GRAND SLAM CHAMPS AND OLYMPIANS TARGET SCOTTISH CURLING CHAMPS
Grand Slam Champions and Olympians will be among the top Scottish curling rinks heading to Perth’s Dewars Centre this weekend when the Scottish Championships get underway (10 -17 February).
Boost National Champions Team Mouat have their sights set on the trophy and bring a lot of form into the tournament having won a number of titles on the Canadian circuit before entering the record books as the first Scots to win a men’s Grand Slam. Skip Bruce Mouat also claimed another title with his Mixed Doubles partner Gina Aitken at the end of last month in Gavle, Sweden, providing further evidence of winning potential this season.
An extra element has been introduced this year as the national champions will compete against the Olympians when they return from Korea in the world play-off - a best of three tournament (3-4 March) - for the right to represent Scotland at the world championships.
“The Scottish Championships are what we have been working towards all season. It’s our first national championship as a team but we have had individual success at the Scottish before. Bobby (Lammie) and I were finalists last year and Hammy (McMillan) has even won the event previously (2016),” Mouat said.
“This year our team has been able to climb the world rankings and compete against the best teams in the world as part of the Grand Slam of Curling Series and I have also been able to continue some Mixed Doubles with Gina so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my season so far.”
Grant Hardie who completes Mouat’s rink has also enjoyed title success away from the men’s team having claimed the World Mixed Curling Championships last year demonstrating the consistency among this quartet.
“The guys and I are now fully focused on the Scottish Championships and are looking forward to testing ourselves against the other top teams in Scotland. The aim is to get into that world playoff against Team Smith in March,” Mouat added.
Olympic silver medallists Greg Drummond and Michael Goodfellow are looking to defend the title they won last year and are joined by Ross Paterson and Gregor Cannon in their mission this time around. Drummond who is skip of this season’s new line up is relishing the prospect of winning another national title.
“The Scottish Curling Championships in my opinion is one of the most prestigious events on the calendar and the feeling of winning never gets old….it is that feeling that drives me in my quest to win for a fifth time,” said Drummond.
“I have been fortunate enough to experience great success at the event in past years, but more excited about competing in what might be the toughest field in almost a decade at the event. This is testament to the work that the teams continue to put into their respective games every week in training.
“We earmarked this as our goal at the start of the season and we hope that the work we have put in over the past months can pay dividends. It’s a long week competing but we have experience on our side and we know how to deal with the variety of scenarios that the week can present, but considering the accomplishments of numerous other teams in the field we can’t take anything for granted.”
Scott Andrews is another member of last year’s winning rink in the field and this year has teamed up with fellow Sochi silver medallist Tom Brewster who skips the team that includes Duncan Menzies and Alasdair Schreiber.
Team Bryce completes the men’s contingent from the British Curling programme and skip Cameron is looking forward to the prospect of competing in the nationals and if successful playing in the first ever world play–off.
Bryce said: “Our season builds up to prepare us for championships like this and we feel ready.
“We have had to adapt throughout the season with numerous people playing lead but with the little time we have had to work with Angus, I think we are in a very good position,” he said.
Bryce is joined by recently crowned Scottish Junior Champions Ross Whyte and Robin Brydone as well as Angus Dowell.
In the women’s event Claire Hamilton - a member of the bronze medal winning team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi - skipping Gina Aitken, Rachael Halliday and Rachel Hannen, said: “We have had a good few weeks of training before the start of the Scottish Championships.
“The women’s event is a double round robin this year and we are expecting a competitive event and we are looking forward to playing at Perth which usually provides fantastic ice. “
Last year’s finalists Team Fleming hope to go one step further in the tournament this time around and skip Hannah said her team Jennifer Dodds, Vicki Wright and Alice Spence are ready for action and are confident that their months of hard work and preparations will pay off.
“Even though this is the main event of the season for us, we plan to treat it like any other competition and make sure we follow the same processes that we have been working on all season,” she said.
“With the help of our coach, Nancy (Smith), we have been fine tuning every part of our game, including; technique, strategy, mind set, communication and sweeping, so we feel completely prepared for the tough week that faces us in Perth.
“The world play-off is an exciting prospect, but we are not thinking about that yet, as our first focus is performing well at the Scottish Championships.
Skip Sophie Jackson, joined by Naomi Brown, Mili Smith and Sophie Sinclair complete the representatives from British Curling.
Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart.