DOMESTIC RIVALS SET FOR NOVEMBER CLASSIC
In a season that has seen them share in the frustration of the wider world, with international events all but wiped out due to restrictions caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, their usual schedules have had to be ripped up.
That hiatus has allowed them to intensify their technical and tactical training under their British Curling coaches at the NCA in Stirling, but as three-time Scottish champion skip Bruce Mouat explained, they are champing at the bit as they get the chance to engage in meaningful competition against their domestic rivals.
“We probably would have competed in about eight or so Tour events by this time in the schedule, so it is really good to have an event to test the team after months of training,” said the 26 year old.
“Looking back to when the Worlds were cancelled in March we knew it would take time before we could get back, but I suppose we probably thought then that at this time of the year we might be competing in international competitions again. However, events like this weekend do give us a chance to put ourselves up against our main rivals for the Worlds and Olympics.
“We are keen to start travelling again to events when the time is right. There have been so many procedures put in place to keep us curling as safely as possible which we are really reassured by and it is important to remain competitive to keep those big targets in focus.
“All of the teams training at the NCA are competing to get to this season’s Worlds and like us they know that all of these events will play a part in getting closer to spots so the rivalry will be high again this weekend.”
Rival skip and fellow Grand Slam winner Ross Paterson, who this time last year was preparing to lead his men at the European Championships, is also heartened to have the chance to compete this weekend.
“We all have to maximise opportunities from fewer events this year,” said Paterson.
“It would be very easy to get frustrated by the current situation however we are extremely lucky to have any competitive opportunities just now.
“We are also very fortunate in Scotland to have the strength of teams to compete against here, so this weekend will be taken just as seriously as any event on Tour.
“All of the programme athletes are in a very privileged position and we should not forget that. We have had some good on ice training since August in a great facility so we won’t be taking anything for granted and are ready to compete tomorrow.”
That sentiment was reinforced by Rebecca Morrison of Team Aitken who won the women’s event at the September Shoot Out on what was their debut tournament outing.
“We were very lucky that having the NCA available to us meant we were able to get together on ice for the first time in August and we have really progressed as a unit since then, which is extremely encouraging for such a new team,” said the 24 year old.
“Having the chance this weekend to compete against Teams Muirhead, Wilson, Farmer and the newly formed Team Henderson this weekend will give us a real insight into how much we have learned since our first competitive outing together in the September Shoot-Out. We finished that weekend on such a high and we hope that this weekend we can continue to take big steps forward.
“Getting the opportunity to test ourselves in an international competition would have been ideal for our development. But for now we know we are very pleased to be competing at all and we will be ready for those international events when the opportunity arises.”
Fellow finalist Eve Muirhead, who was recently awarded an MBE for her services to the sport, is also keen for her team to get competition time under their belts.
“With the World Champs on the horizon next year these domestic events will really help us all in our preparations for that as we all want to get the chance to get selected for that event,” said the former World Champion.
“So it is important to keep an eye on the big goals as we will obviously be working hard to make progress towards that and ultimately the biggest goal in Beijing.
“Every event like this one coming up will help and give us a chance to fine tune things as a team and also time to reassess our targets after each game. “
“It has been an incredibly testing period for the athletes and during my playing career I cannot think of anything that compares to what has happened this year,” said the two-time world champion.
“However I am continually impressed by all of the athletes and how they have adapted to the constantly changing situation. They have remained incredibly resolute in their focus during training and it is good that we have been able to establish a routine of training as well as good quality competition for them here at their training facility.
“There have been many positives that have come out of a very challenging year as it has been a period of real innovation and creativity which has helped to keep things fresh. Tour life does not allow for much spare time, so this season we have time to work on key areas to ensure we are continuing to pursue excellence. It has given us a chance to make great gains in this period fine tuning technical and physical development while keeping all eyes on the big prize coming up in Beijing.”
September Shoot-Out finalists Team Whyte will not be competing as a full team this weekend, with two members currently self-isolating. However, it will provide their coach, 2014 Olympic silver medallist Tom Brewster the opportunity to practice what he preaches when he joins skip Ross Whyte and Robin Brydone on ice this weekend.
“It is great that we have coaches that are able to step in this weekend,” said Murdoch of his Sochi team mate Brewster.
“Again it is a chance to take positives from the challenging situation and it will undoubtedly give Tom a real insight into how the team works together in a pressure situation. This is a unique opportunity which will certainly provide a greater understanding during the de-brief sessions, which is only going to help in the long term. It’s important to keep reminding ourselves of what we can achieve, what gains we are making to keep ahead of the game.”
The event and new guidelines:
- 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 6/11/20 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.