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.
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.