TEAM AITKEN MOUAT GET SET TO DEFEND MIXED DOUBLES TITLE IN OLYMPIAN BOOSTED FIELD

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Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat are set to defend their Mixed Doubles title this week at Curl Aberdeen which has attracted one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the national title.

In the season which marks the inclusion of the Mixed Doubles in the Olympic Games for the first time in PyeongChang next year, there is growing interest in the discipline with a number of Olympians in this year’s line up.

Gina Aitken commented on the strength and depth of competition this year: “The field at the Scottish seems higher than ever which is great to see even though it means we'll have to be really on top of our game if we want to retain our title!”

Team Aitken Mouat, who have won the title four times in the last five years were disappointed to narrowly miss out on qualifying Team GB a place at the Winter Olympics when aiming to secure qualifying points at the World Championships in Lethbridge earlier this year.

“In April we were of course really disappointed to come so close to Olympic qualification and fall just short,” said Aitken.

“We took some time off to regroup and now we're back training together albeit with a slightly less intense focus. There's a big change in our season this year in comparison to last year - with an increased focus on competing with our separate teams. We have still had time to train together and we enjoy playing Mixed Doubles so we are genuinely excited to get back to it!”

A renewed focus also saw Bruce Mouat bounce back with a stunning start to his season skipping his new team line-up to titles at the Stu Sells and Oakville Classic, but he is also keen to get back to his successful pairing with Aitken.

“I'm excited to play the Mixed Doubles (MD) again with Gina - hopefully we will be able to defend our title. It will be great to see other British Curling athletes playing the format, I think some of them will enjoy it as much and Gina and I do,” he said.

“After our bitter disappointment in Canada at the end of last season I took a short break from the MD training and focused on my new men's team but I feel ready to get back into the MD mindset. I personally feel that Gina and I have unfinished business at the Worlds so it would be amazing to get the chance to represent Scotland again. “

Judith and Lee McLeary who were runners up last year and two times Mixed Doubles Champions will provide stiff opposition to those titles hopes and are not the only pairing on and off the ice in the line-up.

Sochi silver medallist Greg Drummond, one of five 2014 Olympic medallists in the field, has jokingly admitted that teaming up with girlfriend Vicky Wright to compete in Mixed Doubles represents one of the biggest risks of his career. The partnership is one of several new combinations taking to the ice this week as British Curling’s elite teams sample the new Olympic discipline.

Great Britain unluckily missed out on being represented among the first nations to contest Mixed Doubles at PyeongChang, however leading players are now being encouraged to compete in the discipline and Drummond said he is looking forward to it.

“We have never played Mixed Doubles together before but I have previous experience from Continental Cups in the past. I like the format as it’s something different and challenges players in different ways.”

Drummond has switched from third in Team Murdoch, the Olympic silver medal winning rink to skipping his own team this season, but he admitted that there could be some questioning of his authority as he joins forces with Wright, who plays second in Hannah Fleming’s team.

“Playing with Vicky could go either way! It will either go swimmingly well or be a complete disaster!!

“She likes to think she is the boss at home, whereas in reality…I wear the trousers,” he laughed.

“So as long as we are both clear that I’m the boss on the ice as well, we shouldn’t have any issues.

“We don’t really have any expectations for the weekend other than to enjoy it and not fall out."

The only all-Olympian pairing sees Drummond’s former team-mate Scott Andrews partner Claire Hamilton, who claimed bronze with Team Muirhead in Sochi, and Michael Goodfellow will join forces with Laura Barr, while Tom Brewster teams up with wife Kim, who has played at the highest level in her native Canada, as well as in Scotland..

Looking at how the various teams’ chemistry works on the ice will be one of several benefits for the British Curling programme and its Performance Director Graeme Thompson said that getting as many of the country’s top players as possible involved in Mixed Doubles could be key to future success.

“We are very pleased that the discipline will continue to grow in profile thanks to its inclusion in the next Winter Olympic Games and therefore it is essential that our performance teams gain as much competitive experience in the Mixed Doubles whenever they get the opportunity in their tournament schedule,” he said.

“Scottish Champions Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat missed out by the narrowest margin earlier this year at the World Mixed Doubles Championships and therefore were not able to qualify a place for the forthcoming Games. However we hope that with all of our performance curlers gaining greater exposure to this discipline will create greater domestic competition which will bode well for the future at international level, as well as giving Team GB another medal opportunity.”

The event gets underway tomorrow and concludes on Sunday 15 October.

Teams:

Section 1
Lammie - Bobby Lammie & Rachel Hannen
McCleary - Lee McCleary & Judith McCleary
Blair - Fraser Davidson & Lucy Blair
Menzies - Duncan Menzies & Hazel Smith
Brewster - Tom Brewster & Kim Brewster
Fleming - Gavin Fleming & Hannah Fleming

Section 2
Baird - David Baird & Sophie Sinclair
Duff - John Duff & Hailey Duff
Aitken / Mouat - Bruce Mouat & Gina Aitken
Goodfellow - Michael Goodfellow & Laura Barr
Hamilton - Scott Andrews & Claire Hamilton
Whyte - Ross Whyte & Sophie Jackson

Section 3
Dodds - Hammy McMillan & Jennifer Dodds
Kingan - Fraser Kingan & Jayne Stirling
Bryce - Cameron Bryce & Mili Smith
Brydone - Robin Brydone & Rebecca Morrison
Brown - Euan Kyle & Naomi Brown
Drummond - Greg Drummond & Vicky Wright

Please click here for the draw/results

PHOTOS: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart

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