Team Smith finish runners-up at German Masters – again!

TS_CurlingKyleSmith-8 - Pertshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart
Team Smith came in second at the German Masters in Hamburg this week. Photo: Graeme Hart/Perthshire Picture Agency/British Curling

Teams Muirhead and Smith played their final competitions before the Winter Olympics next month, with both reaching the knockout stages.

The Muirhead rink (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer) were one of seven Scottish teams – the others being Bryce, Fleming, Hamilton, K Jackson, Morrison and Wilson – to compete at the Glynhill Ladies International in Glasgow.

Only Muirhead and Fleming made it out of the group stages, and they faced each other in the quarter-finals.

It was a close-run thing that went all the way to an extra end, but Muirhead took their one with hammer to win 5-4.

They were stunned in the semi-finals, though, giving up four in the fifth end as they lost 8-1 to Team Feltscher of Switzerland – who went on to win the final 7-4 against compatriots Team Stern.

As for Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead), they were looking to go one better than last year at the German Masters in Hamburg, having been runners-up in 2017.

Joined by Teams Brewster, Bryce and Drummond, only Smith and Drummond made it to the knockout stages, where Smith beat Hess 7-2 to make the last four, but Drummond lost 6-1 to Pfister of Switzerland.

A 6-1 victory over Baumann sent Smith into the final, where they faced the Swiss Pfister rink, and led 2-0 before giving up three in the sixth end.

Skip Kyle Smith had a tough double takeout chance to win the game in the eighth end, but could only score one, and Pfister took one in the extra end to clinch it 4-3.

Still, these were promising performances for both Muirhead and Smith ahead of the Games in South Korea; fingers crossed for more of the same on the biggest stage of all.

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Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Hammy McMillan) were looking for a second straight Grand Slam of Curling title (!), after their success at the Boost National in November.

This week saw them take part in the Meridian Canadian Open in Camrose, Alberta, and they began with a superb 6-4 over Team Koe.

A loss to Gunnlaugson followed, and although they bounced back with a win over Shuster, defeats to McEwen and Edin saw the Mouat rink eliminated.

The men’s title went to Team De Cruz of Switzerland, after they beat Team Edin 5-3 in the final, while Team Carey won the women’s final 10-5 against Team Englot.

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Unsurprisingly, things now quieten down ahead of the Olympics, but this week does see the Johnston Carmichael Scottish Curling Junior Championships take place at Curl Aberdeen.

There are eight men’s and nine women’s teams involved, with Teams Kinnear and Whyte looking like favourites on the men’s side, and Teams S Jackson and Morrison on the women’s.

You can follow the scores from the event, running from today (January 23) until Sunday (January 28), here.

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Olympic preparations in full flow

 

Team Edin Perth Masters
THUMBS UP: Perth Masters winners Team Edin. Photo: facebook.com/perthmasters

 

With the Winter Olympics beginning on February 9 (that’s just four weeks away), Teams Muirhead and Smith’s preparations to represent Great Britain are almost complete.

Last weekend Team Smith made the quarter-finals of the Perth Masters, which was chock-full of Olympians; this weekend Team Muirhead are in International Bernese Ladies Cup action.

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Once again the Dewars Centre welcomed a high-class field of 32 teams (from Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as 10 from the home nation) for the Perth Masters.

Teams Edin (Sweden) and De Cruz (Switzerland) showed their international pedigree by qualifying directly from the A-Road, while there was a surprisingly early exit for Scotland’s Team Mouat.

The first Scottish rink to make the playoffs were Team Bryce, winning their B-Road final against Van Dorp, and they were joined by Baumann of Germany.

That left the remaining teams on the C-Road to battle for the last four quarter-final spots, and Team Smith managed to overcome Retornaz to book their place, but Team Brewster succumbed to Ulsrud of Norway, with Teams Simmons (Canada) and Stjerne (Denmark) also making it through.

Both Scottish rinks exited at the last eight stage, though, as Bryce went out to Ulsrud 5-3 (crucially giving up a steal of two in end six), and Smith lost 6-3 to De Cruz in a rematch of their European Championship semi-final (the Swiss stealing three in the sixth end).

Ulsrud then lost 7-2 to Edin in the semi-finals, and the Swedish rink would meet De Cruz in the final after the Swiss team saw off Baumann 7-3.

And ultimately it was Edin showing the hottest form going into the Olympics, winning 7-4 to take the title.

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This weekend it’s the women who take centre stage, with Team Muirhead joined by compatriots Fleming, Hamilton and Jackson at the International Bernese Ladies Cup.

It’s another good field, with Teams Jentsch, Moiseeva and Paetz among the Scots’ opponents, and you can follow the scores here.

Also this weekend, we have the CCT Dutch Masters Mixed Doubles, which features Judith and Lee McCleary, and Jayne Stirling and Fraser Kingan, from Scotland.

Team Fleming make last eight and Canadian Olympic spots decided

Team Fleming before Mesabi Classic
Team Fleming at Mountain Iron Buhl High School ahead of the Curl Mesabi Classic. Pic: facebook.com/teamfleming1

There was not quite the overseas success which Team Morrison enjoyed at the EJCT Austrian Women’s Cup the week before, but Team Fleming did a good job representing Scotland across the Atlantic this weekend.

A little further north of Minnesota, the hotbed of curling (and therefore the gold medal favourites in every Olympic Games) saw its Olympic representatives decided.

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Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright) were in Eveleth, Minnesota (USA), for the Curl Mesabi Classic.

They began well, with wins over Teams Rhyme (5-2) and Martin (6-5), but defeats to Rocque (3-2) and Schultz (6-4) forced them into a tiebreaker with McPhee, which they won to make the quarter-finals.

The last eight pitted them against Rocque again, and once again the Grand Slam regulars were too strong, with twos in ends three and six helping them to a 6-2 victory – and Rocque went on the win the title, beating Roth in the final.

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The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings culminated in Ottawa, Ontario, this weekend, and it’s Teams Homan and Koe who will represent Canada at next year’s Olympic Games.

Team Carey topped the women’s round robin with eight wins from eight, but after Homan defeated reigning Olympic champions Jones in the semi-final, it was the current world champions who triumphed 6-5 in the final.

On the men’s side, Koe finished W7 L1 to book their place in the final; McEwen beat Gushue in the semi, but could not repeat the trick – Koe winning 7-6.

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They will be joined at Pyeongchang 2018 by Denmark men (Stjerne), Italy men (Retornaz), China women (Wang) and Denmark women (Dupont), after they emerged from the Olympic Qualification Event in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

That means that the Olympics will feature the following teams:

Men – Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, USA; women – Canada, China, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Korea, Russia (subject to International Olympic Committee decision), Sweden, Switzerland, USA.

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Finally, this weekend also saw the Perth edition of the Asham Under-14 Slam take place at the Dewars Centre.

A total of 16 teams competed across four sections, before the High Road final was contested between Teams Chalmers and Maguire.

McGuire (Inca Maguire, Holly Wilkie-Milne, Laura Watt, Emma Allan) won 5-1 to clinch the title.

2017-18 curling season preview

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

Who said anything about a quiet summer break?

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

There’s the personnel changes, of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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