Preview: Scotland Ready to Host 2016 Euro Championships
After years of waiting and months of preparation, international championship curling returns to Scotland when the 2016 Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships get underway at intu Braehead Arena in Renfrewshire on Saturday morning (19th November), and Scotland’s two teams – led by Olympic and world medallists Eve Muirhead and Tom Brewster – are keen to get started.
Altogether 26 men’s teams and 20 women’s teams will be taking part in the event’s “A” and “B” Divisions, with round-robin play taking place throughout the week before promotions and relegations are decided, and medals and titles are handed out on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November.
The ten “A” Division men’s teams are: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland, and Scotland’s men – skip Tom Brewster (pictured), third Glen Muirhead, second Ross Paterson and lead Hammy McMillan, supported by fifth player Duncan Menzies and coach Mike Harris – are straight in at the deep end.
They open on Saturday morning against Denmark – a team, skipped by Rasmus Stjerne that brought itself up from last year’s European “B” Division to clinch silver medals at the World Championship earlier this year. They then face the 2014 world champions from Norway, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud on Saturday evening before completing a hat-trick of early challenges on Sunday morning when they face Sweden’s two-times World Champions, and the defending European Champions, skipped by Niklas Edin.
The ten “A” Division women’s teams are: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland.
Scotland – skip Eve Muirhead (pictured), third Anna Sloan, second player Vicki Adams and lead Lauren Gray, supported by fifth player Kelly Schafer and coach Glenn Howard – have one game on Saturday – against Italy in afternoon play, and then come onto the ice twice on Sunday, to play Sweden in the morning session and then Norway in the evening.
Both Scottish teams had to come through a national qualification event last month in Perth to gain selection and, for the women; this followed a period of disruption as regular third player Sloan recovered from knee surgery. To help in this process, Kelly Schafer (better known in Scotland as Kelly Wood) came back from her family home in Swift Current, Canada to play with her former team-mates, and she returns again to take up the role of fifth player, with Sloan now fully recovered.
From the A-Divisions, eight men’s teams will qualify for the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, being held in Edmonton, Canada between 1-9 April 2017. Also, eight women’s teams will qualify for the World Women’s Curling Championship scheduled for Beijing, China between 18-26 March 2017. These will be the final World Curling Championships where Olympic Qualification Points will be available for PyeongChang 2018.
For the teams in the B-Division, including England and Wales, there is all to play for, with whichever nations eventually emerge as B-Division winners going on to challenge the teams that rank eighth in the A-Division in a best-of-three series to decide who goes to the World Curling Championships.
Tickets for the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships are now on sale from ticketmaster.co.uk or the intu Braehead Box Office on 0844 499 1700 and are available in a range of options including early or late sessions, all day tickets and tournament passes, giving you access to every game.
For all broadcast information visit, worldcurling.org/broadcast
Throughout the Championships, Scottish Curling’s governing body will follow Team Scotland’s progress with draw-by-draw reports, player reaction and action photography at royalcaledoniancurlingclub.org and on Facebook (/royalcaledoniancurlingclub), and Twitter (@rccccurling).
To keep up-to-date with all the action from the ECC 2016, and the teams’ journey to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, follow the World Curling Federation on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #ECC2016 #Roadto2018 #curling
Photos © World Curling except Tom Brewster © Brian Battensby