The Olympics may be old news now – the Paralympics have taken the spotlight – but curling goes on with its cycle of competitions.
Aberdeen hosted the World Junior Curling Championships and enjoyed home success in the form of Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Fraser Kingan, Euan Kyle, Duncan McFadzean) taking silver.
They cruised through the round robin stage with nine wins from nine, and then beat Switzerland 5-4 in the semi-finals.
The final proved one step too far, although they fought back well from giving up three and then a steal to trail Canada 5-2 after seven ends.
With two and then a steal, Whyte brought it back to 5-5 and forced an extra end, but they could not pull off a second straight steal as Tyler Tardi made the draw to win gold for Canada.
It was still a brilliant tournament for Whyte, but Scotland women (Rebecca Morrison, Amy MacDonald, Hailey Duff, Leeanne McKenzie, Sophie Jackson) struggled.
Finishing up with three wins and six losses, that means Scotland drop down to the B-Division for next season and so must re-qualify for the main World Juniors event in 2019.
Meanwhile, it’s been quite a couple of weeks for Bruce Mouat.
He skipped his team to World Championship Playoff victory over Team Smith, and a place in Las Vegas, and now he has returned to mixed doubles in style alongside Gina Aitken.
The pair were on the Continent for the Slovakia Mixed Doubles Curling Cup, and eased through the group stage with five straight wins.
Sykorova/Sykora were seen off 6-2 in the quarter-finals and Naceradska/Bohac beaten 12-5 in the last four.
That set up a decider with Hungarians Szekeres/Nagy, and Aitken/Mouat scored four in the third end on their way to a 9-4 triumph.
This week has also seen the Brier take place, with Team Gushue defending their title as Team Canada, beating Brendan Bottcher’s Alberta 6-4 in the final to ensure they will be going to Las Vegas for the World Championship.
That event is still a couple of weeks off, but the World Women’s Championship starts this Saturday in North Bay, Canada, where Scotland will of course be represented by Hannah Fleming’s rink.
It was a case of ‘close but no cigar’ for both of Teams Bryce and Muirhead at the weekend.
Bryce made the semi-finals at the Latvia International Challenger, only to lose out to Team Stjerne, while Muirhead also got to the last four at the GSOC Masters, where they were beaten by Team Einarson.
There were two Scottish teams at the second Grand Slam of the season, the Masters, with Team GB’s Olympic representatives taking on the world’s best in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) were in Pool B of the men’s event alongside Teams Gushue, McEwen, Shuster and Ulsrud.
Opening defeats to Gushue (7-6) and Ulsrud (7-6) put them on the back foot right away, and although they managed to beat US rink Shuster (6-2), defeat to McEwen (6-3) ended their playoff hopes.
The title was won by reigning world champions Gushue, who beat Team Edin of Sweden 8-4 in the final.
In the women’s field, Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray) faced Teams Flaxey, Hasselborg, Sidorova and Sinclair in Pool A.
Wins against Sidorova (6-5) and Flaxey (7-6) got them off to an ideal start, and after a 6-4 loss to Sinclair, a 10-7 victory over Hasselborg secured their place in the knockout stages.
The quarter-finals pitted them against Team Pätz of Switzerland, with the Scots winning 5-4, thanks to two in end seven and a steal of one in the eighth.
But the last four proved their limit, as Canadians Einarson beat them 6-3 (with twos in ends three and six) – Muirhead’s conquerors finishing as runners-up to Jennifer Jones’ rink in the final (6-5).
Skip Eve Muirhead said: “Crowds have been great and to have such an atmosphere when playing is really something special; Canada really do know how to put on curling events!
“”Overall our two weeks have been a great success, beating three of the teams we are going to be coming up against in the Europeans and Korea, so this is all stepping stones towards these major events.”
The Latvia International Challenger involved Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Euan Kyle) on the men’s side, and Team Wilson (Maggie Wilson, Jennifer Marshall, Laura Barr, Eilidh Yeats) – plus English rink Team Farnell – on the women’s.
Both British women’s teams had their challenges ended early, with Farnell going W0 L4 and Wilson W1 L3 – their win coming against Team Rudzite of the home nation, 7-6 after an extra end.
Bryce did much better though, continuing their rich vein of form at the start of this season, as they made the playoffs with wins over Teams Bremanis (7-2), Lill (10-4), Truksans (7-1) and a loss to Hess (7-6).
Following their 7-4 victory over Team Gulbis in the last eight (stealing three in the second end), Bryce’s challenge was ended by experienced Danes Team Stjerne, who won 7-2 and went on to claim the title, while Bryce ended with a 7-3 defeat against Team Wunderer in the third place match.
Also this weekend, the Lanarkshire leg of the Asham Under-21 Slam took place.
After 24 teams faced off across six groups, the high road final was contested by Teams Craik and McCormack, with the former (James Craik, Angus Bryce, Matthew McKenzie, Niall Ryder) scoring four in the third end on their way to a 6-2 triumph.
After the intensity of the Scottish Championships, there are fewer major competitions taking place as the focus switches towards Worlds – but there have been several headline makers nonetheless.
Team Morton claimed the Scottish Curling Mixed Championship, the Scottish Schools title went to Perth, and Scotland’s wheelchair curlers came away from Worlds with bronze medals – a fantastic achievement.
And we now know which rink will be flying the flag for Canada at the World Men’s Championship in Edmonton, as Team Gushue won the Brier in St John’s, Newfoundland.
The Scottish Mixed Championship was held this weekend at Curl Aberdeen (also hosting the Aberdeen International, a Curling Champions Tour event, in a few days’ time), with eight teams – two male players, two female – involved.
Section A was topped by Team Waddell (Craig Waddell, Mili Smith, Cammy Smith, Sophie Sinclair), who won all of their round robin games – against Morton 5-4, Taylor 6-3 and Penny 5-2.
Team Morton (Grant Hardie, Rhiann MacLeod, Billy Morton, Barbara MacFarlane) won two out of three though – beating Penny 7-2 and Taylor 5-2 – to also make the semi-finals.
Section B involved the holders, Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie, Sophie Jackson), and they made the last four with a W2 L1 record, defeating Brydone 8-5 and Aitken 7-6, before losing 10-5 to Macleod.
It was Team Macleod (Scott Macleod, Layla Al-Saffar, Fraser Kingan, Tamzin Smith) who finished first in that group, also on a W2 L1 record – having lost 5-4 to Aitken but winning 5-4 over Brydone.
Come the knockouts, both the Section A teams triumphed – Waddell scoring three in end one, two in end four and stealing one in end seven to win 7-5 and end Bryce’s reign as mixed champions.
As for the other semi-final, Morton stole singles in ends three and six as they edged out Macleod 4-2.
Another Morton steal got them off to the ideal start in the final, though Waddell grabbed two in end three and forced Morton to one in end four.
Successive steals of one in ends five and six for Morton ultimately proved decisive, as Waddell could not recover the two-point deficit – meaning Team Morton were crowned Scottish champions!
That qualifies them for the World Mixed Curling Championship 2017, held in Champery, Switzerland, in October.
Also this weekend, the Scottish Schools Curling Championship took place in Braehead, with 24 teams that included many of Scotland’s up-and-coming curlers, divided into four sections.
The quarter-finals saw wins for Kelso High School, Lockerbie Academy, Perth High School and Stranraer Academy, before Lockerbie defeated Kelso 6-4 and Perth saw off Stranraer 4-1 in the semi-finals.
In the final it was Perth (Duncan McFadzean, Leeanne McKenzie, Matthew McKenzie, Cameron Paterson) who came out victorious, stealing two in end three and one in end four, adding another two in end six, to win 6-4 and take the title.
Scotland’s wheelchair curlers, having only recently gained promotion to the main World Championship, put together an excellent run in Gangneung, South Korea, to come away with a medal.
The rink of Aileen Neilson (skip), Gregor Ewan, Hugh Nibloe, Robert McPherson, Angie Malone (alternate) and Sheila Swan (coach) finished the round robin with a W6 L3 record, putting them into the 1v2 playoff with Russia, which they lost 4-2.
They were then defeated 7-3 by Norway in the semi-final, but bounced back to win the bronze medals, beating China 9-5 thanks to three in end seven and a steal of two in end 10.
They've done it! Scotland take World Wheelchair Curling bronze! From World Bs to the podium. What a story. 🥉 pic.twitter.com/q5sxrZ3JCt
Norway won gold, overcoming Russia 8-3 in the final.
And at the Brier, Canada’s national men’s championship, it was a joyful homecoming for Team Gushue in St John’s, Newfoundland.
Backed by a passionate crowd, the Gushue rink (Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Brett Gallant, Geoff Walker) overcame Manitoba (McEwen) in the 1v2 playoff by a 7-5 scoreline, then faced Team Canada (K Koe) in the final.
Gushue made a fast start, going 5-1 up after five ends, but Koe scored three in end six and stole one in end seven to level it up.
Gushue, though, kept his composure to take his ones in ends eight and 10, which meant a 7-6 victory and passage to the World Men’s Championship, to face Team Murdoch of Scotland and the other big hitters of the global game.
Team Brewster began 2017 as they ended 2016 – with a title, this time at the Perth Masters.
Last year saw Tom Brewster’s quartet win the Scottish Championships, European Playdowns and Karuizawa International, and they got this year off to the ideal start.
Also this weekend, Team Smith were involved in another Grand Slam of Curling event, the Canadian Open, while Team Jackson have successfully qualified Scotland for the World Women’s Junior Championship.
Thirty-two teams from around the world arrived for the Perth Masters, which is becoming a major Curling Champions Tour event – with live online coverage to match.
Ten Scottish teams began the triple knockout competition, and three of those made the playoffs – Teams Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Dave Reid, Duncan Menzies) and MacDonald (Ewan MacDonald, David Edwards, Duncan Fernie, Euan Byers).
Brewster began with wins over Foss (7-1), Snitil 6-2 and MacDonald (7-1), but lost their A Road final 5-3 against last year’s runners-up, Team Ulsrud of Norway.
It mattered little, though, as they then beat Pfister 4-1 and MacDonald (again, 5-1 this time) on the B Road to secure a playoff spot.
MacDonald, having beaten Kauste 10-4 and Pfister 6-4 but suffered their first defeat to Brewster, took victories over Ramsfjell (6-1) and Eskilsson (7-3).
There then followed their second loss to Brewster, but a 7-3 success against fellow Scots Bryce saw them into the knockout stages.
As for Hardie, they opened by overcoming Walstad 5-4, but then lost 5-3 to Eskilsson.
On the B Road they defeated compatriots Bryce 5-4 (stealing one in the extra end) but were then knocked down to the C Road, Pfister edging their match 3-2.
So Hardie needed three straight wins to make the playoffs… and that’s just what they got, against Schwaller (7-5), then two other Scottish rinks – Murdoch (5-4, again stealing one in the extra end) and Mouat (7-3).
Come the quarter-finals, Brewster stole singles in ends seven and eight to eke out a 6-4 victory against Liu Rui of China.
But the last eight proved to be the limit for Hardie – beaten 8-2 by Baumann of Germany after giving up four in end four – and MacDonald – losing out 4-2 to Ulsrud in a tight match.
Brewster had to board the steal train again in their semi-final with Baumann; having been 3-0 down, they scored twos in the seventh and eighth ends for another 6-4 win.
In the final they faced Walstad, who had shocked their fellow Norwegians Ulsrud in last four, and the match was tied 3-3 after five ends.
But three for Brewster in end six, followed up by a steal of two in the seventh, handed them victory by an 8-3 scoreline and meant they were Masters of Perth!
Tom Brewster – celebrating his record fourth Perth Masters title – told British Curling: “This is a fantastic event – it’s really well organised, the ice is always good.
“It’s always a strong field and to come out on top is a real honour.
“It goes down in the record books because people see this as one of the biggest events in Europe.”
Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) took part in the Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, but unfortunately they were not involved for long.
In a triple knockout competition, they lost 5-4 to Team Jacobs, 9-5 to Team Korte and 6-3 to Team Epping, which saw them eliminated.
The men’s final was contested by Teams Edin and Gushue, and it was the Canadians – with skip Brad Gushue clearly back in the swing of things after injury, as he threw 100 per cent in the final – who triumphed 8-3.
As for the women’s title, that went to Team Scheidegger – not one of the best known Canadian rinks, but one which has found fine form this season, including winning the HDF Insurance Shoot Out, where they defeated Team Muirhead in the final.
Here they faced Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland, and won it 5-4 thanks to a steal of one in the eighth end.
Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Mili Smith, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr (alternate), coached by Cate Brewster) have qualified Scotland for the women’s section of the 2017 World Junior Championships.
Playing at the World Junior-B Championships in Östersund, Sweden, they won all six of their round robin matches – against Spain (11-4), Latvia (6-3), Estonia (5-3), Norway (5-2), Romania (13-2) and the Czech Republic (7-1).
We finished the round robin on a win against Czech Republic! We have secured a place in the quarters at 8pm on Monday (7pm Scotland). 😊 pic.twitter.com/HHaVGxuVxL
Scotland sit on two wins and one loss after day two of the World Women’s Championship in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
Elsewhere, Judith and Lee McCleary were runners-up at the Westbay Ltd Hungarian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup, while several other events took place involving Scottish and English teams.
And Team Gushue won the latest Grand Slam of Curling event, the Elite 10, after women’s rink Team Homan made a little history by taking on the men.
Scotland sat out the first session of play at World Women’s in Canada, then were beaten 5-3 by Team Sigfridsson of Sweden in their opener, a two in end five and steal of one in end six proving crucial for the Swedes.
But they bounced back by beating Korea 8-6 – with twos in ends one, four and six – and then Germany 10-3 – taking two in end two, three in end four and stealing four in end seven.
So with all teams playing three times, it’s only Canada and Japan who sit unbeaten.
And photos from the event can be found here and here.
The Westbay Ltd Hungarian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup involved the Scottish pair Judith and Lee McCleary.
At the quarter-final stage, they defeated Michelle Gribi and Reto Gribi of Switzerland 9-4, before overcoming Victoria Moiseeva and Petr Dron of Russia 7-6 in the semi-finals.
They faced another Russian pair, Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitskiy, in the final – despite a four in end two and three in end five for the Scots, the game went to an extra end, and the Russians were victorious 10-9.
In Scotland, the Scottish Curling Pairs Championship was played in Stranraer, and was won by Lockerbie (Scott Hamilton/Robert Hamilton), 5-2 victors in the final against Murrayfield 1.
Meanwhile, the RCCC Funspiel took place in Braehead – with Stranraer 1 winning the under-15 final and Lockerbie triumphant in the under-13 final.
And Greenacres hosted the English Mixed Championship, which featured five teams playing a double round robin before a final between the rinks skipped by Greg Dunn and Andrew Woolston.
Dunn and his team of Angharad Ward, Nigel Patrick and Lorna Rettig won 6-4 for the title and a spot at the World Mixed Curling Championship in Kazan, Russia, in October.
Finally, the Grand Slam of Curling Elite 10 was held in Victoria, British Colombia, featuring eight Canadian men’s teams, one Swedish men’s team (Niklas Edin’s rink) and one Canadian women’s team, that of Rachel Homan.
Team Homan played four pool matches against men’s rinks (the games using match play format) and won one of their ‘battles of the sexes’ by defeating Team Thomas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
There were opening game defeats against Finnish opposition for both Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) – 6-3 versus Team Kiiskinen – and Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith) – 5-3 versus Team Kauste.
The only Scottish rink to pick up a win from the opening round of matches were Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan), who beat Team Ruch 8-3.
Knocked down to the B-road, Teams Murdoch and Smith picked up wins in their next games, against Teams Oehninger (5-2) and Suter (6-5) respectively.
They were then joined on the B-road by Team Brewster, who lost 5-3 to Team Ali of Russia.
While Team Smith made steady progress along that road, defeating Team De Cruz 6-4 and Team Ali 7-4, their compatriots suffered further defeats on Friday evening – Team Brewster losing 6-3 against Team Ulsrud and Team Murdoch going down 6-4 to Team Gushue, who had surprisingly lost their first match 8-5 to Team Høiberg.
Team Murdoch kept themselves alive on the C-road with an 8-3 victory over Team Sik, but Team Brewster lost 6-3 to Team Baumann, knocking them out of the tournament.
They were swiftly followed out the exit door by Team Murdoch, who were beaten 6-5 by Team Schwaller.
That left Team Smith as Scotland’s sole representative. After a 5-2 loss to Team Kiiskinen knocked them down to the C-road, they won 6-3 against Team Keller to set up a winner-takes-all clash with 2014 world champions Team Ulsrud.
That took them into Sunday’s quarter finals, where they faced another Norwegian side, Team Høiberg. They were 4-2 behind going into the last two ends, only to score two in the seventh and steal one in the eighth to win 5-4.
Their semi final against Team Gushue proved a match too far, however, the Canadians winning 8-2 with scores of three in ends two and four.