitken/Mouat they too lost their A final, 10-4 against Perret/Rios (Switzerland), and they were then knocked down to the C-Road by another Swiss pair, Michel/Michel, after a 9-6 defeat.

And a third successive loss to Swiss opposition, Jaeggi/Freiberger (6-5 after an extra end), tore up their playoff hopes – though they would still contest the Consolation event.

Aitken/Mouat faced Russian pair (and mixed doubles powerhouse) Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky in the quarter-finals, and despite a four in end four they went into the eighth end 6-5 behind – but they had hammer, and scored two to win the match 7-6.

In the last four the Scottish team had a rematch with Hajkova/Paul and this time it had the opposite outcome – Aitken/Mouat scored twos in ends one and four and stole three in end five for an 8-1 victory.

The final pitted them against Tamara and Sven Michel, and the Scots had the perfect start, with four in end one, then a steal of two in end two for a rapid 6-0 lead.

The Swiss scored two in the third end, but two for Aitken/Mouat in end four and a steal of one in end five saw the match finish 9-2 to them – meaning they had taken the title!

The Scottish success did not end there either. McCleary/McCleary had battled into the Consolation competition final with wins over Swiss teams Iseli/Iseli (9-5, with five in end six) and Clostre/Panzera (7-4).

In the Consolation final they were up against Camilla/Per Noreen – the Scottish pair stole one in end three but at halfway the Swedes led 3-2. Twos in ends five and seven, however, gave McCleary/McCleary the win 6-4.

With the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship taking place on December 8-11, these two teams have picked a fine time to hit form as they prepare to battle each other (and six other pairs) in Braehead.

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And now onto Canada, where three Scottish rinks competed at the Red Deer Curling Classic in Alberta.

In the men’s competition, Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) made it straight through to the A-Road final by defeating Teams Powell (5-2), Yablonski (5-2) and Park (4-2).

 

But there they suffered their first defeat – 6-4 against Team Geall. Though that was soon made up for, as they saw off Teams Lizmore 6-5 and Hanson 5-0 to make the last eight.

Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Bobby Lammie (subbing for Thomas Muirhead), Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith), meanwhile, continued their recent good form – having made their first Grand Slam final last weekend – by joining Murdoch in making the playoffs.

Smith began with a 7-1 win over Team Heidt, then progressed to the A final with victories over Teams Hansen (5-2) and Appelman (7-3).

There they were edged 7-6 by Team Bottcher, but – after a rip-roaring 7-2 win over Team Koe – they secured a spot in the playoffs by beating Appelman again, 5-4 this time.

In the quarter-finals, Smith snuck past Team (Jamie) Koe, scoring two in end eight to win 6-5, but Murdoch exited the competition, beaten 6-3 by Appelman.

The last four pitted Smith against Koe again – Kevin this time – and this time the reigning world champions claimed the win, with two in end eight to take it 5-4.

Koe went on to secure the title, beating Appelman 6-5 after an extra end in the final.

Over on the women’s side, Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) made it to the knockout stage at the earliest opportunity.

Fleming powered into the playoffs with wins over Teams Min Ji Kim of Korea (4-3), Ogasawara of Japan (8-0, stealing three in end three and four in end five) and Ramsay (8-1, stealing four in end seven).

In the last eight Fleming defeated Team Kleibrink 6-4 thanks to three in end four and a steal of two in end six, and they booked their spot in the final with a fine 5-3 victory over Team Rocque, stealing two in end two and adding the decisive deuce in end seven.

But they fell short at the last against the in-form Team Chyz, giving up steals of one, three and one in the first three ends, meaning twos in ends four and six could not save them from an 8-4 defeat.

Still, though, it was an impressive run to the final in a strong field and a sign of the rink’s real progression this season.

Team Jackson victorious in Prague

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EJCT Prague Junior Cup winners, Team Jackson (photo: facebook.com/CurlingChampionsTour)

Team Jackson won the women’s title at the EJCT Prague Junior Cup, defeating Team Gauchat of Switzerland in the final.

Three Scottish teams took part in the first Grand Slam of Curling event of the season, the Masters, with Team Murdoch performing best in making it to the quarter-finals.

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat also posted a quarter-final finish, theirs coming at the Geising Mixed Doubles, while the Province Championship and U17 Slam at Lanarkshire took place back in Scotland.

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Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair) travelled to the Czech Republic for the EJCT Prague Junior Cup.

They kicked off their pool stage with a 9-2 win over Team Wuest of Switzerland, scoring two in end four and five, and three in end six.

Team Hoehne of Germany were up next, and the Scots scored two in end two only for the Germans to hit back straight away with three and head into the extra end with hammer. Jackson, however, stole one for the 5-4 victory.

Threes in ends one and two pointed them towards an 8-2 win over Team Cerne of Slovenia, and despite a 6-5 loss to Team Joo (Hungary) they were safely into the semi-finals.

There Jackson met Team Fomm of Germany, and gave up steals in ends four and five to fall 4-1 behind. But two in end six and a steal of three in end seven turned the match on its head, Jackson winning 6-4.

Team Gauchat of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, but it was the Scots who pulled through 7-4 to take the cup!

Skip Sophie Jackson said: “We are really happy with our result this weekend as we had a few tough games and stuck together to grind out the wins.

“It’s great to see our hard work from pre-season paying off with regards to results so far this season.”

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Three Scottish teams were in Okotoks, Alberta, for the WFG Masters, the opening Grand Slam of Curling tournament of the 2016-17 season.

Teams Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) and Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were drawn in the same pool and they opened against each other.

Murdoch began with three in end one, forced Smith to one and then added a huge four in end three for an almost unassailable 7-1 lead – and so it proved, Smith conceding at 9-2.

Smith, in their first Grand Slam at the elite level (they played in tier 2 of the Tour Challenge last season), claimed a win in their next match – two in end four and a steal of one in end seven seeing them past Team Carruthers 5-3 – but two further losses (6-5 to Team McEwen and 7-5 to Team Morris) saw them exit with a W1 L3 record.

Murdoch edged a tight battle with Morris (5-4) for their second win of the competition, but defeats to Carruthers (5-1) and McEwen (6-5) tipped them into a tiebreaker with Team Koe, the reigning world champions.

A good time for your skip to curl at 100 per cent then – and that’s just what David Murdoch did, as his rink scored two in end three, then three in end five, and stole one in end six, as Koe were beaten 7-3.

The quarter-finals pitted them against the on-song Team Laycock, and this time the Scots fell short, Laycock taking two in end four and stealing one in the fifth in winning 5-3.

The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Jacobs. Jacobs led 4-2 into end eight, but the Swedes scored two to force an extra – where they stole one to win the match 5-4, taking their first Grand Slam title and – remarkably – the first men’s Grand Slam won by a non-Canadian team!

Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray), fresh from qualifying for the European Championships and welcoming back Sloan at third, flew the Scottish flag in the women’s event.

First up they faced Team Kim of Korea – they stole two in end one but then gave up five unanswered points in the following four ends, the Koreans eventually winning 6-5.

They then suffered another 6-5 defeat, this time going toe-to-toe with Team Pätz of Switzerland but giving up a steal in end eight, before a first win came against Team Rocque – three in end one, four in end four and three in end six giving them a 10-2 victory.

That set up a must-win match with the reigning Masters champions, Team Homan. Homan took the victory though, 7-5, and Muirhead dropped out on W1 L3.

Despite four of the quarter-finalists being international teams, it was an all-Canadian – indeed an all-Ontario – final between Teams Flaxey and Homan.

Flaxey, having made the playoffs via a tiebreaker, shocked Homan with a four in end five pivotal in their 6-3 victory. Like Edin, this was Flaxey’s first GSOC title.

As an aside, it is very disappointing to see Sportsnet having chosen to end non-Canadian subscriptions to live Grand Slam matches – it means that fans of the international teams playing the tournaments cannot watch them at home, and it will hardly help to grow the sport worldwide.

I hope that curling fans’ passionate pleas for the service’s return will be rewarded.

***

Back in Europe, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who had finished runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles the week before – took part in the CCT Geising Mixed Doubles.

The Scottish pair cruised through the group stage, with wins over Walczak/Knebloch of Poland (10-5), Belarussians Petrova/Petrov (10-3), Poles Szeliga-Frynia/Frynia (8-4) and Kobler/Hess of Switzerland (8-2).

The quarter-finals saw them face Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky of Russia, who have real pedigree this season – having come third at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles and then helped Russia to gold at the World Mixed Championship.

The Russians stole in ends two, three and four to lead 3-0, before Aitken/Mouat got on the board with two in end five. The Russian pair scored four in end six though, and stole another one in the seventh end for an 8-2 win.

And it was Bryzgalova/Krushelnitsky who won the title, beating Hajkova/Paul of the Czech Republic 8-5 in the final.

***

Lanarkshire Ice Rink hosted the second Asham Under 17 Slam of the season, with 24 teams involved.

The rinks being divided into six sections, the pool stage delivered two high road and two low road quarter-finals, all the knockout matches played on the Sunday.

In the high road quarters, Team Craik scored two in end one and three in end four in beating Team Gallacher 6-4, while Team Haswell cruised past Team Hair 6-1.

Haswell won again in the semis, scoring two in end four and stealing one in the sixth end for a 4-3 victory over Team Davie, while Team Kinnear overpowered Craik 7-0.

The high road final saw Haswell take a 3-0 lead after two ends, but Kinnear roared back with three in the third end, then steals of one, two and one in the next three ends.

That secured Kinnear (Callum Kinnear, Ryan McCormack, Duncan McFadzean and Matthew McKenzie) a 7-3 victory and their second U17 Slam title of the season.

Third spot went to Craik, courtesy of a 3-1 win over Davie, while Henderson defeated Lyon 7-6 after an extra end in the low road final.

Across in Greenacres, 28 teams took part in the Scottish Province Championship.

A pool stage determined which rinks would make the quarter-finals. There, North Eastern defeated Border 5-4, Central beat Cupar 7-4, Renfrewshire 12th edged Galloway 5-4 and Ayrshire 1 saw off Moray 7-4.

Come the semi-finals, Renfrewshire 12th overcame Ayrshire 1 5-3 thanks to two in end five and a steal of one in eight, and Central won a ding-dong battle with North Eastern 8-7 – after the rinks had traded fours in ends two and three, Central scored two in end four and stole singles in ends five and six, then just about held on for the victory.

Renfrewshire 12th (Eric Richardson, Doug Kerr, Fraser Davidson, Margaret Richardson) came through as champions, defeating Central 7-6 in the high road final, scoring two in end three, three in end five and their one with hammer in end eight.

Stirlingshire won the low road final, 9-2 against North & South Esk.

Scotland win bronze at World Mixed Championship

world-mixed-scotland
Bronze medal winners (L-R): Sophie Jackson, Bobby Lammie, Katie Murray, Cameron Bryce (photo: worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016/teams)

Scotland’s young team only lost one match as they claimed bronze at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia.

They were beaten in the semi-finals by eventual silver medallists Sweden, as the Russian hosts took gold, but recovered to take bronze ahead of Korea.

Elsewhere this weekend, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat finished as runners-up at the Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup, and more Scottish curlers competed at home, in Norway and in Canada.

***

There have been two World Mixed Curling Championships, and Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson have represented Scotland at both of them.

Last year in Bern, Switzerland, they exited the competition at the last 16 stage, but they surpassed that achievement by some distance in Kazan.

The Scots kicked off their group stage challenge with an 8-3 win over Italy, and followed that by beating Norway 8-1 and Japan 7-4.

Further victories against Romania (8-4) and Belarus (9-5, with a five in end two!) saw them ease into the knockout stages, and a sixth win from six was secured as they saw off New Zealand 7-2.

Ireland’s foursome finished the competition with a W2 L4 record (beating Brazil 13-4 and Slovakia 6-4), while Wales were W4 L3 for the event, narrowly missing a playoff/tiebreaker place despite defeating Croatia (7-6, after an extra end), Slovenia (8-1), the Netherlands (8-3) and Estonia (6-3).

England were even closer, wins against Brazil (12-1), Ireland (8-5) and Finland (6-4) earning them a tiebreaker against the Finns, only for their opponents to edge it 6-5 and make the playoffs themselves.

Scotland the last British side standing, they took on the USA in the round of 16, the stage at which they’d gone out to Switzerland last season.

No problems this time round, Bryce’s rink scoring three in end two and stealing one in end four for a 4-1 win.

To the quarter-finals then, and a big match with Canada, who like Scotland were yet to lose a game.

Scotland stole two in the first end, but Canada took singles in ends two and three, and the Scots were forced to one in end four for a 3-2 lead at halfway.

Canada took two in end five and they led 5-4 going down the eighth – but Scotland, crucially, held hammer. And they used it to maximum effect, as skip Bryce made a takeout to score two and win the match 6-5.

Sweden were their opponents in the last four, and they proved too much for Scotland to handle. Successive steals in the first three ends saw the Swedes 3-1 up at halfway, and they took two in end five and three in end seven to take the game 8-2 and make the final.

A tough result for Scotland to pick themselves up from, but they had to go again in the bronze medal match with Korea.

There they again found themselves 3-0 down after giving up a steal of one in end one and two in end two, but they fought back with singles in ends three and four.

A crucial steal of two in the fifth end put Scotland ahead for the first time in the game, a lead they carried into the eighth at 5-4.

Korea had hammer down the last, but Scotland had four shot stones ahead of opposing skip Lee Kibok’s final stone – a raise takeout attempt which only cleared one stone, giving the Scots a steal of three, an 8-4 victory and the bronze medals!

In the final, Sweden – runners-up in 2015, beaten by Norway – finished second again, Russia winning gold after a 5-4 extra-end victory.

Reflecting on his team’s bronze medals, Scottish skip Cameron Bryce said: “It’s always good to bounce back after a defeat in the morning. We wanted to make sure we went home to Scotland with a medal. We started off slow so we had to do it the difficult way and steal our way through.

“Bronze is good now, but we were really disappointed this morning. After a couple of days we’ll be really happy with our bronze.”

For photos from the event, check out the WCF Facebook album here.

***

Another Scottish success story came at the CCT Austrian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup in Kitzbühel, as Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who have both been selected in the British curling squad for the next Winter University Games – finished as runners-up.

The Scottish pair eased through the pool stages of the event, beating Zubercova/Gallo of Slovakia 16-3, Reitsma/Genner (Austria) 12-3 and Mayrhans/Kapp (Germany) 8-1.

In the first playoff round, they defeated Fischer/Roth (Austria) 9-3, with two in end three, four in end five and two in end six, to wrap up a semi-final spot.

There they scored twos in ends one and three, stole one in end four and added another three in end seven to overcome Kauste/Rantamaki of Finland 8-3 and make the final.

The final proved a step too far for Aitken/Mouat, up against the Hungarian pair of Ildiko Szekeres and Gyeorgy Nagy.

It was finely poised after the fourth end with the Scots leading 4-3 courtesy of twos in ends two and four, but the Hungarians scored three in end five then took single steals in ends six, seven and eight for a 9-4 victory.

Nevertheless, a positive result for Aitken and Mouat, who continue their mixed doubles progress with the CCT Mixed Doubles Cup Geising next weekend.

***

There were more up-and-coming Scottish teams in action this weekend in events at home and abroad.

The second Asham Under-14 Slam of the season, after the event in Forfar earlier this month, took place in Stranraer.

The four sections were topped by Teams Stewart, Ryder, Stranraer 1 and Stranraer 2.

And so in the high road semi-finals, Stranraer 1 defeated Ryder 4-1 and Stranraer 2 beat Stewart 7-2.

That set up an all-Stranraer final, and it was Stranraer 2 (Robyn Munro, Robbie Lyon, Finlay Aldred, Iona Irving) who triumphed over Stranraer 1 (Matthew McCrone, Kaleb Johnstone, Kerr Lyon, Thomas Hay), scoring three in end one and adding singles in ends three and four to clinch a 5-2 victory, while Ryder defeated Stewart 4-1 for third spot.

In the low road final, it was Forfar winners Team Gallacher (Hamish Gallacher, Scott Hyslop, Jack Strawhorn, Jack Carrick) who came out on top, beating Team Gow 6-1.

Further afield, meanwhile, Teams Baird (David Baird, Fraser Kingan, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr) and Aitken (Karina Aitken, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Laura Barr) took part in the EJCT Oslo event in Norway.

Baird started with a 7-1 victory over Team Kringlebotrn, and then saw off Team Studer of Switzerland 9-4.

Two 6-5 defeats to Norwegian rinks followed, to Teams Foss (after an extra end) and Myran, but they then overcame Team Bremanis of Latvia 7-2 for a spot in the quarter-finals.

There their progress ended, Team Nygren of Sweden stealing three in end eight to beat the Scots 8-5.

In the girls’ section of the junior event, Aitken lost 8-5 to Norwegians Team Forbregd but were 8-5 winners themselves in their next match, against Team Bremane of Latvia.

However, two losses against Swedish rinks, Teams Sundberg (4-3) and Westman (6-2), saw them exit on a W1 L3 record.

The boys’ winner at the event were Team Muskatewitz of Germany, beating Myran 6-4 in the final, and on the girls’ side it was Sundberg who triumphed in an all-Swedish final, 8-3 versus Westman.

***

Finally, there were – as ever – an abundance of events taking place in Canada over the weekend, ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season this week.

Team Brewster, having just won the European Playdowns to represent Scotland in Braehead, took part in the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

Brewster’s rink – Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan – couldn’t carry over their form from Perth though, losing to Team Scharback (4-2) and Team Stroh (5-4) to drop to the C-Road.

There they finally picked up a win, beating Team Kleibrink 6-2, then added another – defeating Scharback 9-0, capped by a steal of five in end five – but a 6-1 loss to Team Appelman ended their run a match short of the playoffs.

Team Smith (Hannah Smith, Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie, Claire Hamilton) also made the trip to Canada, competing in the Canad Inns Women’s Classic in Manitoba alongside some stellar names – Teams Homan, Jones, Sigfridsson and Tirinzoni to name but four.

Their first match was a daunting one, against Stockholm Ladies Cup winners and European Championships qualifiers Team Hasselborg, and the Swedes won 9-1.

Another defeat followed, 7-3 against Team Middaugh, and a 5-2 loss versus Team Barbezat of Switzerland on the C-Road saw their participation finished.

The playoffs for both the Medicine Hat Charity Classic (follow here) and Canad Inns Women’s Classic (here) are being contested later today.

As for the Challenge De Curling De Gatineau in Quebec, it was Team Epping (with ‘super spare’ Craig Savill) who triumphed, overcoming Team Dunstone 4-3 in the final.

One last thing! Back in Europe, Team Edin claimed yet another title in what has been an incredibly fast start to the season for the Swedes, beating Team Pfister 7-5 in the Champery Masters final.

The tournament was televised through World Curling TV, another step forward in their attempts to expand the sport’s reach.

 

October 2016 curling preview

mcewen_team1280
Team McEwen, last season’s GSOC Masters men’s winners (photo: Grand Slam of Curling/Anil Mungal (anilmungal.com))

The 2016-17 season has already seen success for the likes of Team Bryce, Team Hardie, Team Jackson and Team Smith in Scotland and overseas, while last weekend Teams Fleming and Murdoch reached the final of Curling Champions Tour events.

October sees plenty more events, including the first Grand Slam of the season and those all-important European Championship Playdowns…

***

Dumfries Open (Scottish Curling Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 18
Prize money: £2,050
Last year’s winners: Team Hardie (Scotland)
Website: http://scottishcurlingtour.blogspot.co.uk

Team Hardie look to defend their title, and indeed repeat last season’s exploits, where they won both the Braehead Open and Dumfries Open to kick off their curling year in style. Other Scottish teams vying for the title include Team Mouat and Team Taylor, while there is a strong women’s representation through Teams G Aitken and Smith, as well as mixed teams and challengers from England and Wales.

***

Livechannel Cup (European Junior Curling Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 19 (14 boys’; 5 girls’)
Scottish team: Team Bryce
Prize money: SEK 40,000
Last year’s winners: Team Eremin (Russia); Team Panthera (Sweden)
Website: https://www.facebook.com/EJCTLivechannelCup

Team Bryce fly the flag for Scotland at this European Junior Curling Tour event in Härnösand, Sweden. They’ve had an impressive start to their season, what with wins at the EJCT Braehead International and two Asham U21 Slams. Should Bryce emerge from their pool, the likes of Team Lottenbach (Switzerland) and Team Ramsfjell (Norway) pose threats.

***

Scottish Curling Senior Mixed Championship (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 15
Last year’s winners: Team Dodds
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-curling-senior-mixed-championship-4

The first RCCC national competition of the season returns to Stranraer, as 15 teams over over-50s (two males and two females in alternate positions) challenge for the honours in a social atmosphere. Trevor Dodds’ rink return to defend their title, as do last season’s runners-up Team Horton, and Team Craig, the winners the year before that.

***

Women’s Masters Basel (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 7-9
Number of teams: 24
Scottish teams: Team Fleming, Team Muirhead
Prize money: CHF 32,000
Last year’s winners: Team Sidorova (Russia)
Website: http://www.womensmasters.ch/english/home

Last season Team Fleming made the quarter-finals at this event in Switzerland, Team Muirhead the semis. Fleming performed superbly last weekend in making the Stockholm Ladies Cup final, while Muirhead made two finals out in Canada in the weeks before that. In this triple knockout competition, Fleming start against Team Schöpp, Muirhead versus Team Maillard. Other rinks to watch out for include those of Silvana Tirinzoni and the on-song Anna Hasselborg. Selected games will be livestreamed here.

***

Forfar (U14 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Date: October 9
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Team Bryce
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-14-slam-fofar

Reigning champions Angus Bryce’s rink do not return, so there will be a new winner for the one-day U14 Slam. Teams, divided into four sections, will play four-end matches in their groups, before high and low road deciders.

***

European Playdowns (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 12-16
Number of teams: 5
Last year’s winners: Team Smith; Team Muirhead
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/european-playdowns-4

Who will represent Scotland as the nation hosts the European Curling Championships in Braehead in November? In Perth, Teams Brewster, Murdoch and Smith will challenge for the men’s spot, while Teams Fleming and Muirhead contest the women’s. Fleming will be looking to pull off an upset over their best-of-five-match series, while the men’s teams play each other twice before a best-of-three final – Smith have started the season very well, Murdoch reached the Swiss Cup Basel final last weekend, and Brewster have pedigree aplenty.

***

Service Experts Mixed Doubles Classic (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 14-16
Number of teams: 17
Prize money: $12,500
Last year’s winners: N/A
Website: http://sherwoodparkcurling.com/mixed-doubles-classic

Mixed doubles is catching on like wildfire and here we have another event, in Alberta, Canada. No Scottish teams are taking part in this one, but there are rinks representing China, Hungary, Russia and the USA, as well as 10 Canadian teams including Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant, 2016 Canadian Mixed Doubles champions.

***

World Mixed Curling Championship 2016 (World Curling Federation)
Dates: October 14-22
Number of teams: 37
Scottish team: Team Bryce
Last year’s winners: Team Walstad (Norway)
Website: http://www.worldcurling.org/wmxcc2016

Kazan, Russia, hosts the second installment of the World Mixed Curling Championship, the first won by Norway last season. Scotland is represented by Cameron Bryce (skip), Katie Murray (a one-event detour back into the sport after stepping back this season), Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson. They face Belarus, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Romania in Group A. England, Wales and Ireland also have teams involved.

***

Austrian Mixed Doubles Cup (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 20-23
Number of teams: 12
Scottish team
: Team Aitken/Mouat
Prize money: €2,800
Last year’s winners: Team Toth/Wunderer (Austria)
Website: http://www.curling-austria.at/events.html

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat made the quarter-finals at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles last weekend, and they will be back in action in the new Olympic format in Kitzbühel, Austria. The likes of Oona Kauste/Tomi Rantamäki (Finland) and Ildikó Szekeres/György Nagy (Hungary) will provide stiff competition.

***

Curling Masters Champery (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 20-23
Number of teams: 24
Prize money: CHF 40,000
Last year’s winners: Team Grattan (Canada)
Website: http://www.curling-masters.ch

Teams Brewster and Smith participated in this event last season, but no Scots are taking part this time around (it is hot on the heels of the European Playdowns). There’s no lack of quality in the field in Switzerland though, with Teams De Cruz, Edin, Kauste and Ulsrud among the 24 involved.

***

Canad Inns Women’s Classic (World Curling Tour)
Dates: October 21-24
Number of teams: 32
Scottish team: Team Smith
Prize money: $60,000
Last year’s winners: Team Kim (Korea)
Website: http://www.worldcurl.com/events.php?task=Event&eventid=4239

Hazel Smith’s new rink (her team-mates being Sarah Reid, Laura Ritchie and Claire Hamilton) face a quality field in this cashspiel in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Teams Einarson, Fleury, Homan, Jones and McCarville are some of the Canadian sides involved in the triple knockout competition, while Teams Hasselborg, Kim (reigning champions), Tirinzoni and Wang lead the international challenge.

***

Stranraer (U14 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Date: October 23
Number of teams: 16
Last year’s winners: Team Craik
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-14-slam-stranraer

The next stage of the one-day U14 Slam events, following the one in Forfar earlier in the month. Last season’s winners Team Craik have aged out, so once again the contest is well and truly up for grabs among Scotland’s very young curlers.

***

Masters (Grand Slam of Curling)
Dates: October 25-30
Number of teams: 30 (15 men’s; 15 women’s)
Scottish teams: Team Murdoch, Team Smith; Team Muirhead
Prize money: $100,000; $100,000
Last year’s winners: Team McEwen (Canada); Team Homan (Canada)
Website: http://www.thegrandslamofcurling.com/curling/masters

The season’s opening Grand Slam takes place in Okotoks in Alberta, with three Scottish teams part of a world-class field based on the Order of Merit rankings up to 2016-17 week four. In the opening round-robin stage, Teams Murdoch and Smith (making their top Slam debut after competing in Tour Challenge tier 2 last season) face each other first up, before playing Teams Carruthers, McEwen and Morris. Team Muirhead are up against Teams Kim, Pätz, Rocque and – last but certainly not least! – Homan.

***

Riga International Curling Challenge (Curling Champions Tour)
Dates: October 28-30
Number of teams: 12
Prize money: €3,000
Last year’s winners: Team Demkina (Russia)
Website: http://kerlingahalle.lv/ricc

This women’s competition held in Riga, Latvia, returns for a second year. No Scots on board, but Teams Barbezat (Switzerland), Driendl (Germany), Kauste (Finland), Lundman (Sweden) and Maillard (Switzerland) are Curling Champions Tour regulars.

***

Scottish Province Championship (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 28-30
Number of teams: 30
Last year’s winners: Loch Leven
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/scottish-province-championship-4

Thirty teams, covering provinces across Scotland, are divided into six groups for this competition at Greenacres. Those sections then lead to quarter-finals, high and low road semi-finals and high and low road finals. The club teams competing have all won their provincial qualifier to get here.

***

Lanarkshire (U17 Slam) (Royal Caledonian Curling Club)
Dates: October 29-30
Number of teams: 24
Last year’s winners: Team Kinnear
Website: http://competitions.royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org/competitions/asham-under-17-slam-lanarkshire-3

As with the Province Championship, this competition features sections and knockouts heading towards high and low road finals – matches being up to six ends. Last year’s high road winners and runners-up, Teams Kinnear and Craik, are back – while Lisa Davie’s women’s rink, fourth at the Kinross Junior Classic U21 Slam last weekend, are also contenders.