WHYTE UPSETS GRAND SLAM WINNERS ON OPENING DAY OF SHOOT-OUT
Victories over Scotland’s two leading teams saw Team Whyte serve notice that they are ready to challenge for the right to represent their country at major events on the opening day of competition at the September Shoot Out in the National Curling Academy (NCA) in Stirling.
Coming off the back of an exceptional first season at senior level, which saw them qualify for the knockout stages of all 11 international events that they contested last season, the up and coming youngsters were given the toughest possible start when they were drawn to meet reigning national champions Team Mouat in their opening match of the specially arranged Covid friendly event.
Whyte has travelled to both European and World Championships as a reserve for Bruce Mouat’s line-up that has won the last three Scottish Championships and was clearly unfazed by that prospect as he led his men to a convincing 6-3 victory.
Team Paterson, the only Scots other than Team Mouat to have won a Grand Slam event in Canada, meanwhile opened up with an 8-3 victory over Team Craik and when they then defeated Mouat 6-3 in the second round of matches it meant their meeting with Whyte in the day’s final match would decide who would go into the second day with a 100 per cent record.
The momentum switched both ways, Paterson recovering from Whyte’s steal of two at the fifth end with a two at the sixth to regain the upper hand and it went the distance, tied at 5-5 all before Whyte snatched the win at the extra end.
“Obviously we had quite a good season last year and coming here and playing two of the tougher teams in the world is really good to get two wins, so we’re very happy right now.
“If you’d told us we’d have a 100 per cent record after the first day we’d have been delighted, but we’ve got two more tough games tomorrow and we’ve just got to go out and see what we can do.”
The way they competed offered Whyte encouragement that they are continuing to close the gap on the best in the sport.
“It’s not easy to catch these boys because they’re obviously fantastic teams, but we’re definitely improving,” he said.
“Our coach Tom Brewster is helping us massively to get better at managing the game and knowing what shots to play at the right time and we’re understanding each other a lot better as well.”
While the cancellation of all the international tournaments that the Scottish teams had been set to contest has been challenging, Whyte said it was just a case of remaining patient.
“It’s not easy with the impact of Coronavirus which means World Ranking points have been frozen and not being able to get out to any other countries, but we’re just biding our time, training hard at the NCA and seeing what we can do,” he said.
“Obviously, everyone’s in the same boat, so really we’re just grinding away and when the points competitions come we’ll be aiming to get them.”
On the opening day of the women’s event, Team Muirhead, the dominant force in the domestic game over the past decade, asserted themselves with three wins in three matches, beating Team Wilson 9-1, Team Aitken 6-4 and Team Farmer 8-3, leaving their three time Olympian skip Eve Muirhead satisfied with their endeavours.
“The girls are playing great out there and as a team we’re coming together well,” she said.
“All the practce we’ve done over the past few weeks without any competition in prospect has really shown up. So, having some games like this is great and really good for your mindset, because there’s only so many practise stones you can throw.”
Muirhead reckoned that the experience was all the more valuable as a result of plans that have been put in place to stage a first-ever international event at the NCA later in the season.
“It’s funny playing a competition in here, because we’ve never actually done that before apart from some fun bounce games and that makes it exciting knowing you’re competing where you’re practising,” she observed.
“I know hopefully there is the prospect of the European Super Series coming here as well, so it’s great for us to prove at the National Curling Academy that it is capable of hosting high class events, then hopefully when it comes to the European Super Series it’ll showcase that.”
As frustrating as the cancellation of events has been in competitive terms, Muirhead meanwhile admitted to feeling that the extra long lay-off this summer had worked to her personal advantage as she continues to try to regain full fitness following hip surgery two years ago.
“I definitely felt like I benefited from that extra time off,” she said.
“It’s allowed me to focus just a little bit more on my rehab and my hip strength. So, it’s been great having that time away and now I’m back on ice I do feel really good, which is really pleasing to know the work I’ve done has paid off. I can’t get too far ahead of myself, because I know that my hip still isn’t 100 per cent, so I can’t get too carried away overdoing things which could take me back two steps. But right now it feels great, I’ve got a really good schedule of training and I go into training to protect my body first.”
She felt there had also been benefits for the team as a whole as they started work with new coach Kristian Lindström.
“It was disappointing with the major events being cancelled, but all of us took a step away, re-focused a bit and broke down a few things within the team to rebuild them better if that makes sense,” she explained.
“Those changes have been really positive and I’ve learned a lot from our new coach Kristian. Having a coach like him who has competed at that high level, has a wealth of knowledge and is good fun as well makes a difference.”
The event and new guidelines:
- The competition format follows and adheres to Scottish Curling’s published return to curling guidance (as approved by sportscotland).
- 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 22/9/20 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.