OLYMPIC CURLERS GO HEAD TO HEAD WITH NATIONAL CHAMPS FOR PLACE AT WORLDS
Team GB’s men’s and women’s curlers who recently returned from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are back in action this weekend at the World Play-offs (3-4 March). They take on the National Champions to earn the right to represent their nation at the forthcoming World Championships.
The inaugural event is being held at Perth’s Dewars Centre and will host the four British Curling programme teams – Olympians Team Muirhead and Team Smith, National Champions Team Fleming and Team Mouat - in a best of three match format decider which will determine which men’s and women’s team will represent Scotland on the world stage.
Skip Eve Muirhead who won the world championships back in 2013 says her team are ready for the head to head tournament that offers them the chance to compete at the Women’s World Championships which are staged in North Bay, Canada later this month.
“To get the chance to represent your country is very special and after winning the Europeans and finishing fourth at the Olympics obviously off the back of that we would love to finish our season with a really good result,” Muirhead said.
“As a team we fight for places at major championships year in and year out, so this is no different to that. This will be similar to the final of the Scottish Championships in that it is a do or die situation. Hannah (Fleming) and her team thoroughly deserved winning that title and we now have to go out and compete for that place at the worlds.
“The Olympics is like being in a bubble which brings huge media interest to our sport and I hope that continues in Perth this weekend. It will be special to go and compete on a rink where I started my curling career on the back of a Games and we will make the most of the home support there,”
New Scottish Champion skip Hannah Fleming said she had been watching the Olympics intently in between her own games at the national champs and feels her team are in the best place possible to take on the challenge ahead.
“We were really chuffed to get our names etched on that trophy, it has been a long time coming and it is good to have finally done it now. We are up for the challenge to play the Olympians and we know that we have to produce our best curling in order to beat that team,” she said.
Reflecting on her own World Championship experience has made Fleming even hungrier for the chance to go back and compete there.
“I was the fifth player for Kerry Barr’s team four years ago and since then I have wanted to get back to a worlds with my own team and we will give it our best shot to get there. This is the best chance we have had as a unit and we plan to put it all together for this weekend.”
In the men’s head to head, Olympians Team Smith will take on Team Mouat, skipped by Bruce Mouat who narrowly missed out on a chance to go to the Olympics with his Mixed Doubles partner Gina Aitken, the first time the discipline was introduced to the Olympic programme.
it was bitterly disappointing not to get the Team GB spot at the Olympics last year, we missed the chance that was in our hands and we just had to park that. I think I surprised myself at how I bounced back so quickly and having the focus of a new team re-invigorated my drive and love of the sport and I have really enjoyed playing this season.”
Team Mouat started the season with two wins across the Atlantic at the Oakville Classic and Stu Sells before becoming the first Scottish and British men’s rink to win a Grand Slam. In doing so, Mouat became the youngest skip ever to win a slam when he claimed that title at the Boost National and he is determined to get back across the pond.
“Having competed a lot in Canada this year I haven’t actually been to the US yet and think it would be amazing to go to the World Champs in Las Vegas especially as America’s Team Shuster won Olympic gold. I think on the back of that it would be so cool to be in Vegas – curling essentially in the middle of a dessert will make for an incredible championships and we want to be part of that.
Olympians Team Smith who were the first Scottish and British men’s team to reach a Grand Slam final and won silver at the European Championships will provide stiff opposition as they return from their first Games where they finished fifth.
Skip Kyle Smith said: “We are really looking forward to the first ever World play- off. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to still have the chance to represent Scotland at the World Championships, so we are very grateful to be in this position.
“We have had a few days to try and get back into normal sleeping patterns and we are hoping after the Olympics there is increased interest from the public in this event and hoping there is a bit of a buzz about the rink!
“We haven’t been to a Men’s World Championships yet, so we will be giving all we have got to win the two games needed to get us there!”
The event will be televised live on the BBC Scotland website.
Glen Muirhead (alternate)
Team Coach: Viktor Kjell
Kelly Schafer (alternate)
Tactical Coach: Glenn Howard
Head Coach: Tony Zummack
Coach Allan Hannah
Coach Nancy Smith
Men's Draw 1 - 14:00
Women's Draw 1 - 18:00
Men's Draw 2 - 10:00
Women's Draw 2 - 14:00
Men & Women's Draw 3 - 18:30 (if required)
World Play-Off 3 – 4 March, Perth
World Men’s Curling Championships 31 March – 8 April, Las Vegas
Ford Women’s World Curling Championships 17-25 March, North Bay, Canada