IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR FOR THE AITKENS AT WORLD CHAMPS IN NORWAY
While England will be represented by a brother-sister partnership in Stavanger next week, Scotland’s bid for World Championship glory will also be influenced by family dynamics with Morna Aitken and her daughter Gina set to represent their country simultaneously for the first time.
The Aitkens have made five previous appearances at this level between them, but Morna made her debut in the World Senior Championships last year when Gina was a rare absentee from the World Mixed Doubles Championship, having taken part in four of the previous five.
Both had challenging routes to their respective events in Stavanger, where both competitions are taking place, Gina winning her Scottish title with emergency replacement Duncan Menzies standing in for regular partner Scott Andrews, while Morna and her team-mates edged their way through the tightest of national championship finals which saw them defend their title after a measure on the final stone.
“It is nice that we are going to be able to be supportive of each other. I’ve never been to Stavanger before, but believe the rinks are back to back and only one game overlaps, so we will be able to watch each other,” said Morna.
As the relative novice on the global stage, she suggested that a bit of role reversal takes place when they get on the ice, jokingly observing that: “I always ask Gina for tips but I don’t think she will be asking me.”
She pointed out that she and team-mates Susan Kesley, Fran Stretton and Vicky Gumley now have their own experience to draw upon saying: “We had such a good time at our first world champs and as a team we said last year ‘let’s do that again’, so we tried our best and it turned out right.”
A curler for the past 40 years, Morna and husband David - who is coaching her team, having previously performed the same role at world level when Gina was playing mixed doubles with former partner Bruce Mouat - have revelled in their daughters’ successes on the ice, Gina’s sisters Tash and Karina also having represented Scotland at junior level.
“As a family we have all enjoyed curling,” she said.
“Everyone just wants to do their best and it has turned out that all of us have done really well to get to world championships.
“I am immensely proud of Gina and everything that she has achieved in the game – it was tough that she missed out on getting to the last Olympics and we were all willing her on but we have to move on and try again.
“There is a lot of determination there… both my husband and I like to play well and get on and do the best we can. I started curling back in 1979 when Greenacres opened which was my local rink. Quite a few people there were able to teach juniors. My parents both curled, outdoor curling and the first time I watched the milkman was playing as well and he sat me on a stone and I went twirling up the ice and I suppose that was when I was hooked.
“Both David and I took the girls along to curling when they were young. You want them to enjoy it and it was up to them if it was something they wanted to do, so we never envisaged world championships or multiple appearances.”
“It will be so exciting to be competing at the same time as my mum, both wearing a Scotland shirt at the same time in the same venue and we might be able to pop our heads over the stands to see each other on the other side of the arena,” she said.
“My younger sister Karina is also coming to watch along with my auntie and with my dad coaching the senior team it really is a family affair.
“Curling comes up a lot at home. My two sisters have been to two World Juniors as well, so our common interest keeps the topic among the five of us.
“My dad coached me and Bruce in the past and he was a good coach. He is very chilled and laid back and doesn’t get flustered very often and that is something he has passed on to me in most situations. My mum is competitive and dad is too, but in a more laid back way.”
The schedule has worked out well in ensuring that they can focus on their own matches and Gina believes there will be positives in being able to urge one another one when they are not on the ice.
“We only have one game that clashes, so at least we won’t be peeking at scores and it is something I am quite good at is remaining focused on the task in hand so it will be nice to be competing at the same time as mum, but it won’t be a distraction. I am quite good at ignoring things I shouldn’t be paying attention to,” she said.
“It is going to be really nice, not a one way thing. She has always supported me at many events so it will be nice to be able to do that for her too.”
The World Mixed Doubles and World Seniors Curling Championships both take place from 20-27 April 2019 in the Sørmarka Arena in Stavanger, Norway.
Scotland - Team Aitken/Andrews:
Gina Aitken, 25yrs, born Paisley, resides Edinburgh
Scott Andrews 29yrs, born Irvine, resides Kilmarnock
Team Aitken/Andrews’ final round robin game v hosts Norway on Thursday 25 April will be broadcast on World Curling TV
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Pics© Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.