Team Scotland Euro Championships Playdowns Preview
Scotland’s top performance curlers will face each other in competition next week to determine the nation’s representatives for the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships 2016 at Braehead, Renfrewshire next month.
Three men’s and two women’s teams will take to the ice at Dewars Centre, Perth from 12-16 October, for the European Playdowns, a five day competition that will decide Team Scotland’s male and female curlers for the first European Championships on home soil since Aberdeen in 2009.
In the men’s playdown all three teams have experienced European action before, most recently Team Smith (Kyle Smith pictured, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell and Cammy Smith), who narrowly missed out on a semi-final place last year to the eventual champions Sweden. Commenting on the upcoming playdowns Kyle Smith said “It’s not hard to get enthusiastic about representing your country but when it’s so close to home you obviously get a lot more support so I suppose it does give you a wee bit extra motivation.”
Three time European Champion David Murdoch (pictured) will be aiming to make his return to a championship he last medalled at in 2013. He takes his on form Olympians Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow into the playdowns following a strong performance in the finals of the Swiss Cup, Basel last week. Reflecting on his past experience of playing an international competition in Scotland, David Murdoch said, “I remember Aberdeen (2009) well, it was really exciting to be on home turf. For us (my current team) it’s always been in another country. I really hope that’s what we can have this time, really have the Scotland fans cheering behind Team Scotland and it would be exciting to be part of that; I think it would send some shivers down the back if you could walk out into a home crowd.”
Tom Brewster (pictured), a European Bronze medallist himself as part of Scotland’s 2013 team, brings his 2016 Scottish Champions Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson and Hammy McMillan to the playdowns after a solid start to their season on the Canadian circuit. On his team’s preparations for the playdowns Tom said, “I don’t think we prepare any differently, representing your country and getting the chance to go to the Europeans is a massive incentive in itself… It’s always a big deal to get to a Europeans but it will be a wee bit more special this year.”
The men’s playdown will be contested in a double round robin format with the top two teams progressing to a best of three final. Play gets underway on Wednesday 12th October at 7pm.
In the women’s playdown Eve Muirhead (pictured) makes her bid for what could be an impressive ninth successive appearance at the European Championships, having medalled every year since 2010 including Gold in 2013. Her line-up includes regulars Vicki Adams and Lauren Gray with Kelly Schafer substituting for Anna Sloan at third while she continues her rehab following injury. Eve comments, “To get the chance to represent your country, in your home country, is a dream come true. Hopefully we can get as many people along supporting us (Team Scotland) and that’ll make it even better.”
Completing the two team line up in the women’s playdown, is skip Hannah Fleming and her rink of Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright and Alice Spence. They come fresh from their best ever tournament performance at the Stockholm Ladies Cup last week where they reached the final. On the prospect of her team reaching their first European Championships Hannah said, “Having a Europeans at home is even more drive for us to try and get there on a home crowd. It would be even more special if we could get to our first Europeans to experience a home crowd.”
The women’s playdown gets underway on Friday 14th October at 7pm and will be best of five games.
The winners of the men’s and women’s European Playdowns will represent Scotland at the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships, intu Braehead Arena, from 19-26 November 2016. They will join 25 other nations at the championships which are set to be one of the biggest sporting events in Scotland this year. Tickets are on sale and available from Ticketmaster or the intu Braehead Arena box office.
Photos ©Brian Battensby, Richard Gray.