WORLD MIXED DOUBLES CHAMPS DEBUTANT ANDREWS THANKS TEAM-MATE FOR HELPING HIM REACH HIS CENTURY
Scott Andrews will make his 100th Scotland appearance during the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in Stavanger next week, but the Olympic silver medallist has one of his British Curling programme colleagues to thank for giving him that opportunity.
After a promising start to his new partnership with then four-time Scottish champion Gina Aitken, potential disaster struck Andrews when he suffered a serious pectoral muscle injury ahead of the national championships which double as a qualifying competition for the Worlds.
However, fresh from enjoying success with his men’s rink in Canada at the Boost National Grand Slam, one of the most prestigious events in the sport, Duncan Menzies stepped in to fill the void and partnered Aitken to another Scottish title success.
“I’m extremely grateful to Duncan and am determined to make the most of the opportunity,” said Andrews.
“This will be my first World Mixed Doubles and I am really looking forward to it.
“It will be different to playing in a men’s Worlds. There will be more downtime during this event – whereas I am used to games back to back in the men’s – so it is important to use the time well in between games.”
Bringing up his century will be a bonus for the 29-year-old who won his Olympic silver medal as part of the rink skipped by David Murdoch at Sochi in 2014.
“I am feeling 100% now and just raring to go.”
Dealing with the injury has helped Andrews understand the different demands of his new discipline.
“I think it might be the case that as a sweeper you are maybe changing sides all the time whilst in men’s curling you are stuck to one side, so that possibly explains why I picked up the injury when I switched disciplines,” he explained.
“It is that movement behind the stone and I think I have maybe over stretched a little bit and maybe played a few more games than I would have if I had been in a four man’s team. Then I might have rested up for a few games, but in Mixed Doubles you can’t do that. You would forfeit the match if you don’t play, so I powered through and consequently made a pretty bad injury of it.
“It was just one of those freak things that happen and I made it worse by continuing to play. The demands are similar to the men’s game because you are sweeping all five stones.”
Those demands are increasing all the time as the standard gets ever higher in the version of the sport that was introduced to the Winter Olympics for the first time last year.
“The standard is going to be very high at this Championships,” said Andrews.
“You are seeing a lot of top athletes now playing in this discipline because they do see this as another medal chance at the Olympics.
“At this world champs there are going to be a lot of athletes that are well known, plus a few teams where we have no experience of them at all, a number of nations that are in this for the first time and we have no idea of what standard of curling is coming out of their country so it is going to be very exciting.”
For Aitken it will be a fifth World Mixed Doubles and having partnered Bruce Mouat on all four previous occasions she can draw additional confidence from the way she earned the right to be there this time around.
“It is an unusual situation to have qualified for this worlds with a different playing partner at the Scottish, it was quite tough for us to come through at the time and tough to learn to play with Duncan (Menzies) and go into the nationals playing with a new partner on the back of only a couple of training sessions,” she admitted.
“Duncan was a great stand-in and we took things in our stride. It was obviously tough for Scott to sit on the bench and watch when he really wanted to be on ice and be involved, but coming back together it has definitely made us stronger, a bit more robust. We know that we can deal with whatever arises.”
“At the top of our game I feel that we can definitely compete with the teams that were at the Olympics, which we just missed out on last time,” she said.
“It does feel a bit like unfinished business. It makes me want to go out there and prove that we can do it and play at our best and perform when it really matters.”
.The round robin matches get underway on Saturday with a record 48 member associations taking part, including newcomers to the event, Kosovo, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, China and Greece. The 48 teams are in six groups and only the top two teams from each group plus four of the top ranked third placed teams with the best draw shot challenge (DSC) will progress to the final 16, for the head-to-head format which starts on Friday 26 April. Winners will continue to the quarter-finals and medal games on Saturday 27 April.
Next year the event field will be reduced to 20 member associations taking part in Kelowna, Canada, 16 teams will qualify from the Worlds in Stavanger and four more places will be available through a new qualification event.
The Mixed Doubles discipline was included into the Olympic programme at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Team Aitken/Andrews’s British Curling squad mates, Anna and Ben Fowler will be representing England at the Championships.
Scotland - Team Aitken/Andrews:
Gina Aitken, 25yrs, born Paisley, resides Edinburgh
Scott Andrews 29yrs, born Irvine, resides Kilmarnock
Team Scotland are in group D and Team England are in group E:
Group A: Belarus, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, Romania, Sweden and Ukraine
Group B: Austria, Brazil, Guyana, Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei and Turkey
Group C: Australia, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Nigeria and Wales
Group D: Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Lithuania, Mexico, Norway, Scotland and Slovakia
Group E: England, Finland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and New Zealand
Group F: Greece, Kosovo, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Spain and United States
Team Scotland’s final round robin game v hosts Norway on Thursday 25 April will be broadcast on World Curling TV
Please click here for results
Photos: © Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.