Strong finish to Team Fleming’s Worlds debut

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GOOD SHOW: Team Fleming, who represented Scotland at the World Women’s Curling Championship. Pic: British Curling/Graeme Hart

Wins over both Olympic finalists gave Team Fleming a ninth-place finish on their World Women’s Curling Championship debut, just one win off being in playoff contention.

They ended up with a W5 L7 record in North Bay, and given that they lost five games before picking up their first victory, it was a case of what might have been for the Scottish rink.

We’re used to seeing Team Muirhead representing Scotland at these events, but Team Fleming (Hannah Fleming, Jen Dodds, Alice Spence, Vicky Wright, Sophie Jackson (alternate)) won their place fair and square, by becoming Scottish champions and then beating Muirhead in the World Championship Playoff event in Perth.

Their lack of experience on the biggest stage seemed to take its toll in the opening few draws, however, as they lost to Russia, 8-4, and then Italy – 7-6, after taking a 6-4 lead after eight ends but then giving up steals in the 10th and extra ends.

Further defeats to the USA (8-6), the Czech Republic (11-4) and Switzerland (10-2) followed, as the Scots fell into a tailspin.

But they managed to pick up that crucial first win by beating Germany 8-5 (stealing three in end five), and although they then lost to Canada, 8-6, they did well to take the table-topping hosts right through to the 10th end.

Scotland then saw off Japan 10-7 and China 8-7 (another steal of three in the fifth end), before an 8-7 loss to Denmark halted their momentum and set up their tricky final games against Sweden and Korea – the same teams who had claimed gold and silver at Pyeongchang 2018.

Fleming stole three in end two and then scored twos in ends five and 10 to beat the Swedes 8-5, and followed that with a 6-5 victory over Korea after an extra end.

So that gave them ninth place out of 13 teams, and given that three teams finished on W6 L6 records (and two made the playoffs), they really weren’t far off at all.

Their finish to the round robin showed that they can compete with the best, and having made their debut at the top table, they can take that experience into future international events.

Ultimately gold went to Canada (Team Jones), who beat Sweden (Hasselborg) 7-6 after an extra end in the final, while Russia (Moiseeva) took bronze ahead of the USA.

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This week it’s the turn of the World Men’s Curling Championship to take centre stage, with Team Mouat representing Scotland in Las Vegas.

They warmed up for the event, where they look to challenge favourites Canada (Gushue) and Sweden (Edin) for gold, with victory at the Aberdeen International Curling Championship last week.

Group stage wins over Teams Pfister (6-4), Baumann (4-3), Bryce (7-4) and Van Dorp (5-3) were followed by a 5-2 loss to Muirhead, but they picked it up again in the knockout stages.

They knocked out fellow Scots Team Drummond in the quarter-finals, 7-4, and then showed they really have the sign over Team Smith this season by beating them 9-6 in the semis.

Team Schwaller of Switzerland were their opponents in the final, and twos in the first, third and seventh ends gave Mouat a 7-4 victory.

They go to Las Vegas with a really good shot of bringing back a medal… so long as they can carry the form they’ve shown throughout this season when it matters most.

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We’ve also been treated to quite a bit of mixed doubles recently, with Judith and Lee McCleary taking third place at the Westbay Hungarian Mixed Doubles Cup last week, and the International Mixed Doubles Dumfries event taking place this week.

With Bruce Mouat heading off to the World Men’s Championship, Gina Aitken paired up with Duncan Menzies, and they finished joint top of Pool A with Michele Jaeggi/Sven Michel of Switzerland.

Pool B was headed by Jayne Stirling/Fraser Kingan – Scotland’s representatives at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in April – ahead of Hailey Duff/Robin Brydone, while Lisa Davies/James Craik topped Pool C.

The quarter-finals brought wins for Aitken/Menzies, Jaeggi/Michel, Stirling/Kingan and Zuzana Hajkova/Tomas Paul of the Czech Republic, and in the last four Jaeggi/Michel beat Hajkova/Paul 7-6 while Stirling/Kingan won their all-Scottish battle with Aitken/Menzies 8-7 after an extra end.

And Stirling and Kingan ensured a home victory in the final!

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Team Muirhead rule Europe again as Scotland secure medal double

 

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GOLDEN GIRLS: Team Muirhead (Pic: British Curling/WCF/Richard Gray)

 

The good news just keeps coming for Scottish curling. Not bad timing with the Winter Olympics round the corner.

Having opened the National Curling Academy this year, Scottish rinks have made their impact at the World Mixed Curling Championships (gold for Team Hardie), the Grand Slam of Curling (National men’s title for Team Mouat)… and now the daddy of the lot.

Team Smith and Team Muirhead, Great Britain’s chosen ones for the Olympics, have returned from the European Championships with gold and silver medals after quite brilliant campaigns in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Team Muirhead party like it’s 2013

Four years ago, with just months to go until the Sochi Olympics, Team Muirhead won European Championship gold by beating Sweden in the final… and now they’ve done it again!

The 2017 vintage (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer (alternate), Glenn Howard (coach)) began their campaign with a defeat – to Sweden, 5-2 – but then rattled off six straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.

They saw off Russia (8-7), Denmark (6-1), Italy (8-1), Germany (8-5), Turkey (8-3) and the Czech Republic (8-4), before finishing the round robin with a loss to Switzerland (9-7 after an extra end) and victory against Hungary (9-3).

Coming third in the women’s standings meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland (Silvana Tirinzoni), and after stealing two in the third end, the Scots gave up three in the fourth.

A steal in end six moved the Swiss 4-2 ahead, but after exchanging singles Muirhead hit back with three in the ninth end, and then a steal in the 10th to win 7-5 and make the final.

They faced Team Hasselborg for the gold, with the Swedes looking to win their 11th straight match in St Gallen to take the title.

The rinks exchanged singles, with Sweden leading 2-1 at halfway, but an open hit for two in the sixth end put the Scots ahead, and steals in ends nine and 10 saw them win the match 6-3 – giving them their golden moment.

Medal breakthrough for Team Smith

On the men’s side, Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith, Glen Muirhead (alternate), Viktor Kjäll (coach)) were back at the Europeans, after previously representing Scotland in 2015.

It’s not been a vintage season so far for the rink, but they got off to a great start here, winning their first three round robin games – against Italy (7-3), Austria (7-3) and Russia (5-3).

That run came to a halt against Germany, as they lost 6-4, and then it was a case of ‘win one, lose one’ for the rest of the round robin, as defeats to Sweden (5-4) and Switzerland (9-4) were balanced out by victories over Slovakia (8-1), Ulsrud (8-7) and the Netherlands (5-2), as the Scots finished third in the standings on W6 L3.

That meant a semi-final with second-placed Switzerland, and what a yo-yo encounter it was, with the Scots stealing three in the second end but being pegged back to 5-5 at the fifth-end break.

The teams exchanged twos, before the Swiss stole in the eighth end to lead for the first time, 8-7, only for Smith to blank the ninth and score two in end 10 to make the final.

There they faced their near-constant nemesis, Team Edin of Sweden, who were looking for a fourth straight European title.

Early on, it looked like business as usual, with Sweden moving 3-0 ahead, but two in end four and a steal in the fifth drew the Scots level.

Two in the eighth end put them ahead, but the Swedes responded with two of their own in the ninth and then claimed a massive steal of four in the 10th to win 10-5 – a scoreline which did not reflect the closeness of the game.

Although it was not the colour of medal Team Smith wanted, it is still a first senior medal for the rink – and an ideal confidence boost ahead of the Olympics.

Bronze for Jackson

Away from the European Championships, but still in Switzerland, Team Jackson completed the set of medals for Scotland with bronze at the EJCT event in Thun.

Wins against Teams Ramsfjell, Tanner, Witschonke, Lo Deserto and Wuest sent them straight into the semi-finals, where they suffered their first defeat – against Team Danshina.

That meant a 3v4 match with Witschonke to finish, which they won to clinch the bronze medal.