World Women’s Curling Championship preview

Team Muirhead  1 - Tom J Brydone
Team Muirhead – L-R: Sarah Reid, Vicki Adams, Anna Sloan, Eve Muirhead (photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

The Ford World Women’s Curling Championship begins on Saturday in Swift Current, Canada, with Eve Muirhead’s Scottish rink gunning for gold.

What are their chances, and which teams are most likely to rival them for the podium placings?

For answers to these questions, and other details about the forthcoming tournament, read on…

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Scotland (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid, Rachel Hannen (alternate)) are looking to improve on their fourth-place finish from last year, and take the gold as they did in Riga, Latvia, in 2013 (with Claire Hamilton at lead).

As an ambitious rink, they are aiming for nothing less, and have a genuine chance of achieving it – not least because they are playing better as a team than this time last season.

Last season they struggled somewhat as they integrated Reid into the team and, having won an Olympic bronze medal from Sochi, they were an even bigger scalp for teams to aim for than before.

Having said that, they did win the Canadian Open, Players’ Championship and overall Rogers Cup on the Grand Slam of Curling Tour, as well as European Championships bronze.

In 2015-16, they’ve made the Stockholm Ladies Cup final, semi-finals at the Women’s Masters Basel and GSOC Canadian Open, and won silver at Europeans.

The progress on the ice is there – their run to the European Championship final was a confident one, and they were unbeaten at last month’s Scottish Championships in Perth to qualify for Worlds – so a podium spot in Swift Current must be their minimum expectation.

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Another boost for the Muirhead rink is that the 2015 gold and silver medallists (Team Pätz of Switzerland and Team Jones of Canada) did not qualify for Worlds this year.

Nor did Teams Homan and Tirinzoni, two of the teams on the best form on tour this season.

However, it is still a quality field, not least for the representatives from Canada and Switzerland.

Team Carey of Alberta dominated the Scotties round robin stage before beating defending champion Jones in the 1v2 playoff and then Team McCarville of Northern Ontario in the final.

It might be skip Chelsea Carey’s debut on the Worlds stage, but her rink is an experienced one – and if they can continue their consistently high level from the Scotties they will be hard to beat.

Team Feltscher of Switzerland have plenty of pedigree in this event, winning gold in 2014. They’ve not had an outstanding year on tour – Tirinzoni’s ladies have been the most successful Swiss rink in 2015-16, while Pätz represented Switzerland at Europeans.

But by defeating Tirinzoni and Pätz to reach Swift Current, Feltscher have forced themselves into consideration as real contenders.

And then there’s Team Sidorova of Russia, who’ve been something of a nemesis for Muirhead this season.

It was Sidorova who pipped Muirhead to gold in Esbjerg, and beat them in the quarter-finals of the Bernese Ladies Cup (themselves going out in the semis).

The Russians have also made the final of the ZO International, plus the semi-finals at the Glynhill International.

Should the team perform as they did in Esbjerg, skip Anna Sidorova playing brilliantly throughout the week, they are another team very much in the running for gold.

Teams Nielsen (Denmark) and Kauste (Finland) will look to push on from strong showings at Europeans in November, where they finished fourth and third respectively.

Team Sigfridsson of Sweden, meanwhile, bring plenty of experience – this is their eighth appearance at Worlds, finishing runners-up to Muirhead in 2013 – and they made finals at the Bernese Ladies Cup and Glynhill International to show they’re capable of a strong run.

The USA’s representatives, Team Brown, are also making their eighth appearance – and performed well at the Continental Cup earlier this year – while such is the growing quality of the Pacific Asia Championships that the teams from Japan and South Korea are also more than capable of pulling off some shocks – not least with precious qualification points for the 2018 Olympics at stake.

So while the safest bets to qualify from the round robin look to be Canada, Russia, Scotland and Switzerland, there can be no assurances. The favourites have to play well throughout the week… if they don’t, plans to peak in the playoffs will prove pointless.

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This is the second time Swift Current has hosted the World Women’s Championship, having seen Andrea Schöpp and Germany take gold (beating Muirhead’s Scots in the final) in 2010.

The 12 teams at the event will play in 17 round robin sessions from Saturday, March 19 through to Thursday, March 24.

Following tiebreakers (if needed) to determine the top four teams, there will be 1v2 and 3v4 page playoffs, then a semi-final, before the gold and bronze medal games on Sunday, March 27.

Scotland begin their campaign against Sweden on Saturday evening (or Sunday morning, 1am, UK time!), before facing Korea and Germany the following day.

Unfortunately there is a distinct lack of streaming of Scotland’s games, with fans having to wait until the 15th round robin draw on Thursday – a match against Japan – for World Curling TV coverage.

You can of course follow the linescores throughout the week (as well as team details, action photos etc) here, while there will be updates on the Royal Caledonian Curling Club website, as well as the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter.

Weekend round-up: Another Muirhead title!

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Team Muirhead – Scottish Senior champions (photo: Richard Gray)

After Eve and Glen Muirhead won the Scottish women’s and men’s titles respectively last weekend, father Gordon skipped his team to the Scottish senior men’s title in Hamilton.

Jackie Lockhart and her rink won the senior women’s title; both Teams Muirhead and Lockhart will represent Scotland at the World Senior Curling Championships in Karlstad, Sweden, April 15-23.

In other news, Rios/Perret won the Dumfries International Mixed Doubles, and Chelsea Carey led Alberta to a Scotties title and a World Women’s Championship spot.

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The Scottish Curling Senior Championships (again sponsored by Go Coco) were held at the Lanarkshire Ice Rink in Hamilton and saw Team Muirhead (Gordon Muirhead, Norman Brown, David Hay, Hugh Aitken) go in as defending champions.

They finished second in Section B, having beaten Stark 10-3, Stevenson 11-3, Prentice 6-4 and Howat 5-2, before losing 7-5 to Dick.

Dick topped the group ahead of Muirhead and Howat, while Section A saw Teams Horton, Hardie and Adam qualify.

In the quarter-finals, Howat beat Hardie 6-3 and Muirhead saw off Adam 5-3.

The last four saw Howat overcome Dick 5-4, scoring twos in ends four and seven, and Muirhead defeat Horton 4-2 with crucial steals of one in end five and two in end six.

Come the final, Muirhead got off to a fast start, scoring two in end one – and led 2-1 after five.

Howat ensured a tense finish by scoring two in end seven to tie it up at 3-3, but two for Muirhead in end eight meant a 5-3 victory and the retention of their title… and the extension of the Muirhead family’s curling domination.

In the women’s competition, Team Lockhart (Jackie Lockhart, Christine Cannon, Isobel Hannen, Margaret Richardson) came first in Section A, with six wins from six round robin games.

They defeated Johnstone 8-2, Prentice 9-3, Scott 8-2, Kesley 9-3, Waddell 6-4 and MacFarlane 9-3.

Also qualifying from Section A were Teams Prentice and Kesley, while the Gibb, Glennie and Paul rinks made it out of Section B.

The quarter-final stage saw Glennie defeat Kesley 5-4 and Prentice beat Paul 7-4, before semi-final wins for Lockhart (8-2 against Glennie) and Prentice (5-2 versus Gibb).

The final saw a repeat of the round robin result between the teams, Lockhart stealing in ends two and three to lead 4-1 after five, then winning 6-3 after a two in end seven.

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The Dumfries International Mixed Doubles involved 24 teams, including Scottish mixed doubles stalwarts Judith and Lee McCleary, plus Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – who will represent Scotland at the World Mixed Doubles Championship in April.

Aitken and Mouat topped Section 1, beating Lill/Turmann of Estonia 7-6, Portunova/Glukhov of Russia 10-3, Noreen/Noreen of Sweden 8-7 and Vyskupaitis/Paulauskaite of Lithuania 12-4, before a 7-6 loss to Fyfe/Fyfe of Ireland.

Section 2 was headed up by Felix Attinger/Ursi Hegner of Switzerland, ahead of Gyorgy Nagy/Szekeres of Hungary, while Swiss pair Martin Rios/Jenny Perret were first in Section 3 – second spot went to Ben and Anna Fowler, ahead of experienced Canadian duo Charley Thomas and Kalynn Park.

The qualifiers from Section 4 were the McClearys (who beat Prytz/Mabergs of Sweden 7-5 and lost 7-3 to Guzieva/Ali of Russia, before defeating compatriots Owen/Sloan 11-3, Garcia/Garcia of Spain 7-4 and Schroder/Polak of Poland 10-3) and Prytz/Mabergs.

In the quarter-finals, McCleary/McCleary won the all-Scottish battle against Aitken/Mouat 7-5 (stealing twos in ends four and five), Attinger/Hegner beat Fowler/Fowler 10-5, Rios/Perret saw off Szekeres/Nagy 8-2, and Prytz/Mabergs defeated Noreen/Noreen in a tight Swedish clash, 6-5.

Come the last four, Attinger/Hegner beat McCleary/McCleary 9-7, scoring four in end four and stealing two in an extra end, and Rios/Perret defeated Prytz/Mabergs 12-7, notably scoring six in end three.

And it was Rios/Perret who won the all-Swiss final, scoring two in end two, three in end five, two in end seven and stealing one in end eight for an 8-6 victory, while Prytz/Mabergs beat McCleary/McCleary 10-8 for third.

Photo galleries from the event here and here.

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The Canadian women’s championship, the Scotties, reached its conclusion last night, with Alberta (Chelsea Carey, Amy Nixon, Jocelyn Peterman, Laine Peters) winning the trophy and the right to represent Canada as hosts in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, next month.

After the round robin, Teams Alberta and Canada (Jones, defending champions) both sat on W9 L2 records, ahead of Teams Manitoba (Einarson) and Northern Ontario (McCarville) on W7 L4.

In the page playoffs, Alberta beat Canada 7-5 in the 1v2 game, and Northern Ontario defeated Manitoba 7-5 in the 3v4 match.

Northern Ontario had come from 5-2 down after seven ends to beat Manitoba, and there was another comeback from them in the semi-final… 5-3 down after seven to 7-5 winners over Jones’ Team Canada – Jones’ rink did claim bronze the next day, getting the win 8-7 versus Manitoba.

The final was tight throughout, the teams exchanging ones then twos to sit tied at 3-3 after five. But crucially Alberta scored two in end eight and forced Northern Ontario to one in nine, meaning Carey had a draw to win it 7-6 – made.

There was a little shock in the Norwegian men’s championship as Team Minera Skifer (Walstad) beat Team Ulsrud 6-5 in the final match, but fans of the pants can relax – Norwegian selection criteria means Ulsrud will be going to the World Men’s Championship anyway.

The Danish women’s championship saw Team Nielsen, fourth at 2015 Europeans, take the glory.

And in Germany… controversy.

Let’s start with the simple part. Team Baumann won four from four to retain their crown and qualify for World Men’s.

The women… messy. Team Schöpp won the championship, also with four wins from four. But it’s Team Driendl, who finished third out of three teams, who will represent Germany at World Women’s.

Driendl receive flak for the financial support they get that Schöpp don’t, and that they’re picked for the major championships regardless of results.

But it’s the German federation’s decision to back Driendl and exclude Schöpp, so criticism should really be heading the organisation’s way, not Driendl’s.

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Finally, the World Wheelchair Curling Championship has been taking place in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Russia won gold, retaining their title, by beating Norway 7-4 in the final, while South Korea defeated their Swiss hosts 6-5 for bronze.