Season review Q&As – part one

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Scottish Juniors winners, Teams Jackson (back) and Mouat (photo: RCCC/Brian Battensby (brianbatphotography.co.uk))

To look back on the season just gone, I asked several Scottish and British teams six questions about the tournaments they’ve played in, how they’ve played and what their future prospects are.

Add in a couple of not-so-serious questions, and here we are.

My thanks go to Tom Brewster, Anna Fowler, Lauren Gray, Grant Hardie, Sophie Jackson, Ben Fowler and Bruce Mouat for the following answers.

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Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: The Scottish Men’s Championship in Perth. We had great preparation going into the event and once the event got underway we felt at the top of our game all week.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: Curling Night in America. This was a staged event for NBC between Scotland, USA, China and Japan. As it was not on the tour it was very relaxed and fun to play in.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: My best shot of the year was against the USA at the World Men’s Championship – last shot of the 10th end and we needed two to go to an extra. I played a double raise takeout to get it.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: It would have to be Hammy! There are too many moments to mention and some which I can’t!!

Q: Team Muirhead played the end of the season with a couple of ‘super subs’. If you needed a sub from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Kevin Koe. He’s just such a great shot maker.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Planning started before the season ended. The tour schedule for next season has not been finalised but we have a rough idea of the events we want to play in. We plan our season around peaking at the European playoffs in October and the Scottish Men’s Championship in February. The tournament and training schedule is then fitted so we peak at these events.

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Team Fowler (Anna Fowler, Hetty Garnier, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: We had a really great week in Esbjerg at the Europeans and were just one shot away from the A Group. It was fantastic to see all the hard work we’d put in nearly pay off. We also had a good weekend in Perth at the Ladies International in April – we were the second-placed British team after Eve Muirhead’s rink, a great achievement for us as a non-funded team.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The European Championship is always the most special event for us, and Esbjerg was no different. We’ve played against the same international teams for years, so now it’s always good to catch up with friends from abroad at these events. The layout at Esbjerg was superb with the A and B halls next to each other, and we had a lot of support from home, so that helped make the atmosphere extra special.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: At the Europeans, I made a great double takeout with the last stone against Turkey in the tie-breakers to win the game and put us through to the semi-finals against Italy. The girls have all played so well this season, so I know there are a lot of brilliant shots I should be crediting them for too!

when you see it
When you see it…

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season? 
A: We hosted a charity bonspiel in December for the Princes Trust raising over £2,500. The event photographer was really keen to get a photo with the girls in their England kit, but when we got the photo back, we couldn’t stop laughing!!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: We’ve had a fair few super subs ourselves this season – Lorna Retig, Lucy Sparks and Rhiann Macleod, to name a few! They would always be top of the list to help us out if we were in need again.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: We already have a lot planned for next season. As usual, the Europeans in November are our main focus, so the front end of the season is heavily loaded with lots of competitions and training. Also, being at Braehead this year (a second home for us), we are even more determined to get onto the podium in one of the top two spots. After another fun and successful season together, we will be keeping the line-up the same for 2016-2017. I believe we’ve got great potential and a lot more to give, so watch this space!

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Team Gray (Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: I feel Team Gray’s best team performance was at the Dumfries International event in December 2015. We brought together a lot of the process points we had been working on in the first half of the season, and succeeded in our first final as a result of that.

Team Gray With Dumfries Challenger Series Trophy - David Owen
Team Gray, CCT Lely Dumfries Challenge winners (photo: David Owen)

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: We enjoyed the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Canada the most, from a social perspective. There was live music and food provided at the rink on the Saturday night, and the teams were seated at mixed tables in an informal manner, which encouraged different teams to get to know each other.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: My shot of the year, for me as an individual, would probably be drawing the button against Daniela Driendl in the semi final of Dumfries CCT to progress to the final. It was a great team shot with tricky line call and perfect sweeping from the front end.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Most embarrassing moment in the team this year would be Mhairi falling on the ice in Bern. She was sweeping a shot and was looking at the stone so did not see the guards in play to the right of her feet, they swept her feet away from under her and she went down. To be fair, she managed to not burn any of the stones in play which we were proud of her for.

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Our team would ask Silvana Tirinzoni from Team Tirinzoni. She has made multiple finals on the Curling Champions Tour this year and we would like her to play for us in order to learn from her tactics and processes in order to obtain that success.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: The team line-ups will be decided and submitted by the end of May, and the schedules will be decided quickly after that in June, to allow planning, booking and prep time.

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Team Hardie (Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, David Reid, Billy Morton)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: Tough question as we never really put a complete tournament together all year; we played some of our best curling at the Scottish Championships, but the inconsistency is what probably cost us in the end.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: Mike Ferguson puts on a fantastic social weekend at the Forfar Open but we also really enjoyed the Scottish Championships. Unfortunately we got knocked out early, but Perth had plenty to offer and kept us busy during the weekend.

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Grant Hardie (photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: Nose hit to beat Team Smith in their “grudge match” at the Scottish.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Collective answer here… we lost to Team Macleod once.

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Duncan Menzies – he must have averaged about 40% when he played us this season but kept beating us. We played quite a few games at 40% but lost them all, so hopefully he would teach us how it’s done.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Early stages yet but discussions have been had and we will be looking to take on a heavier schedule next season. Any news regarding the schedule will be announced via our Facebook page as soon we finalise plans.

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Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: The Scottish Juniors (we won!).

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: A competition we played in Canada, the Thames Valley Junior Bonspiel in London, Ontario.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: A cross house double we made in the eighth end against Turkey in the World Juniors with my first stone to set up a three, which was big for us. It had been a tough week for us to keep going and this just gave us a bit of a boost.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Naomi has countless to remember and name. She is definitely the provider of entertainment in the team. One time we had practice in Dumfries, we all got to the rink apart from Naomi so we decided to look for her on ‘find my friends’… we saw that she was in Braehead! Rachel phoned Naomi and confirmed she was in Braehead – she thought we were practising there! Naomi made it down to Dumfries with 20 minutes of practice left. She then tells us she had travelled from Stranraer to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Braehead and then Braehead to Dumfries and it was only midday!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Johanna Heldin (Team Lundman) because she is a great sweeper and can play in any position throughout the team.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: We are in the midst of planning our competition schedule for next season and are also in the process of confirming our line-up.

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Team MacDougall (Alan MacDougall, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Thomas Jaeggi, Ben Fowler)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: We only played four competitions as a team this season so there’s a limited selection. The team played really well during the English playdowns though, which was a good win for us.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The European Men’s Championship is always a really good competition to participate in. The atmosphere is always tense and there’s lots of old friends playing (and some new). The venue was a little small this year though, so we’re looking forward to playing at Braehead 2016.

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England men at 2015 Europeans (photo: WCF)

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: I actually have two best shots of the season. Both in the third end of our game vs Austria at the Europeans. They secured us a five and essentially the game. I’ve attached videos!

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: In one of our games at the Europeans I had been struggling with t-weight. Late in the game Alan asked for a barrier weight from me. Andy W turned to me and said “your t-weight then”. The umpire overheard and burst out laughing. She had clearly noticed how bad my t-weight was!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Ben Hebert to show us how to sweep like a boss!

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Next year will unfortunately be our last season as a team. We are however very motivated to go out with a bang and hopefully promote England to the A group on semi-home turf.

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Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Duncan Menzies, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: Over the season we played very well as a team. For me, I first noticed that we were playing well on our first trip to Canada when we played in Gatineau. This then showed at other competitions including the World Juniors.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The Grand Slam Of Curling Champions Cup. Getting to play in our first Grand Slam was a great way to end our season. For nearly every draw we played, the stadium was near full and the atmosphere was great. It was also a great feeling to be able to socialise with amazing curlers who have achieved so much.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: My shot of the year would be the shot I played against USA in the 1v2 page playoff at the World Juniors. We played a hack weight take out through a port to score three that was pretty much swept from the hand. That secured our spot in the gold medal game.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: I can’t really think of anything that shameful. I guess Gregor got us lost with his lack of directional skills in Canada but then he’ll probably blame Alan [Hannah, coach].

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Well having Robin [Brydone] at the Worlds came in handy when Bobby became unwell but if we could ask anyone we would probably ask someone like Brad Gushue or Mark Nichols. They don’t miss much.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Still working a few things out for now.

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Look out for ‘Season reviews – part two’ coming soon!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Granite glory for Team MacDonald at Aberdeen City Open

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Aberdeen City Open winners Team MacDonald (photo: Gavin Fleming)

Team MacDonald warmed up for their Scottish Curling Championship defence by winning the Aberdeen City Open, defeating Alan MacDougall’s English rink in the final.

Ewan MacDonald’s rink were one of 20 teams in Aberdeen, split into two groups (red and blue sections) – the top four from each making it into the quarter-finals.

MacDonald’s men topped the red section on four wins from four, those coming against Macleod (10-2), Perras (9-5), Aitken (8-4) and Fowler (13-6).

Gina Aitken and Scott Macleod’s rinks were second and third in the group (both W3 L1 records), and Adrian Meikle’s Welshmen edged their way into fourth – finishing W2 L2 alongside Fowler, Perras and Wilson but having the better ‘shots up’ record.

In the blue section, it was Stuart Taylor’s rink who went undefeated, beating Menzies 11-4, Lockhart 11-2 and Gray 7-4, and drawing 4-4 with Fleming.

That draw for Hannah Fleming’s team saw them qualify for the quarter-finals in fourth spot on W2 D1 L1, in behind Teams Gray (W3 L1) and MacDougall (W2 D1 L1).

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Team Taylor (photo: Stuart McLachlan)

In the last eight, MacDonald continued their fearsome form by defeating Fleming 7-1 thanks to a three in end one and twos in ends three and four.

Gray overcame Macleod 6-4 with twos in ends four and six, while MacDougall beat Aitken 5-2 and Meikle scored three in end eight to sneak past Taylor 7-6.

In the semi-finals, MacDonald faced Gray in an all-Scottish clash, with MacDonald coming out on top 6-4, scoring a crucial two in end six after Gray had stolen one to level at 3-3 after five.

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Gray v MacDonald (photo: Stuart McLachlan)

In the other semi, Meikle came from 5-1 down after five to tie it up at 6-6 after eight, but MacDougall had hammer in the extra end and scored the one needed to make the final.

In that final, MacDonald were forced to one in the first but then stole one in end two, two in end three and another one in end four to lead 5-0.

MacDougall got on the board in end five but two from MacDonald in end six saw handshakes at 7-1.

Gray took third place with a 5-3 win over Meikle in the third/fourth game.

More photos from the weekend (courtesy of Stuart McLachlan and Maggie Wilson) are on Facebook here.

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Judith and Lee McCleary represented Scotland at the Aarau Mixed Doubles, reaching the semi-finals.

They cruised through Group B, winning five from five – taking victories over Guzieva/Ali of Russia (9-5), Gribi/Gribi of Switzerland (6-5), Hümbelin/Gubler of Switzerland (13-3), Matulovà/Derzsi of Slovakia (13-2) and Colceriu/Coliban of Romania (9-6).

They then defeated Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary 6-4 in the quarter-finals, but were beaten by Jäggi/Freiberger of Switzerland 8-5 – the Swiss rink went on to lose to their compatriots Perret/Rios in the final, while the McClearys lost 7-6 to Hegner/Attinger, also of Switzerland, in the third/fourth game.

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In Canada, the Brier playdowns continued – with the headline news being Team Glenn Howard overcoming Team Epping 6-5 to become Ontario champion.

Team Laycock won in Saskatchewan, meanwhile, and Mike Kennedy took the New Brunswick title.

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Northern Ontario will see their representatives decided this coming weekend.

And the USA national championships are currently in progress – Team Clark lead the way for the men after three games, while it’s Brown and Roth who sit W3 L0 in the women’s event.