OLYMPIC CURLERS TIME THEIR PREPARATIONS FOR SWISS EUROPEAN CHAMPS
British Curling’s Team Muirhead and Team Smith, who will be Team GB’s standard bearers at the next Winter Olympics, are bound for Switzerland’s St Gallen to compete in the European Championships which get underway on Friday (17-25 November).
In a season which includes the competition that is the pinnacle of their sport the curlers must be ready for the big events and the forthcoming European Championships represent the last full scale international test of processes and preparations for PyeongChang.
After winning bronze at last year’s Europeans on home ice at Braehead, Muirhead is confident of having substantial travelling home support in St Gallen as the teams pursue qualification from the round robin into the business end of the championship.
The 27 year old Perthshire skip said:”Switzerland is my favourite country after Scotland. It is a really nice arena in St Gallen and we have friends and family travelling out which will be great after last year being on home soil, but to be honest once you start competing you are in a bubble and it becomes all about the game.
“The most obvious threats are Sweden, Russia and hosts Switzerland and we play Sweden and Russia in our first two games so we need to get off to a strong start. However you have got play everyone at some stage so we may as well meet them early on,” she said.
“We have played consistently and had a steady season so far and qualified at the Grand Slams and at those events you are playing the best teams in the world.”
Muirhead’s long-time team-mate and fellow Sochi medallist Vicki Adams added: “We have qualified in all but one event this year and we have been making gains with our teamwork both on and off the ice so we are in a good place going into this event.”
The Scottish representatives had to settle for bronze at last year’s event after beating every team in the in the round robin only to lose out to eventual champions Russia – represented by a different rink this year – in the play off and Muirhead admitted it was frustrating that, after they completed the round robin stages with a 100% record, the gold and silver went to teams they had already defeated.
“Last year we were a class act and really consistent and one game in the play-off cost us, but you have to learn from that and play well under the pressure situations. So this will be a good test ahead of the Olympics and to be honest, while we are obviously aiming to win every match, I would sacrifice a few wins next week for wins in February,” Muirhead added.
Former world junior champions Team Smith last represented Scotland in the men’s event at the Europeans in 2015 where they finished in fifth place in their debut at senior international level. Since then the young team have made great strides in becoming the highest ranked men’s team which contributed to their selection for what will be their first appearance at the Olympic Games in South Korea next year.
Skip Kyle Smith said: We are really looking forward to getting started at this event as this is the last major before the Games. It will help us ensure we are getting our approach right and we want to put in good performances when it matters.”
St Gallen is familiar territory for Team Smith having last played there in the European Masters earlier this year, beating current European Champions Team Edin from Sweden to the title.
“It is an ice rink we know well and Switzerland is always a great place to go and curl. We will certainly take a lot of confidence from our success the last time we played there – it is certainly something we can draw upon as every team will be tough to beat this week with a lot of aggressive curling,” Smith added.
The 26 men’s teams and 20 women’s teams competing in this event will be vying for a top eight finish in order to qualify a place for their country in next year’s world championships hosted in Las Vegas and Ontario respectively.
PHOTO: Alan Peebles Photography