Top Scots Head To Fair City For Vital Scottish Champs
Defending champions Team Muirhead and Team Brewster are among the top Scottish curling rinks heading to Perth’s Dewars Centre this weekend when the Scottish Championships get underway (18-25 February).
The stakes are especially high this year as the winners of the national championships will go on to represent Scotland at the World Curling Championships and those teams will also be aiming to qualify GB for places at the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018.
Skip Eve Muirhead has won the national title six times and she will be keen that her team maintain the form they demonstrated on home soil last month when they won the Glynhill Ladies International.
“We are really looking forward to the Scottish championships this year as the event is a very high priority event in our calendar.
“We have had a solid season so far, with two European curling tour event wins at Basel and Glasgow being the highlights,” said Muirhead whose team also claimed bronze at the European Championships.
“With each competition our team has been strengthened not only on the ice but working closely with our tactical coach Glenn Howard who is a valuable part of the team.”
The Olympic bronze medallists will be tested by up and coming Team Fleming whose season so far has seen them reach three finals at Stockholm, Red Deer Classic and Qinghai China International, beating top international rinks along the way.
“The Scottish Championship is always an exciting time of year for us all. With the Olympic Games only a year away, the goal of becoming Scottish Champion and going on to the World Championships to represent Scotland is even more desirable,” said Skip Hannah Fleming.
“We are in a good position going into this important event. We have had a positive season with some good results which will put us in good stead for this coming week.
“We aim to take one game at a time, concentrate on our own performance and most importantly, enjoy it!”.
Scottish Mixed Doubles champion Gina Aitken skips another of the contenders, as does her younger sister Karina, while the team led by Hazel Smith includes Sarah Reid, who was the lead for Muirhead’s rink when they won the title last year and Claire Hamilton, a member of the bronze medal winning team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The men’s event also looks set to be a closely fought event with two rinks in the line up led by Olympic silver medallists in Sochi. Tom Brewster’s defending champions won the Perth Masters in January and the Karuizawa International at the end of last year.
“Having not competed for several weeks I am looking forward to competing again,” said their skip.
“The Scottish has always meant a lot to me. I like the tradition of our sport and to have my name on the trophy alongside all the greats of the game is an honour.
“Hopefully our team can peak at the right time again and claim the trophy one more time.”
Also keen to get their names etched on the silverware is Team Murdoch the rink who reached the Olympic final in Sochi three years ago.
“The hard work has been put in both on and off the ice and we have been meticulous in making sure our preparations have covered all aspects of our week ahead,” said David Murdoch.
“It's the showcase event for us all and with a lot at stake it will be an intense and exciting week and one that we are ready for and looking forward to.
“We expect all the teams to be at their best and we expect to be at ours also, it's time to battle now.”
Another team in pursuit of the title are Team Smith who have made their mark on tour this season winning the Oakville OCT Classic and reaching their first Grand Slam final in Cranbrook only to be pipped by European Champions Team Edin.
Coached by Viktor Kjell, a former member of the first men’s European winners of a Grand Slam title, the Perthshire based team is ready to put their international experiences into practice on home ice.
“It’s the week we have worked towards since the start of the season, after having a very good season on tour we are in a good place, both as a team and individually on the ice and are coming into this event with a lot of confidence,” said Kjell.
“It will be a tough week in Perth, the field as always is very good at this year’s championship, but we know that the ice and conditions will allow us to play the game we want too, which bring us a lot of confidence. It’s the normal cliché, one rock and one game at the time. If we focus on our game and our performance out there we know we have the capacity to be the winning team at the end of the week.
As a coach I feel we are well prepared and look forward to a great week in Perth.”
World Junior Champions Team Mouat are also among the challengers this week. There are ten men’s teams and seven women’s team in the tournament line-up.
For more information about tickets for the finals and results from the Scottish Curling Championships please click here.
Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart.