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Sophie Jackson who skipped her team to their maiden victory at the Scottish Championships last year has said it will be’ business as usual’ when they get their title defence underway at Perth’s Dewars Centre this week (10th – 15th February 2020).

23 year old Jackson, who has now made ‘The Fair City’ her home but originally hails from Dumfries, is keen that her rink put themselves under no additional pressure in their approach to their title campaign. 

“We will treat the week ahead in the same way as previous national champs and any other event during the season,” she said.

“Obviously it was a huge positive for the team winning the Scottish title and getting our first experience of the World Championships. We learnt so much from that and it has made us want to strive to achieve more and we would love to get back to the Worlds and to have Scotland on our backs again.”

However the skip conceded that this season has not been without it’s challenges, with sub Leanne McKenzie standing in for team regulars Mili Smith and Naomi Brown, who have respectively had to overcome illness and injury in order to be ready for the big event.  

“It will be nice to be back on the ice again as the fab four,” said Jackson.

“This will be our first competition together since October and we are looking forward to what is the pinnacle of our season. There is a great line-up this year, which is good for Scottish Curling. We will face tough tests from the other British Curling supported teams, but we always look forward to this championship format.”

In their opening game on Monday, the current champions will face the top ranked team in the field, led by former World Champion Eve Muirhead, who has claimed the national title seven times.

The 29 year old who grew up playing at the Perthshire venue will look to capitalise on her knowledge of home ice, which proved advantageous at the start of this year when her team claimed the inaugural Perth Masters Ladies title.

“We have enjoyed a full week of training with our new tactical coach Kristian (Lindström), fine tuning a few things with him that we know we can get better at and have had some practice ice at Perth, which is always good leading into the Scottish Championships,” said Muirhead. 

“Winning the Perth Masters has certainly given us a boost going into the Scottish. To win that title certainly gave us a lot of confidence and we followed that up with a good performance at the Continental Cup (the Ryder Cup style curling event) and managed to win that as well and even though we did not qualify at the Grand Slam immediately afterwards we know that we played well.”

After undergoing and recovering from hip surgery back in 2018, Muirhead’s return to her best this season has been impressive with the three time Olympian back to winning form. Claiming the Oakville Fall Classic in their season opener, she followed that up by reaching her seventh European Championship final, in addition to the team enjoying strong performances on Tour. These results have helped to provide useful indicators to the skip, who will be determined to get back to the World Championships which are being hosted in Prince George in Canada next month (14-22 March).

“The team is in a really good shape and hopefully it will all come together for our first game on Monday,” she said.

“It is going to be tough. Sophie Jackson will be aiming to retain her title and Maggie Wilson plus a host of other teams will be providing strong opposition at the Scottish Championships. There is a little bit of additional pressure when you know there is a target on your back and everyone raises their game to beat you, but as a team we just need to focus on ourselves and put together performances that we know we can deliver. 

“Our preparations have been going really well and if we play well I believe we will be very hard to beat.”

Skip Maggie Wilson, who finished runner up to Muirhead at the Perth Masters last month, is meanwhile relishing the chance to take on what she described as a “diverse and interesting line-up.”

“There are eight teams in the women’s field this year, I think double the entries from last year and the mixture of ages and variety of styles of games will see us all fully tested,” the 28 year old from Aberdeen continued.

“Meeting Eve in the final at the Masters has, I believe, prepared us well for this championship. There are a lot of positives and good memories from that event and combined with the excellent ice conditions we have to come to expect at Perth, we know that we have all the ingredients to have good games against the best teams in Scotland.

“We want to play the best we can and we will be focusing on our own performances and aiming for consistency throughout the week, regardless of the calibre or reputation of any of the teams we face during the championships.

“I just want to get started now. We have been working hard for this all year and I am just ready to get going, to stay focused and to see what we can achieve in the week ahead.” 

Programme supported curlers Amy McDonald and Hailey Duff are also in the Championship line-up. For a full round up on all the teams and the event, please see the Scottish Curling preview.

Team Jackson
Sophie Jackson
Naomi Brown
Mili Smith
Sophie Sinclair

Team Muirhead
Eve Muirhead
Lauren Gray
Jennifer Dodds
Vicky Wright

Team Wilson
Rebecca Morrison
Maggie Wilson
Jennifer Marshall
Eilidh Yeats

Amy MacDonald
Hailey Duff

Please click here for  results and full round up from Scottish Curling:.

Photos: © Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart. 

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