World Mixed Doubles: England and Wales Q&A

Anna and Ben Fowler, Team England in Karlstad

It’s not just Scotland waving the flag for British interests at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in Karlstad, Sweden, from tomorrow.

England are represented by siblings Anna and Ben Fowler, while Dawn Watson and Adrian Meikle are playing for Wales.

The Roaring Game Blog spoke to the English and Welsh curlers before they travelled to take part in the competition.


Roaring Game Blog (RGB): When did you first play mixed doubles and how did that come about?
Anna Fowler (AF): I first played mixed doubles in 2009 in the national championships with my older brother Sam Fowler. We played three years in a row and never managed to win the championships. I then played with my ladies team coach, John Sharp, in 2013 when Ben and Hetty Garnier (my third) won the nationals. Hetty was unable to go to the Worlds due to school commitments, so I went with Ben to New Brunswick, Canada. Having never played together before, this was really difficult for us and despite coming close, we didn’t manage to win a game. The experience was enough to put me off the game for nearly three years!
In 2015, Ben and I decided to enter the nationals together and I pulled myself out of my early mixed doubles retirement. We had a fantastic championships in Dumfries and won the final against last year’s champions, Lana Watson and Alan MacDougall.
Dawn Watson (DW): I first played in a competition in Braehead with John Brown (English) as we were playing in a weekend competition and thought it would be fun.
Subsequent to that I had the opportunity to play for Wales in the World Mixed Doubles in Dumfries with Adrian.
Adrian Meikle (AM): 2013-14 as the opportunity to play in the World Mixed Doubles in Dumfries came about, being ‘local’.

RGB: What do you like most about the discipline?
AF: I think the game has really benefited from the new rules – movement of the placed stone to the back of the four foot circle and introduction of the power play. I also really enjoy playing with Ben. I think being siblings means we’re always on the same wavelength and means we can say what we really think without it being a problem!
DW: It’s a very different game and moves very quickly.
AM: For me, the complexity and difficulty of shots.

RGB: Has playing mixed doubles helped your play in the four-person game?
AF: Definitely. Mixed Doubles teaches you to play aggressively, and having only five stones teaches you to plan ahead.
DW: Not really, as it is such a different game.

RGB: How much chance have you had to practise mixed doubles together this season?
AF: Aside from the English championships and Dumfries Mixed Doubles, we also played a practice competition against Irantzu and Gontzal from Spain, Bruce [Mouat] and Gina [Aitken] and Hayley and John Duff from Scotland. There was some really high quality curling played at this event and it was great preparation for Worlds.
DW: Just one practice weekend in Glasgow, no tournaments. We had one planned we had to cancel but with no dedicated facilities to use in Wales (though we are working on a project for a dedicated facility in North Wales which would change this) we need to travel for practice.

RGB: What support (coaching, facilities etc) have you had to get to this point?
AF: The ECA has made a donation to our costs and British Curling kindly arranged the ice for our recent practice competition. We don’t receive any other support or coaching for mixed doubles.
AM: None – it’s all on us.

The groups at World Mixed Doubles 2016

RGB: Having seen the groups/schedule, what are your goals going into the competition in Karlstad?
AF: We are really pleased with our draw and think that we have a fair chance of reaching the knock out stages and Olympic points. There are some tough teams in our group (notably Japan and Norway), but we know that anything can happen in mixed doubles, so we have to take each game as it comes.
AM: To qualify for the playoffs.

RGB: Does MD coming into the Olympics affect the time/focus you put into it?
AF: Yes, absolutely. No British team has ever medalled at a World Mixed Doubles Championship, so this means there is a big opportunity for us to excel. There are a lot of established and successful British teams at men’s and women’s level, but this is yet to be replicated in mixed doubles. We hope that we can be successful at Worlds to give us a chance of competing at Olympic level.
DW: We would love to put more time and focus into it, but as we have no local facilities to use and we are totally self-funded this is very difficult.
AM: Not really. Realistically we know that Welsh players couldn’t make the GB program as it will be based in Scotland.


England open up their campaign against Romania at 3pm UK time. On Tuesday, their game against Japan is being shown live online here.

Wale kick off versus Brazil tomorrow at 11am UK time.

You can follow updates from the competition on the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week.

It’s not all about you, Scotland: The Brits in Esbjerg


England women – photo:


This blog may have a Scottish focus, and I had at least one eye on the Scottish teams throughout their time in Esbjerg, but there were three other teams from Britain at the European Championships.

They are England men (Alan MacDougall, skip, Andrew Reed, Andrew Woolston, Tom Jaeggi, Ben Fowler), England women (Anna Fowler, skip, Hetty Garnier, Angharad Ward, Lauren Pearce, Naomi Robinson) and Wales men (James Pougher, skip, Rhys Phillips, Gary Coombs, Jamie Fletcher and Simon Pougher), all of whom competed in the B-Division this year.

I spoke to the teams about how they got started in curling, the hard yards they put in to make it to Esbjerg and how they enjoyed the Europeans experience.

So. Curling. Established in Troon and Toronto, sure, even Trondheim… but Tunbridge Wells? The setting up of England’s only dedicated curling facility in Kent was the genesis point for the current England women’s team, as they all live in the area, caught wind of it after it opened in 2004 and played on from that point.

Others have links to more traditional curling nations – Canada (Angharad Ward and Jamie Fletcher – both began playing it across the Atlantic and then took it up again in the UK) and Scotland (Alan MacDougall and Andrew Reed).

Then there’s the Olympic effect. The 2002 Games inspired Fletcher and James Pougher, while the 2010 event prompted Gary Coombs to join in at Wales’ sole facility in Deeside Leisure Centre.

Deeside, in the north east of the country, is indicative of the difficulties faced by British curlers outside of the Scottish motherland of the sport.

Fletcher, who is about 45 minutes’ drive from the facility, says: “We have it one night a week… It’s ice hockey ice – we get the ice about six hours before we play so we’ve got to prepare it ourselves, and it’s often not very good.

“So we are trying to get our own facility, we’ve been working on that for a while, but at the moment we don’t have anything.

“We do our best with what we have, but having our own facility would make a massive difference.”

England is a little better off when it comes to ice provision, and could get a lot better if proposals for curling facilities in Preston, Bracknell and Cambridge come to fruition.

The England women are hopeful that more English rinks would mean more competitive curlers for them to face, and more competitions to play in south of the border – because at the moment they play so often in Scotland that Braehead (next year’s Europeans host) is becoming like a home rink for them.

But skip Anna Fowler is also realistic about English curling’s capabilities, knowing that it’s a long term game.

She said: “When the other rinks [beyond Fenton’s in Kent] open up, it’ll take a little bit of time but maybe five years after that we’ll have some good competition and I think English curling will develop.

“But we need a couple more rinks to develop the sport. At the moment it’s not really developing loads in England.”

eng men
England men – photo:

The England men’s team, Ben Fowler says, “train as a team in Greenacres but don’t get much time all together”.

“This season three of us met twice for a weekend of training,” he adds.

Stretched resources meant creative approaches to funding their way to Esbjerg, paying for travel, accommodation and all the other associated costs.

While England women raised cash through crowdfunding (read more about that here), the men covered their own costs – aside from those (their car and house for the week) provided for by the English Curling Association.

Their Welsh counterparts are, says Fletcher, ‘about 98 per cent self-funded’ – with a few donations coming from people within Welsh Curling, suppliers and friends.

“No lottery funding, government funding – it’s all us,” Fletcher adds.

The problems didn’t even stop once the teams had arrived in Esbjerg either, as #broomgate made its presence felt on the teams as several brush heads were banned at short notice.

England women found they could not use any of their shipment of Goldline pads, and Anna Fowler added: “It’s been a bit of a pain because we’ve been training with the IcePad.

“We knew it might be banned, so we were only using one, but it’s been frustrating.

“We got the email when we were already here, and [England men] were on the plane when they got the first email, which is a little ridiculous.”

However, at a time when the ‘spirit of curling’ seems to be losing its way, an Olympian gave proof that it still exists – Norwegian skip Thomas Ulsrud giving England women four new broom heads.

“I don’t know how we knew that we’d had so many banned, but he came up and gave us four Norway ones, which was really nice,” says Fowler.

But it seems that the practice, funding and equipment issues are worth it for the Europeans experience.

Fletcher said this was his first Europeans, but his team-mates had all been to at least one before – and as well as the ice, food and lounge facilities being good, the biggest bonus is that the A and B-Division arenas are both on one site, which hasn’t always been the case.

As well as allowing the English and Welsh teams to go watch A-Division games between their own, it’s meant that the B-Division has been less of an ‘afterthought’, shunted off to the middle of nowhere and attracting very few spectators – the B-Division viewing area was packed four rows deep on several occasions I attended games.

On the ice, both English teams were disappointed not to achieve promotion to the A-Division, while the Welsh struggled in their group but ultimately secured B-Division status again for 2016.

England men gave themselves a shot at making the playoffs by edging into a tiebreaker with Israel, but came up short in that match.

Ben Fowler reflects: “Considering our lack of preparation this year and the tough group we were in, we did really well!

“Our goal was to get to the A division for Braehead next year. Unfortunately we didn’t manage our goal, but we did avoid relegation.”

England women played well throughout the week and reached a semi final against Italy. The game was 3-3 into end 10 and the Italian skip’s last stone picked – only to make an unbelievable raise takeout that won her side the game.

Italy went on to defeat Norway to qualify for the 2016 World Women’s Championships so England, who lost to Latvia in their bronze medal match, did well to push them so agonisingly close.

Wales finished W2 L5 in their group, but defeated Croatia 10-4 in a relegation playoff to ensure they will be alongside both England teams at Braehead in 2016.

wales men
Wales men – photo:

Before then, the seasons continue for these sides to varying degrees.

England men will play in the Aberdeen City Open and the Haggis Bonspiel in preparation for the English Championships in February.

For England women, Ward says, “A couple of smaller competitions in Scotland – like the Aberdeen City Open and hopefully Perth Ladies, just to keep us together as a team and keep on practising.

“But this is our major competition of the season, so it’s a shame it’s so early on in the season.”

As for Wales, Fletcher said: “We go back into our normal league playing on Monday nights. We’ve got Welsh Championships coming up in early March, so we’ll be going to that together as a team.

“But that’s it really – we don’t have any competitions lined up over the next couple of months.

“We’ve been going really, really hard in the run-up to this, probably spending more weekends in Scotland than we have at home, so we need to get back into our normal lives a little bit.”


For more information on English Curling, see their website here.

You can also read the England women’s team blog here, or follow them on Twitter @lovecurling.

For more on Welsh Curling, see the site here – or for more on James Pougher’s rink, read their blog here or follow @TeamPougher.

Esbjerg Daily: European Curling Championships 2015 – Day 8

Edin edged Ulsrud – again. Photo: World Curling Federation/Laura Godenzi

It was a Scotland-free day on Friday, but there was still plenty of action – with semi final and medal games, including England women’s shot at bronze that saw them fall just short.

In the A-Division men’s semi finals, there was a clash between last season’s World Championship finalists, Norway and Sweden.

Norway had won nine and lost none of their round robin games, whereas Sweden lost four and needed a tiebreaker win over Scotland to make the semis, but it was Niklas Edin’s Swedes who came out on top, just as they had to win the Worlds title.

Norway, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud, scored two in end two but Sweden then scored three and took two steals of one to lead 5-2 after five ends.

Ulsrud’s rink came back with a three in end seven and two in end 10 to force an extra end, but Edin made the nose hit for one and an 8-7 win.

In the other semi, Peter De Cruz’s Switzerland topped the Finnish rink of Aku Kauste. scoring threes in ends three, six and eight for a 10-4 victory.

In the bronze medal games, Lene Nielsen’s Denmark suffered their fifth defeat in a row as Finland, skipped by Oona Kauste, claimed third spot on the podium – a historic first medal for Finnish women’s curlers.

That was in large part down to a four in end five, and although Denmark scored three in end nine, the Finns held on to win 10-8.

Norway, meanwhile, won men’s bronze, shaking off the disappointment of their semi-final exit to steal two in end two and add another two in end four on their way to a smooth 7-4 win over Finland.


In the B-Division, survival was at stake for James Pougher’s Wales men, who knew that a win over Croatia would allow them to stay in the B-Division for the 2016 championships in Braehead.

They got off to a flier, scoring four in end one, before adding a two in end five and three in end eight to win the match 10-4 and kill off relegation fears.

That was followed by England women, skipped by Anna Fowler, taking on Latvia for B-Division women’s bronze after their agonising loss to Italy on Thursday night.

Despite taking a 5-3 lead into the fifth end break, England gave up steals in ends seven, eight and nine – a two in end 10 was not enough as they lost 8-7 and had to settle for fourth place.

Skip Fowler said: “Over the tournament, I think we played very well – we played a lot better towards the end of the week.

“Today, it just took us a long time to figure out the ice; we just weren’t really good enough today to be honest.

“A couple of times we could’ve had big ends and it just didn’t go our way.”

On whether the team had achieved its objectives, she added: “No, I would say our real ambition was to make promotion, so our loss yesterday was the one we were so, so gutted about.

“It was such a close game and there wasn’t much more we could’ve done.

“We wanted to be [in the A-Division] in Braehead next year, but another year of experience and we should be there.”

Latvia men also took bronze, defeating Israel, while Denmark men beat Austria and Italy women saw off the Czech Republic for the B-Division golds, also putting them into the World Challenger matches.

Those games (which decide the last European qualifier for the World Men’s and Women’s Championships in 2016) saw both B-Division sides win their opening tie of the three-game series – Denmark men topping Italy 7-2 and Italy women beating Norway 7-4.


Tomorrow is finals day!

The men’s final, Sweden against Switzerland, is from 10.00 CET – Niklas Edin’s rink looking to retain their crown from last year.

The women’s final follows at 15.00 CET, with Eve Muirhead and Scotland looking to reclaim the title they last won in 2011, as they face Russia.

The day will also feature the second and (if needed) third World Challenger games between Denmark and Italy (men) and Italy and Norway (women), plus the game to decide who joins Estonia in dropping to the men’s C-Division for 2016 – Belgium versus Croatia.

You can get updates via @RoaringGameBlog on Twitter and Facebook, plus shot-by-shot coverage of the finals through CurlingGeek.

Eurosport and World Curling TV will televise both Sweden v Switzerland and Russia v Scotland.

For live scores from all the remaining games, see the event website, plus photo galleries here.