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

***

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.

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Curling 2015-16: Second half season review

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Team Mouat, World Juniors gold medallists (photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

Summer is here and the 2015-16 curling season is at an end – so it’s time to look back on the triumphs, disappointments and progress made during the year.

I reviewed the first half of the season in December – you can read that here – so this post will focus on January-May.

From World Championships to Grand Slams, World Curling Tour events to tournaments on Scottish soil, there was plenty for curlers and curling fans to get stuck into.

***

Canada and Switzerland won the World Men’s and World Women’s Curling Championships respectively – Scotland failed to make the playoffs at either event.

Team Muirhead were once again the Scottish representative at World Women’s, this year held in Swift Current, Canada, and organised by a former GB Olympian – and Eve Muirhead team-mate – Kelly Schafer.

The current Team Muirhead put themselves in a promising position to make the playoffs with seven straight wins (including a 7-1 victory over Russia), but they slid from 5-1 up against Switzerland to lose 7-6… and further defeats to Japan and Canada saw them crash out.

Skip Muirhead said afterwards: “It’s hard to take that we’re out but we lost the last three games and at major championships you just can’t do that.”

Binia Feltscher’s Swiss rink defeated Japan 9-6 to claim gold – remarkably, that’s Switzerland’s third World Women’s in a row, and a fourth in five years.

Come World Men’s in Basel, Switzerland, Scotland was represented by Team Brewster – their skip Tom Brewster had won World medals before, but as a rink they were relatively inexperienced at this top level.

The Scots won their first two matches, but then lost five on the bounce to see their playoff hopes slip away. They finished strongly though, with wins over Finland, Germany and Sweden – the latter knocking the 2015 champions out of the playoff reckoning themselves.

Skip Brewster reflected: “It’s what could have been, I think. The guys have played great and we’ve learned a lot. If we take that experience and move on we can only be a stronger team next season.”

Team Kevin Koe, who had made it out of one of the toughest Brier fields in history to qualify for Worlds, took gold in Basel by beating Denmark 5-3.

***

So a disappointing seasons for Scotland in the World Curling Federation events? Not exactly.

In March, Team Mouat won men’s gold at World Juniors in Copenhagen, Denmark, having recorded W7 L2 in the round robin stage to make the 1v2 playoff.

There they beat the USA 7-5 to reach the final, where they would again face the Americans. Twos in ends two and four proved the difference as Scotland won 6-3 to take the top spot on the podium!

Unfortunately Scotland women (Team Jackson) had a rather more difficult time in Copenhagen, losing seven games and being relegated to the B-Division for next season.

In April, the World Mixed Doubles and World Senior Championships took place in Karlstad, Sweden – with more success for Scottish (and British!) teams.

Jackie Lockhart’s Scottish women won gold in the Seniors event, defeating Germany 5-4 after an extra end in the final, which ensured they went the entire competition unbeaten; Scotland men (skipped by Gordon Muirhead) made it to the quarter-finals before losing to Canada.

In the World Mixed Doubles, Scotland’s Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken (who had won the Latvian Mixed Doubles Cup just weeks before) scored an excellent fourth-place finish and collected 2018 Olympic qualifying points aplenty.

They had to do it the hard way though, coming through a tiebreaker and stealing one in end eight to beat reigning champions Hungary 6-5 in the last 16.

They recorded another 6-5 win in the quarter-finals, against Canada, before losing to China in the semis – and then missing out on bronze to the USA, as Russia won gold.

England (Anna and Ben Fowler) also performed strongly, taking eighth place overall, as did Ireland (Alison and Neil Fyfe) who came 12th.

And, while we’re on mixed doubles, a mention must go to Ross Whyte, who claimed a silver medal for GB in the discipline – partnered with Han Yu of China – at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, back in February.

***

In tour events, Teams Murdoch and Muirhead had particularly strong finishes to the season.

David Murdoch’s men had to shrug off the disappointment of losing the Scottish Championship final to Team Brewster (the Brewster rink were superb all week in Perth – solid, consistent and in control right to the end), but did so in fine style.

They had already won the German Masters in January, and as the season drew to a close they claimed the inaugural Aberdeen International Curling Championship in March and the European Masters in St Gallen, Switzerland, in April – as well as making their first ever Grand Slam of Curling semi-final at the Players’ Championship in Toronto.

Toronto was also the setting for a Team Muirhead triumph, Eve’s rink winning their third Players’ Championship title in the city (with Cathy Overton-Clapham as ‘super sub’, Anna Sloan having picked up an injury after Worlds).

A couple of weeks earlier, Team Muirhead (with Mairi Milne subbing for Sloan) had won the first ever Perth Ladies International – a competition which they had invested considerable time into getting off the ground and attracting a strong field from across the world.

The Perth Ladies was televised on BBC Alba, as was the 40th edition of the Perth Masters earlier in the year – which also had a strong entry list, including world champions in waiting, Team Koe (naturally, they won in Perth too).

The events in Perth, added to the Aberdeen International and Glynhill Ladies International (another strong field and also won by one of this season’s best teams, Tirinzoni of Switzerland), indicate a bright future for quality, more widely broadcast curling events in Scotland… just in time for the European Championships in November this year (and three more between then and 2020), you might say.

Nor should I forget the Scottish Curling Tour, which continues to provide a stepping stone for Scottish teams to experience high quality competition ahead of potentially taking on the world’s best. This season’s SCT was won by Team Mouat, ahead of Team Hardie in second.

***

So what lies ahead in 2016-17? Personally I’m looking forward to seeing if the younger Scottish teams – like Mouat and Smith – can join the usual suspects – Brewster, Murdoch, Muirhead – in making an increasingly big impact on the world stage.

As the 2018 Olympics draw closer, mixed doubles will surely continue to gain attention as a fresh and exciting discipline full of medal potential at the highest level.

And – there’s no getting away from it – broom technology/technique will also be a talking point. The World Curling Federation has released a survey for curling’s stakeholders and announced a ‘sweeping summit’ will take place later this month… but we must wait until September for definitive new regulations.

Whatever happens, The Roaring Game Blog will continue to cover it. Scottish curling, its players and its fans deserve it – and more.

Weekend round-up: Canada conquer World Men’s

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Canada (Team Koe), World Men’s champions (photo: twitter.com/CurlingCanada/status/719213209387831296)

Kevin Koe and his Canadian rink won gold at the World Men’s Curling Championship in Basel, Switzerland, while Denmark took silver and the USA bronze.

Scotland (Team Brewster) missed the playoffs, but finished their week strongly with a win over the defending champions Sweden.

Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, Cameron Bryce’s rink retained their Scottish Mixed Championship title and again earned passage to Worlds.

***

Scotland (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) opened their Worlds campaign with a 9-3 victory over Korea, then an impressive 6-3 win against last year’s runners-up Norway.

But from there the wheels seemed to fall off, as the team suffered five consecutive losses. After a 9-6 defeat to Russia, they looked set to recover against Japan, only to give up a steal in the extra end to lose 6-5.

They were then beaten 5-3 by Canada, 5-4 by Switzerland and 9-7 by the USA, the latter two results both after an extra end.

The Scots finally stopped the rot against Finland, a three in end eight capping a 7-3 victory, and then beat Germany 7-6, taking their one with hammer in the extra end.

Yet another extra end loss followed against Denmark, 7-6, but they finished their tournament on a high with a three in end 10 to defeat the holders Sweden 6-4.

Skip Brewster reflected: “It’s nice to finish on a win and it’s good for Olympic points  But it’s what could have been, I think. The guys have played great and we’ve learned a lot – I’ve learnt a lot and they’ve learnt a lot.

“Mike [Harris] our coach was saying that last night
 there’s a lot of great things there and if we take that experience and move on we can only be a stronger team next season.”

Scotland ended up in seventh position, on five wins and six losses, behind Norway and Sweden, last season’s finalists both failing to make the final four.

Canada defeated Denmark 5-3 in the 1v2 playoff, before the USA saw off Japan 5-4 in the 3v4 game (though their three in end eight was a controversial one, as a Japanese shooter bounced off the boards and kept a US stone biting).

Rasmus Stjerne’s Danes overwhelmed the USA 9-3 in the semi-final – the Americans going on to win bronze by beating Japan 8-6.

In the final, Denmark scored two in end three but Canada hit back with two in end five and then claimed two in end nine for a 5-3 lead before running the Danes out of stones.

That meant gold for Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing, Ben Hebert and alternate Scott Pfeifer, continuing what has been an enormously successful season for the Koe crew – and it is Canada’s 35th World Men’s win.

***

Back in Scotland, the Scottish Mixed Championship took place at Curl Aberdeen, with seven teams formed of two males and two females playing in alternate positions.

Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson won the championship last season and returned to defend their title – they qualified for the final by beating Mouat 6-2, Marshall 8-2, A. Bryce 7-4, Penny 6-1 and Fraser 9-7, only losing one round robin game, 5-2 to Waddell.

Also making the final on a W5 L1 record were Blair Fraser, Rowena Kerr, Duncan Menzies and Abi Brown – their victories coming against Marshall 6-5, Mouat 9-1, Waddell 10-2, Penny 9-4 and A. Bryce 4-1.

Fraser’s rink began the final with a steal of one, but Bryce scored one in end two and then stole one in three, three in four and two in five to lead 7-1.

Fraser took three in end six to give themselves hope, but Bryce hit back straight away with their own three in end seven to win the game 10-4 and retain the championship.

Their reward is a trip to Kazan, Russia, for the World Mixed Curling Championship from October 15-22.

***

Finally, the Ladies One Day Bonspiel, run by the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s ladies branch, took place in Kinross.

Sixteen teams (two players with more than five years of curling experience, two players with less than five years) played in two sections of eight.

Section A was topped by Team Drysdale (Maggie Scott, Elizabeth Glennie, Jane Drysdale, Lesley Johnston), who defeated Milne 7-2 and Nicoll 9-2.

And Section B was headed by Team White (Margaret White, Pat Galloway, Janice Sutherland, Karen McCreath), winners over Corstorphine 8-1 and Adams 6-3.

Team Drysdale were overall winners, with more shots up than Team White.

Weekend round-up: Titles for Team Muirhead and Aitken/Mouat

Team Muirhead
Perth Ladies International winners – Eve Muirhead, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid and Mairi Milne (photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages))

There was Scottish success in two different curling disciplines this weekend, as Team Muirhead triumphed on home turf in the Perth Ladies International and Gina Aitken/Bruce Mouat won the Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup II.

Muirhead’s victory was all the more special given their efforts in kick-starting the event (which gained greater exposure through live coverage on BBC Alba), and that they achieved it without Anna Sloan, who picked up an injury on the eve of the tournament.

Then there is the small matter of the start of the World Men’s Curling Championship, where Scotland are represented by Team Brewster…

***

It’s Basel where we start – Scotland (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) began World Men’s like a house on fire but at the time of writing they sit W2 L2.

They scored twos in ends two and five, stole three in end six and finished with a two in end nine to beat Korea 9-3, before overcoming Norway with two in end three and steals of one in ends seven and eight for a 6-3 win.

But they then lost 9-6 to Russia (four in end four and three in end six proving fatal) and, despite a four in end seven, gave up a steal of one in end 10 to lose 6-5 to Japan.

It’s a rut they need to get out of, and the fightback starts against Canada (!) at 1pm today – a game you can watch live here.

All scores throughout the tournament here, plus updates on the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter.

***

The City of Perth Ladies International attracted teams from Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as seven Scottish rinks.

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Silvana Tirinzoni delivers (photo: Tom J Brydone)

That reflected the pulling power of Team Muirhead internationally, as did the impressive list of event/team sponsors and the live coverage by BBC Alba and the Curling Champions Tour on YouTube.

The competition started with four sections of five teams, with Section A won by Team Hasselborg of Sweden ahead of Team Sweeting of Canada.

Sweeting only narrowly edged Team Fowler of England to second spot, winning their head-to-head 6-5 after an extra end.

Muirhead – without third Anna Sloan due to a knee injury, so Chelsea Duncan and then Mairi Milne subbed in, pushing Sarah Reid to second and Vicki Adams to third – headed Section B with four wins from four, ahead of Team Ogasawara of Japan.

Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland won all their round robin games to top Section C; Teams Barbezat (Switzerland) and Fleury (Canada) both finished W2 L2 – Fleury winning the tiebreaker 7-5.

And Section D saw Team PÀtz of Switzerland qualify for the quarter-finals with four wins, followed by Team Driendl of Germany.

Come the last eight, Muirhead and Tirinzoni continued their impressive runs by beating Fleury (7-4) and Sweeting (4-3) respectively, but the other two group winners went out – Hasselborg lost 6-4 to Driendl and PĂ€tz were shocked 7-1 by Ogasawara.

In the semi-finals, Muirhead scored threes in ends one and three, then stole two in end seven, to beat Driendl 9-5, while Tirinzoni overcame Ogasawara 10-2 (four in end one, three in end two and two in end four).

The final was a predictably tight affair, both teams missing opportunities for twos at various points. But Muirhead controlled the scoring in the even ends, took a two in end four and sealed the one needed to win the game 5-4 and the title.

For more photos from the event, check out Brydone Images’ gallery here.

***

There was also a title win for Scots abroad – after Judith and Lee McCleary came third in the Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup I last weekend, Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat took part in Latvian Mixed Doubles Curling Cup II.

Aitken/Mouat beat Huembelin/Gubler of Switzerland 12-3, then Trubačs-Boginska/Purmalis of Latvia 11-1.

In round three, they lost 7-6 to Bryzgalova/Krushelnitskiy of Russia, but bounced back in rounds four and five to defeat Wang/Ba (China) 8-6 and Yu/Xu (also China) 7-3.

That set up a rematch with the Russian pair who’d beaten them previously, but this time Aitken/Mouat scored two in end two, then stole one in end three, four in end four and another one in end five to win 8-2!

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Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken (photo: facebook.com/LatvianMixedDoublesCurlingCup)

The win sets Aitken and Mouat up nicely for the World Mixed Doubles later this month.

***

One of the teams Aitken/Mouat will face at Worlds in Karlstad will be Canada – represented by Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant.

Thirty-six teams battled it out in the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship in Saskatoon this weekend, with Peterman/Gallant overcoming Laura Crocker/Geoff Walker 12-8 in the final.

***

Finally, several further events took place in Scotland over the weekend.

The National Virtual Club Challenge (involving RCCC ‘virtual clubs’ whose members are in their first two years of curling) took place in Braehead, involving 28 teams.

The final was contested by Stirling 1 and Forfar – Stirling (Norman Ainslie, John Glass, Iona Paterson, Bob Sherrard, Laura Lee) winning 5-0 – while third spot went to Dundee 2, who won 4-3 against Braehead 2 after an extra end.

And the Scottish Student Sport Curling Championships were held in Stranraer, with 16 teams taking part from Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot Watt, Stirling and Strathclyde universities, plus a rink of graduates.

The high road final was won by Strathclyde 2 (Stuart Taylor, Robin McCall, Gavin Barr, Jayne Stirling), 8-1 against the graduates, while Edinburgh 5 (Andrew Johnston, Eilidh Yeats, Szymon Sacher, Rosie Duckworth) beat Glasgow 2 in the low road final, 5-4.

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High road winners, Strathclyde 2 (photo: Jayne Stirling)

 

Tom Brewster taking on tough field, one shot at a time

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

Having formed a new team (Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) in the wake of the 2014 Olympics, Tom Brewster has steered them to represent Scotland at the World Men’s Curling Championship this week.

Joined by alternate Scott Andrews and coach Mike Harris, they kick off their campaign in Basel, Switzerland, against Korea tomorrow.

I spoke to Brewster to preview Worlds before his rink set off for the competition.

***

The team reached the final of the Aberdeen International last weekend, finishing as runners-up to Team Murdoch.

For Brewster, it was excellent preparation for Worlds.

“It was great to get back on the ice again, as we haven’t really competed in an event since the Scottish Championships,” he said.

“It got the brain thinking again competitively, tactically. Technically you can do all the work you want, but until you’re playing games you don’t quite switch on properly.

“So I think it’s helped greatly, and hopefully it’ll hold us in great stead for Saturday.”

Brewster juggles his skipping role with a job as manager at Curl Aberdeen, and so I asked how successful he felt the inaugural event had been from that perspective.

He said: “We set the event up in April May last year, British Curling stepped in to support it, to increase the quality events in Scotland and bring better quality teams across, to give as many Scottish teams as possible the chance to play in a strong field.

“I think we succeeded – from the feedback from the teams everybody loved it and hopefully they’ll support it again next year and we’ll have a bigger field, a stronger field, which is great for curling in Aberdeen and Scotland.”

On to Worlds then, and making sure the team is fit and firing for the start of the round robin, which runs from tomorrow through to Thursday (playoffs Friday to Sunday).

“Rest and recuperation is the big thing really,” Brewster explained.

“We’ve got some training ice on Thursday for us to fine-tune any bits and pieces that we’re not too happy with from the weekend.

“Then on Friday we have practice in the arena that we’re playing in.

“The time will disappear very quickly, so it’s about making sure we eat properly, and get as much rest and recovery as we can.”

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Team Brewster (photo: Tom J Brydone)

The Worlds routine is something Brewster is used to, having been a medallist at this level in 2002, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

I asked him to compare the experience and quality of the field this year to others that he’s faced in the past.

“It’s very strong,” he said. “It’s always strong at this level and this year is no different.

“The Canadians are strong, you’ve got Niklas Edin’s Sweden playing at the top level, Thomas Ulsrud [Norway] won it a couple of years ago… it’s a top field.

“So you always have to play at your best and hopefully get a little bit of luck along the way.”

The venue for this year’s event – St Jakobshalle – is one Brewster is familiar with, as it hosted World Men’s in 2012 too.

“It’s a nice arena – it’s used mainly for tennis,” Brewster said. “The ice is made up for this event, so it’s something of a one-off.

“There was a good set-up the last time. They had a few issues with the ice last time in terms of humidity, but they’ll have rectified that for this event with a dehumidifier, so I’d expect the ice conditions to be even better than last time.”

He’s also very familiar with the team’s alternate, Scott Andrews having been on Brewster’s rink up to Sochi.

I asked what assets Andrews brings to the team for Basel.

“Scott brings experience from previous championships,” Brewster said.

“He knows me very well, I know him. He knows how I operate, how I run the team, what I will expect from the team members.

“That saves a lot of hassle in itself, as he can just go straight in, we all know each other well, so he’ll fit in well.”

Finally, what are the key factors in staying in the running through to the end of the week and the playoffs in this competition?

Brewster said: “It’s the old cliche but it holds true – one shot at a time, one end at a time, one game at a time.

“You can’t look too far ahead because every shot matters.

“You want to focus on all the little things, and hopefully the big things will take care of themselves.”

***

Follow #wmcc2016 live scores through the event page, as well as updates from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s site – and, of course, the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Selected matches (including Scotland v Canada) will be shown online through World Curling TV, while Eurosport also has some coverage through the week.

World Men’s Curling Championship preview

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Team Scotland (Brewster) – photo: Tom J Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages)

Scottish champions Team Brewster are in Basel, Switzerland, this week for the 2016 World Men’s Curling Championship.

At World Women’s, Team Muirhead discovered just how difficult it is to make the playoffs at these top level events, and their male compatriots face a quality field too.

So what are their chances of remaining in contention for medals at the end of the week?

***

Team Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan, Scott Andrews (alternate)) have had something of an up and down season.

Their highlights include being runners-up at the Baden Masters (August) and Dumfries’ Lely Challenge (December), as well as winning the men’s title at the Curling Night in America event, also in December.

In February they dominated the Scottish Championships, losing their second round robin game but winning every match after that, including the final against Team Murdoch, 5-4.

They lost to Murdoch in the final of last weekend’s Aberdeen International, but to make it to that point they had to overcome Team Ulsrud of Norway in the semi-final – one of their real rivals for medals in Basel.

The Brewster rink may not be hugely experienced as a unit at this very highest level, but their skip certainly is – Tom Brewster won World silvers in 2011 and 2012, plus bronze in 2002 and 2013.

Alternate Scott Andrews was on board for those 2011, 2012 and 2013 championships, so can certainly help the greener members of the team, while inexperienced is certainly not a tag you can apply to their coach, Mike Harris.

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Team Brewster with coach Mike Harris at the Scottish Championships (photo: Tom J Brydone)

The Canadian is an Olympic silver medallist (1998), and has since worked in curling commentary for CBC/Rogers/Sportsnet – he knows the world game and how to outplay/out-think the top teams.

If Brewster can show the consistency of performance they did in Perth in February – with a tendency towards playing a sensible game, keeping it tight until an opportunity to score big presented itself – then there’s no reason they can’t be challenging the teams at the head of the standings.

***

And there will be some very capable teams for them to challenge, not least the defending champions – Team Edin of Sweden.

Niklas Edin’s young rink have stayed together from last year, spending much of this season in Canada, banking experience against the strongest fields world curling has to offer – and taking a couple of weeks out in November to win gold at the European Championships!

Perennial challengers, and custodians of the fanciest pants in curling, Ulsrud’s Norwegians should also be in contention, and the same goes for Kevin Koe and his Canadian rink.

Having overcome what was widely considered the strongest Brier line-up in history, Koe are gunning for gold and it will take a fine performance from another rink to deny them, given their experience and quality.

Team Kauste of Finland will look to make that leap onto the podium after fourth-place finishes at the 2015 Worlds and then the Europeans in November, while Teams Michel and Shuster of Switzerland and the USA respectively will be no pushovers.

The Japanese women delighted fans with their smiles on the way to silver in Swift Current, and their counterparts Team Morozumi – and fellow Pacific-Asia qualifiers Team Kim of Korea – will also look to make an impression as the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang draw ever closer.

***

The 57th edition of the World Men’s Curling Championship takes place in the St Jakobshalle in Basel, the same venue where this event was held in 2012.

The round robin runs from Saturday, April 2 (with Scotland facing Korea and then Norway on the opening day) through to Thursday, April 7 – followed by page playoffs, culminating in the medal games on Sunday, April 10.

You can follow live scores through the event page, as well as updates from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s site – and, of course, the Roaring Game Blog Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Selected matches (including Scotland v Canada) will be shown online through World Curling TV, while Eurosport also has some coverage through the week.

And look out for an interview with Scotland skip Tom Brewster on this site tomorrow!