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British Curling head coach David Murdoch believes it will be tougher than ever to claim a national title at this week’s Scottish Curling Championships as the sport continues to develop its strength in depth. 

The three-time Olympian, who claimed two world and three European titles as well as an Olympic silver medal in 2014, was appointed as British Curling’s National Coach in September 2018, at the start of the Beijing 2022 Olympiad.

He consequently knows exactly what it takes to win the Scottish title, having also won seven of those in the course of a long and illustrious career and is relishing what he is watching in Perth, this time around. 

“Firstly I am delighted to see that we have upped the numbers to eight teams this year, so good to see more women’s teams want to be part of the championships and I think that is important to have more women in the event,” said Murdoch.

“I always look forward to seeing how our programme teams get on, Team Wilson have been on tour this season posting some good results and have had a strong start and Team Jackson who are defending their title are also looking to have a good week. Team Muirhead have come off the back of a European silver medal and came close to getting that gold. Already an exciting week is unfolding and there is a lot of talent showcasing their skills. 

“We also have an exciting competition developing on the men’s side. Five of our programme teams have been out on tour and have been getting results against the best teams in the world, so that is great to see from the programme’s standpoint.

“What we are now seeing is those teams battling it out, raising the standard of our national competition. It is and needs to be high because when we go to the worlds we know how tough those can be, with professional teams and where the Olympics has taken the sport and we want to be on the podium. Having all these five teams really battle for the national title, hardens them all and shows they are increasing the standard of their own play and we are seeing that this week.”

During his playing days Murdoch campaigned for the creation of the National Curling Academy (NCA) and he believes the British Curling programme is benefiting from that facility, as well as the hard work done by his predecessors.

“To be honest from my standpoint I am just getting started, but it shows what the programme has been about for a long, long time prior to myself,” he said.

“There has been a ton of work put in by a lot of people and this programme has been producing champions along the way. I think the biggest thing we are seeing now is that we have the NCA and that is allowing us to really look at the programme in a different and very dedicated way, whilst seeking excellence. 

“That is what I am focusing on. How do we seek excellence, what can we do that is better. Canada always had so many curlers and the cream always rose to the top. With us we need to focus on those margins and how we can do things a little bit differently to them and really fine tune everything. We do and we have got some really clear plans about how we do that, which will take us to not just Beijing in 2022 but to 2026 and how we can develop our programme in a way that is world leading.”

The standard of play on show this week at the Dewars Centre is all part of that bigger picture and, as a former elite player himself, Murdoch knows how important it is to be travelling to the best Tour events in the schedule.

“What you are seeing now is that there is a real difference in where the sport is going, because it is almost full time now,” he said.

“You need to be playing week in and week out against the best teams which gives an opportunity for the teams to learn and to try different things against different opponents, to see different styles and techniques. It basically gets them battle hardened, so that they are actually ready for a championship like the nationals.

“Championship weeks are the toughest. Winning the tour events and Slams are all very important to us, very important to the development of all our teams, but at the end of the day this programme needs medals and we need to be able to produce the results in championships. That is something we are hoping to be better at. I think the way we go about training now, we want to improve that further, so that we are always in with a medal shout at every event we go to.“ 

Murdoch notes that along with the stamina required for two game days at week long events like the Scottish Championships, athletes have to be mentally as well as physically robust.

“It is probably pressure for all the athletes,” he reckoned.

“They know what is on the line and I think that is a great thing to have. They know that this week’s performance has a huge say in the selection of the programme, to the programme.

“This year we have the added carrot of the World Championships in Glasgow. That doesn’t happen very often. The last time was in 2000, so that is a huge incentive.

“Everybody wants to be the top dog, everyone wants to be in the squad next year. There are all these factors that ultimately mean there is a lot of pressure throughout this week. We know that it has a significant say in where our teams go and what they do because of that and every person in this squad has dreams to be world champion. Only one team gets to do that, so that is where that pressure comes from.” 

Please click here for results and the full round up on all the teams and the event from Scottish Curling:.

Images: Graeme Hart - Perthshire Picture Agency. 

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