MOUAT AND MUIRHEAD WIN NOVEMBER CLASSIC TITLES
Former world champion Eve Muirhead registered satisfaction after her team reasserted themselves on the domestic scene with a 6-2 victory over new rivals Team Aitken in the final of this weekend’s November Classic at the National Curling Academy in Stirling.
Muirhead and colleagues Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds and Vicky Wright had been beaten by Gina Aitken’s newly formed line-up on their only previous competitive outing this season, at the September Shoot-Out at the same venue and they had lost to them again in the round-robin stages this time around.
However, after coming through a hard fought semi-final with Team Wilson, they gained the upper hand with a steal of two at the opening end of the final and maintained the upper hand throughout.
“I think we were in control from the start to the finish of the game,” said Muirhead.
“There were a few missed shots here and there, but overall we outplayed them. We played the scoreboard very well and listened to our coach Kristian (Lindström) a lot about how we were going to play the game and really went in with that view every single end, so I’m really happy. To get a win on home soil is always really nice and hats off to the organisers and everyone who put this tournament together. It’s just exactly what we need at this time of year.”
She admitted that it had been something of a shock to lose out in that previous final, but suggested that the increasing domestic competition will be to the benefit of everyone in the British Curling system.
“Losing back in September obviously wasn’t ideal, but it maybe gave us a shake-up to realise we need to play a little bit better and I do believe that this weekend we came onto a very good game,” said Muirhead.
“There’s a few shots here and there that we can tighten up on, but as a team we’re definitely going in the right direction. Team Aitken are playing very well and it’s great to have that domestic competition here in Scotland to keep us fighting for our spots when it comes to selection and qualification for events.”
As strange as this season has been, she is consequently looking forward to more of the same.
“I’d probably have been in Canada four or five times and Europe four or five times, so it’s been bizarre. We’ve been in here training since the third of August and it gets a bit frustrating with the same old every single day, so to have events like this is a bit of a silver lining to break it up a bit and to get tomorrow off is even nicer.
“There’s no travel before Christmas, but there’s some more competitions planned inside the NCA, along with some mixed doubles to mix it up a little bit. So, there’s plenty going on to try to keep us enjoying it and I think that’s the main thing.”
In the men’s event Scottish champion skip Bruce Mouat meanwhile reckoned victory kept his team in pole position to represent Scotland at this season’s World Championships.
Coming through the round-robin stage undefeated, they maintained that form to the end, defeating three-man Team Whyte 8-3 in a repeat of the final and outcome at this season’s only previous competitive outing in the September Shoot-Out.
It had been a gallant effort by Ross Whyte and his men to get to that stage after Euan Kyle and Duncan McFadzean dropped out because they had to self-isolate. Since protocols meant that replacements could not be brought in, their coach Tom Brewster, a Winter Olympic silver medallist in Sochi six years ago, had to step in to accompany Whyte and Robin Brydone on the ice.
Their extra end win over Grand Slam winners Team Paterson in the semi-final was a commendable achievement, but after conceding four shots at the opening end, they were in immediate trouble in the final and only half of the scheduled eight ends were required before they shook hands, having conceded another four at the third end.
However, Mouat was also entitled to cope with the pressure of feeling like the team with everything to lose in what is a very competitive environment, he and team-mates Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan having been set to represent Scotland at this year’s World and European Championships before both those events were cancelled due to the pandemic.
“We’re feeling very positive,” said the skip.
“It’s nice to have some games under our belt again. After September we felt quite confident and this proves we’re on some sort of form, even though we’re not competing internationally. The NCA is a great facility for us to train in and all 10 British Curling teams are training a lot right now. There are a lot of good teams in Scotland with three in the top 15 in the men’s world rankings, so we’re doing really well and it’s nice to have that competitive atmosphere.”
“It’s pretty easy to get up for competitions when they are so few and far between, especially in events where you’re up against really good teams,” he said.
“The December event is going to be a big one because the closer you get to the Worlds will show what team is on form, so the closer you get the more important these tournaments get.
“The World Championships are the ultimate aim for this season because things are a bit up in the air. We don’t really know what’s going on, but that’s the one solid fact that we do know is that the Worlds will go ahead in some sort of bubble atmosphere. You just have prove that you’re the right team to go and these are probably the only events we’re going to have to be able to prove that, so winning two is a pretty big achievement for us.”
Draw 2 - Results
Aitken v Henderson 9-2
CRAIK v MOUAT 2-7
WHYTE v PATERSON 3-8
Muirhead v Wilson
Draw 3 – Results
MOUAT v BRYCE 7-1
Wilson v Aitken* 6-7
Farmer v Muirhead 2-4
PATERSON v CRAIK 8-2
Draw 4 –Results
CRAIK v WHYTE 2-7
BRYCE v PATERSON* 4-9
Henderson v Wilson1-8
Aitken v Farmer 8-2
Draw 5 – Results
Muirhead v Aitken 1-8
Farmer v Henderson* 6-5
PATERSON v MOUAT 6-9
WHYTE v BRYCE 6-4
Draw 6 – Results
Wilson v Farmer 6-4
MOUAT v WHYTE 6-5 (EE)
BRYCE v CRAIK 3-5
Henderson v Muirhead* 1-8
*Tom Brewster (this weekend only)
The event and new guidelines:
- The return to training and the internal competition at the NCA follows approval from the Scottish Government /sportscotland and includes specific protocols such as daily medical monitoring for all athletes and staff, venue specific changes, cleaning and sanitising routines.
- British curling notes the latest restrictions introduced 6/11/20 as a result of COVID and has ensured that the approach to the internal competition and ongoing training thereafter complies fully and athletes and staff have been fully briefed on the latest guidance and their responsibilities as a result.