World silver for Whyte, mixed doubles triumph for Aitken/Mouat

 

team whyte world junior silver
Team Whyte with their World Junior silver medals. Pic: facebook.com/TeamWhyte

 

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.

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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.

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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.

That event can be followed here.

The Paralympic curling continues this week, too, and Great Britain – skipped by Aileen Neilson – are right in the mix for a playoff place with four wins and three losses.

You can follow the scores from Pyeongchang here.

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No rest for the wicked

TeamFleming-Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart
Could Team Fleming upset Olympians Team Muirhead at this weekend’s World Championship Playoff? Photo: Graeme Hart/Perthshire Picture Agency

They say there’s no rest for the wicked, and there’s certainly none for Team GB’s Olympic curlers, as they fight for the right to represent Scotland at this year’s World Championships.

Teams Muirhead and Smith finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics, and while that’s a disappointing contrast to Sochi 2014, it’s hard to be critical in what were remarkably open fields at the competition.

Team Smith did well to overcome the likes of Switzerland and Norway as they gave themselves a great chance of making the semi-finals; their losses came against Canada (no shame there), Sweden (the Edin machine), Korea (OK, that was a bad one) and the USA – who jumped aboard a winning train that took them all the way to a shock gold.

They were in a good position against the Swiss in the tiebreaker, too, but crucially gave Benoit Schwarz a chance to score five… an outside chance, but one that he took to win the game.

For a young team, and one still pretty inexperienced at the top level of curling, this was a good first outing at the Olympics; there were some missed opportunities, sure, but Team Smith represented GB and Scotland very well indeed.

Team Muirhead did make the semi-finals on the women’s side, of course, despite a rocky round robin that included an off-colour loss to the USA and an apparent equipment malfunction in their defeat to Sweden.

The Swedes were the best team out there, as they proved by winning gold, and ultimately they outplayed the Muirhead rink in the last four.

Clearly deflated after seeing their hopes of gold snuffed out, GB did not look themselves against Japan in the bronze medal match, and one could hardly begrudge the ever-smiling Fujisawa team their place on the podium.

There’s little time for reflection, though, as both Smith and Muirhead return to competitive action this weekend.

While they were away in South Korea, the Scottish Championships took place in Perth.

Team Mouat steamrollered the men’s field, winning nine from nine in the round robin, then the 1v2 page playoff against Team Drummond (8-3), before turning it up to 11 (straight wins) by beating Drummond again in the final, 7-5 this time.

Team Fleming had a bumpier ride in the women’s event, as they won their first five round robin matches but then lost their last three.

Still they beat Team Jackson 9-7 in the 1v2 game, and managed to sneak past them again in the final, 7-6 after an extra end, to finally claim that coveted Championship title.

So this weekend, March 3-4, brings the World Championship Playoff, again at the Dewars Centre in Perth, pitting Mouat against Smith and Fleming versus Muirhead.

Scottish Curling has confirmed that the event will go ahead, despite the chaotic weather conditions, and added that BBC Scotland will have live coverage of the event – hopefully benefitting from a post-Olympics bounce.

Hopefully we will be treated to some close matches in the best of three contests; Mouat’s season has been excellent, while Fleming have made steps towards closing the gap to Muirhead this campaign.

If I had to predict the winners now, I’d have to say Mouat and Muirhead… but we will have to wait and see!

The schedule is as follows:
Saturday: Men’s Draw 1 – 2pm; Women’s Draw 1 – 6pm
Sunday: Men’s Draw 2 – 10am; Women’s Draw 2 – 2pm; Men & Women’s Draw 3 (if required) – 6.30pm

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Of course that’s not it for curling this weekend, not even in Scotland… for Aberdeen hosts the World Junior Curling Championships!

Scotland is represented by Team Whyte (men’s) and Team Morrison (women’s), and here’s hoping that they can continue the Scots’ fine recent record in this competition.

The event kicks off tomorrow at 9am, running through to March 10, and you can follow all the latest scores here.

Several matches can be watched live via World Curling TV, and BBC Sport Scotland will again have some coverage from Aberdeen.

Teams Whyte and Morrison are Scottish Junior champions

Whyte Scottish juniors
DELIGHT: The victorious Team Whyte. Pic: twitter.com/scottishcurling

Teams Whyte and Morrison claimed the men’s and women’s titles at the 2018 Scottish Curling Junior Championships in Aberdeen, earning the right to represent Scotland at Worlds.

With eight men’s rinks and nine women’s in action, a round robin stage would determine which three teams from each side of the competition would reach the knockout stages.

No tiebreakers were required, with Teams Whyte (W7 L0), Kinnear (W6 L1) and Baird (W5 L2) making it on the men’s side, and Teams Bryce (W7 L1), S Jackson (W7 L1) and Morrison (W6 L2) coming through from the women’s field.

In the 1v2 page playoffs, Whyte edged Kinnear 5-4, while Bryce beat Jackson 5-3.

The semi-finals saw Jackson’s women’s title defence ended, as Morrison won 5-4 after an extra end, while Kinnear stole four in the 10th end to seal an 11-5 victory against Baird.

Both finals were suitably close, with Bryce and Morrison trading twos before another two in end seven and a steal in the 10th handed a 5-3 win and the women’s title to Team Morrison (Rebecca Morrison, Amy MacDonald, Hailey Duff, Leeanne McKenzie).

Across in the men’s final, and Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, Robin Brydone, Fraser Kingan, Euan Kyle) got off to a flier with three in the first end, and despite a steal of two for Kinnear in the seventh, it was Whyte who held on to triumph 7-5.

The victorious pair will represent Scotland in the World Junior Curling Championships on home soil, with this event also being hosted by Aberdeen, on March 3-10.

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There was a welcome return to the mixed doubles arena for Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat this weekend, with the duo competing in the Gefle Mixed Doubles Cup in Gavle, Sweden.

Aitken/Mouat sailed through to the playoffs by winning their three matches on the A-Road – 11-2 against Wild/Kohn, 8-3 versus Wendel/Wingfors and 7-5 over Noreen/Noreen.

The wins kept coming in the knockout stages, too, as they beat Andersson/Andersson 7-3 in the quarter-finals and then Szekeres/Nagy of Hungary 12-2 (with steals of two, three and three, then a four in the fifth end) to make the final.

There they played Perret/Rios of Switzerland, and the Scottish pair made it six wins from six in Sweden, scoring two in the third end and four in the sixth on their way to clinching it 8-4.

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Finally, just a quick pointer towards Sunday night’s BBC Countryfile, which profiled Glen and Thomas Muirhead – and then put Matt Baker on the ice with Team Smith in Stirling – ahead of the Winter Olympics.

If you missed the programme, it’s available to watch again here.