Switzerland win World Women’s, Team Murdoch take Aberdeen title

flims gold
Switzerland celebrate World Women’s gold (photo: World Curling Federation – twitter.com/worldcurling/status/714237677248204800)

Switzerland won their fourth World Women’s Curling Championship title in five years, Binia Feltscher’s rink defeating Japan in the final in Swift Current, Canada.

Russia saw off Canada for bronze, with Scotland’s Team Muirhead having narrowly missed out on the playoff places after losing their final three round robin games.

Meanwhile, Team Murdoch beat Team Brewster to claim the inaugural Aberdeen International Curling Championship, and Judith and Lee McCleary came third at the Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup.

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The World Women’s Curling Championship came to its conclusion this weekend, but unfortunately for Scotland, they were not in contention for medals.

Having started slowly with a 5-3 loss to Sweden, the Scots (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid) reeled off seven straight wins – against Korea (8-6), Germany (10-3), Italy (8-7), the USA (6-5), Denmark (9-3), Finland (6-5) and Russia (7-1).

But their match against Switzerland proved to be as pivotal as it was costly. The Scots were 5-1 up after five ends but the Swiss stole their way back into the contest to take it to an extra end – where Binia Feltscher made a superb in-off to score one and win 7-6.

It was tight at the top of the standings, which meant Scotland had to win one of their last two games to make the playoffs, but both ended in defeat.

Japan romped to a 10-4 victory over Muirhead’s rink, and Canada hammered the final nail into the coffin, scoring three in end six and four in end nine to win 9-4.

Skip Muirhead said afterwards: “It’s hard to take that we’re out but we lost the last three games and at major championships you just can’t do that.

“It’s harsh because I think we played well most of the week. I guess the Swiss game has come back to bite us, but that’s sport.”

In the playoffs, Switzerland scored three in end seven and two in end nine to beat Japan 8-4 in the 1v2 game, before Russia saw off Canada 7-4 in the 3v4 match.

Japan bounced back to defeat Russia 7-5 in the semi-final, scoring two in the extra end – Russia winning bronze (a third in a row for Anna Sidorova’s rink) with a 9-8 win over Canada.

Come the final, Switzerland led 2-1 after five ends, but Japan scored two in end six. Switzerland retook the lead with three in end seven, only for Japan to answer with three of their own in end eight.

The Swiss scored two in end nine, and stole two in end 10 when opposing skip Satsuki Fujisawa’s draw went long out the back – meaning a 9-6 win for Switzerland and yet more gold medals for the country in this competition.

It was Team Feltscher’s (Binia Feltscher, Irene Schori, Franziska Kaufmann, Christine Urech) second Worlds win (having also taken gold in 2014). Schori said: “We are so excited. It’s unbelievable, it’s so great.

“We can’t realise it right now [that this is our second title] – maybe tomorrow, we are so excited, it’s awesome.”

As for Japan, this was their first ever World Women’s medal.

For photos from the event, see the galleries here and here, while there is also a World Curling TV feature on Kelly Schafer, former Scottish Olympian and co-chair of this event.

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Back in Scotland, the first ever Aberdeen International Curling Championship took place, with Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) victorious.

The competition involved 20 teams – including rinks from China, Russia, Slovakia and the USA – divided into four sections.

The Red Section saw Teams Brunner (Switzerland) and Ulsrud (Norway) qualifying, Team Smith of Scotland missing out on last stone draw (LSD) after all three rinks finished W3 L1 – but only after coach Viktor Kjäll had stepped back onto the ice as skip!

Teams Kauste (Finland) and Shuster (USA) were the qualifiers from the Blue Section, while Murdoch were joined in making it out of the Yellow Section by fellow Scots Team Mouat (despite skip Bruce Mouat being away).

And the Green Section saw Team Brewster come through with four wins from four, ahead of Team Van Dorp of the Netherlands, who pipped Teams Drozdov (Russia) and Bryce on LSD.

In the quarter-finals, Brunner defeated Shuster 6-3, Ulsrud edged Kauste 6-5, Murdoch beat Van Dorp 9-1 and Brewster were 9-4 winners over Mouat.

Come the last four, Brewster stole in ends seven and eight to beat Ulsrud 5-3, while Murdoch overcame Brunner 7-1.

That set up a rematch of the men’s final at last month’s Scottish Curling Championships, but this time with a different outcome.

Murdoch scored twos in ends one and five, before stealing one in end seven to win 5-1 and take the title.

Check out photos from the event here.

***

Finally, Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup 1 took place in Riga.

Scottish pair Judith and Lee McCleary claimed third place, behind Camilla Noreen/Per Noreen of Sweden and runners-up Jenny Perret/Martin Rios (Switzerland).

In Group B, the McClearys defeated Regža/Freidensons of Latvia 9-6, drew 7-7 with Colceriu/Coliban of Romania and beat Molder/Lill of Estonia 12-3.

They then beat Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary 10-4, and edged Perret/Rios 7-6, before losing their final match 5-4 to competition winners the Noreens.

Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup 2 – featuring another Scottish pair, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat – takes place from Thursday this week.

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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.

***

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: Ross Whyte wins silver at Youth Olympics

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Ross Whyte with mixed doubles partner Han Yu (photo: WCF/Richard Gray)

Ross Whyte won silver representing Great Britain in the mixed doubles curling at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games.

That success followed GB’s squad impressing in the group stage of the mixed team event, before a quarter-final loss to Russia.

But Whyte ensured that the GB curlers would not leave Norway without a medal, as he and partner Han Yu of China finished mixed doubles runners-up.

***

GB’s mixed team (Ross Whyte, Amy Bryce, Callum Kinnear, Mili Smith – coached by Cate Brewster) began their campaign with a 9-2 win over Korea, scoring two in end one and stealing two in end five and three in end six.

They then suffered a 4-2 loss to Canada, a steal of two in end eight winning it for the Canadians, but bounced back with a 21-0 victory against rookies Brazil, notably scoring five in end one and six in end five.

From there, they beat hosts Norway 9-3 (scoring fours in ends two and four), Sweden 8-2 (with four in end one and two in end three), Estonia 8-2 (two in end one, three in end four and two in end six) and the Czech Republic 9-3 (fours in ends three and four).

That meant second spot in Group B and a quarter-final against Russia.

But the day belonged to Russia, who scored three in end two in end six to lead 6-3. Although GB scored two in end seven to close the gap to a point, three for Russia in end eight meant a final score of 9-5 and GB’s elimination.

Canada won mixed team gold, beating the USA 10-4 in the final, while Switzerland won bronze.

***

The mixed doubles competition saw participants paired with competitors from other nations of the opposite gender, going against each other in a straight knock-out format.

There were early exits for GB’s Amy Bryce (paired with Martin Blahovec (Czech Republic), beaten 12-1 by Honoka Sasaki/Tyler Tardi) and Mili Smith (paired with Hong Jun Yeong (Korea), defeated 8-2 by Holly Thompson/Sterling Middleton).

But Callum Kinnear and team-mate Stefania Constantini (Italy) won their first match 9-1 against Karlee Burgess and Eiko-Siim Peips (stealing twos in ends three, five and seven), and then beat Nadezhda Karelina and Kosuke Aita 7-3 (stealing ones in ends three, six and eight, and two in end seven).

They went out at the quarter-final stage, losing 10-9 to Zhao Ruiyi and Andreas Haarstad, scoring four in end seven to tie it up at 9-9 before Zhao and Haarstad scored the winning point in the eighth.

Ross Whyte and Chinese partner Han Yu put together a run beginning with a 9-5 victory over Mary Fay and Elian Sabra Rocha (scoring four in end one, three in end three and two in end six), then saw off Oh Su Yun and Tunc Esenboga 8-6 (two in end one and four in end six) and won their quarter-final 6-5 against Selina Witschonke and Jarl Gustsin, with twos in ends two and four.

In the semi-finals, they were victorious against Sasaki and Tardi (who had knocked out Bryce’s pairing), scoring three in end five and stealing ones in ends three and six to win 6-3.

That guaranteed them a silver medal, and it was silver they won – as Yako Matsuzawa (Japan) and Philipp Hoseli (Switzerland) proved too strong in the final, winning 11-5 with four in end four and five in end six.

Whyte said: “Getting a medal for GB is just amazing. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and achieving it is brilliant.

“Yu [Han] has been amazing, I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. She played really well throughout the whole competition.

“Having had this whole experience will help my curling hugely.”

Zhao and Haarstad, of China and Norway respectively, won bronze.

***

Back in the UK, the English Championships took place this weekend in Dumfries.

There was no competition for women, with the team that represented England at the 2015 Europeans in Esbjerg – Anna Fowler, Hetty Garnier, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson – being the sole entry to represent the country at Braehead 2016.

But the men’s championship was contested by seven teams, with Teams Dunn and MacDougall making the final.

MacDougall (Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Tom Jaeggi, Ben Fowler) won that match 8-0 to retain their title and book passage to Braehead in November.

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The Swiss national championships also concluded this weekend. In the men’s competition, Teams De Cruz and Michel won through to the 1v2 match after a double round robin.

Michel won that game 5-3, and although De Cruz beat Team Attinger 8-7 after an extra end in the semi-final, the final again saw victory for Michel, 7-4 this time, meaning it is them who will represent the hosts at the World Men’s Championship in Basel.

As for the women, Teams Feltscher and Tirinzoni qualified for the 1v2 game, Feltscher winning 9-5.

Tirinzoni secured a chance of gaining revenge with a 5-4 semi-final victory over 2015 Worlds champions Team Pätz… but Feltscher beat them again in the final, 8-6 with two in end 10, and they have the opportunity to regain the title they won in 2014, as well as making it three World Women’s triumphs in a row for Switzerland.

***

Finally, Canada’s women’s championship, the Scotties, has begun in Grande Prairie, Alberta – notably without Teams Homan and Sweeting.

But things are not going swimmingly for the remaining member of Canadian women’s curling’s ‘big three’, Team Jones, who as defending champions have lost two of their first three games – 12-5 to Team Carey (Alberta) and 8-7 to Team McCarville (Northern Ontario).

Carey and McCarville sit top of the standings on three wins and no losses… but there’s a long, long way still to go in this one.

GSOC Masters: Preview

There are just two Scottish teams competing in the second Grand Slam of Curling event of the season – the Masters, October 27-November 1, in Truro, Nova Scotia – Team Murdoch on the men’s side and Team Muirhead on the women’s.

The Scots are among 15 men’s and 15 women’s teams divided into three groups of five, with a round robin format deciding the top eight on each side to progress to the playoffs.

Who do they face, and what are their chances? Well, read on to find out.

Team Murdoch
The rink of David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow have been handed a tough draw, facing three experienced Canadian teams and the current world champions.

David Murdoch (Photo: Anil Mungal/Grand Slam of Curling)
David Murdoch (Photo: Anil Mungal (@PhotoVagrant)/Grand Slam of Curling)

Their first match is tomorrow, against Team Howard. Four-time world champion Glenn Howard reshuffled his team for this season, bringing in Wayne Middaugh at third, moving Richard Hart to second and adding his own son Scott at lead.
The combination has worked well so far, as the team reached the quarter finals of the first Grand Slam of the season, the Tour Challenge, only to be beaten by Team Gushue, then made the finals of the Shorty Jenkins Classic (beaten by Gushue again) and Toronto Tankard (beaten by Team McEwen).
They did, however, fail to make the playoffs in their last competition, the Canad Inns Men’s Classic.

The second match comes on Thursday, against Team Epping. It has been chop and change for skip John Epping recently, and this year he plays alongside Mathew Camm, Patrick Janssen and Tim March.
The quarter finals have been their limit this season, getting to that stage at the Shorty Jenkins Classic (beaten by Gushue) and the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau last weekend, where they were beaten by Team Mouat of Scotland.
Otherwise, they failed to make the playoffs at the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard, Tour Challenge, Point Optical Classic and Toronto Tankard.

After that, on Friday, Murdoch face Team Edin. The Swedes (Niklas Edin, Oskar Eriksson, Kristian Lindström, Christoffer Sundgren), who won the world title in Halifax in April, began their 2015-16 season by winning the Baden Masters, beating Team Brewster in the final.
Since then, they made the Oakville Tankard quarter finals (lost to Gushue), failed to make the Tour Challenge playoffs (one of their losses being to Murdoch) and then reached three quarter finals – at the Shorty Jenkins Classic (beaten by Howard), Point Optical Classic (lost to Team Jacobs) and Toronto Tankard (again beaten by Jacobs).
Most recently, they’ve gone out before the playoff stage at both the Canad Inns Men’s Classic and the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau.

And Murdoch finish off with another Friday game, this time against Team Gushue (Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker).
Gushue’s rink are undoubtedly the form team in world curling. They have picked up titles at the Oakville Tankard, Shorty Jenkins Classic, Swiss Cup Basel and, just this past weekend, the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau.
The only exceptions to the winning rule came at the Tour Challenge, where they lost the final to Team Koe, and the Toronto Tankard, where they lost in the quarter finals to McEwen.

Verdict: Can Murdoch win enough games in this group to make the playoffs? It looks a tough ask. Like Epping, their limit this season has been the quarter finals (at the Baden Masters and Oakville Tankard); they fell short of making the playoffs at the Tour Challenge, and couldn’t reach the last eight at last weekend’s Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau.
Results aren’t what the team would want them to be at the moment – and faced with form teams in Gushue and Howard, it’s going to be tricky for Murdoch to turn things round here.

Team Muirhead
Fresh from qualifying for the European Championships next month, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid – the latter returning from injury) face three Canadian teams and one Swiss in Truro.

Eve Muirhead (photo: Anil Mungal/Grand Slam of Curling)
Eve Muirhead (Photo: Anil Mungal (@PhotoVagrant)/Grand Slam of Curling)

They begin against Team Einarson tonight. The Canadians (Kerri Einarson, Selena Kaatz, Liz Fyfe, Kristin MacCuish) won their first championship together at the Tour Challenge Tier 2, claiming $9,200 and a place at the Masters.
Since then, they’ve made semi finals at the Mother Club Fall Classic (lost to eventual winners Team Montford) and Prestige Hotels & Resorts Classic (beaten by eventual winners Team Lawton), before failing to make the playoffs at the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Classic and then reaching the Canad Inns Women’s Classic quarters (lost to Englot).

Muirhead’s next opposition are Team McDonald tomorrow. This rink (Kristy McDonald, Kate Cameron, Leslie Wilson-Westcott, Raunora Westcott), formed last season, have been all about the quarter finals so far in 2015-16.
That was the stage they reached at the Tour Challenge (beaten by Team Kim), Mother Club Fall Classic (lost to Team Link) and Canad Inns Women’s Classic (beaten by eventual winners Team Kim).

Thursday evening sees Muirhead face Team Feltscher. The 2014 women’s world champions (Binia Feltscher, Irene Schori, Franziska Kaufmann, Christine Urech) have had a mixed season.
They fell short of the Tour Challenge playoffs (finishing with a W1 L3 record), then failed to make the Stockholm Ladies Cup last eight, placing third in their group behind Östlund and Muirhead.
They did then reach the Womens Masters semi finals, going out to Team Tirinzoni, and most recently were in the final of the Swiss European Championships qualifiers, only to lose out to Team Pätz.

Muirhead round off their round robin with a match on Friday morning against Team Sweeting (Val Sweeting, Lori Olson-Johns, Dana Ferguson, Rachel Brown), who won last season’s Masters and finished second at the 2015 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
After making the quarter finals at the Oakville Tankard (lost to Pätz), Sweeting failed to get off the ground at the Tour Challenge, finishing W1 L3.
They have picked up since then, though, winning the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out and reaching the Curlers Corner Autumn Gold Classic semi finals, being knocked out by Team Carey.

Verdict: On paper, Muirhead look to have a kinder draw than Murdoch. But it’s no stroll in the park either, as even the underdogs of the group, Einarson, are very capable of a shock.
Feltscher have the pedigree, McDonald a knack of reaching playoffs and Sweeting are deservedly seen as one of Canada’s top three women’s teams alongside Homan and Jones.
Nonetheless, if Muirhead’s rink maintain their focus and show the form that got them to the Stockholm Ladies Cup final and Womens Masters Basel semis, they should at least make the playoffs in Nova Scotia.

The full Masters draw schedule is here. And you can watch games live online from Thursday on Sportsnet (the link to subscribe is here).