Scots Duo Start World Champs Campaign And Bid For Last Olympic Spot
Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken get their World Mixed Doubles Championship campaign underway tomorrow in Lethbridge, Canada (22-29 April) and also have their sights set on Olympic qualification.
The Edinburgh based pair who won the Scottish Mixed Doubles Championship in December, the fourth time in five years they have won the national title to earn the right to represent Scotland at the World Champs, hope to improve on their fourth place finish last year in Karlstad. That achievement at last year’s World’s will be added to this year’s result, which they hope will also contribute qualifying points to earn Team GB a place at the next Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.
A strong and burgeoning field of 39 teams will be aiming to be among the top seven Member Associations at this last qualifying event for the Mixed Doubles, the first time this curling discipline has been included in the Winter Games programme. 22 year old Mouat has noticed the impact this has had on the discipline since he started competing in the event.
“This will be our fourth World Mixed Doubles and teams are definitely taking the discipline more seriously now, there are more professional teams competing week in week out and their focus is on getting a medal so it has moved on from the social appeal of the discipline.
“That still exists but the level of competition has got higher. More countries are competing and they are sending better teams and the competitors are working harder in this discipline because there is now a lot at stake with the opportunity to go to an Olympic Games,” he added.
Team Aitken Mouat carry fine form into this event having won the Bern Mixed Doubles Championship this season as well as finishing second and third respectively at the Dutch Masters and Latvian Mixed Doubles earlier this month. Aitken attributes these achievements to how much time they have dedicated to Mixed Doubles ahead of and during this season.
“We have certainly done a lot more work, we have trained more together and entered more competitions and we need to make sure that we continue doing what we are doing in order to peak at the right time,” she said.
Commenting on the forthcoming event Mouat added: “We have the Norwegians in our section, they won bronze at the World Champs in Sochi (2015). They are an experienced pair so they will be good and probably one of the toughest teams to play against in our group and we play them in our first game.
“That will be a good match and we will hope to start building some momentum from there. We will take it one game at a time and every game take it as it comes and hopefully get out of our group.
“With 39 teams it is obviously a really big field and it is less about winning every game but getting enough wins because when you reach the play-offs it is like starting a tournament again.
“We also have to think about the Olympics – qualifying GB for this discipline is obviously on our minds. We want to do better this year than last and a medal would put us in s stronger position to also go on and represent Team GB, so we need to give ourselves the best start that we can.
Bruce Mouat has also enjoyed considerable success as skip of his men’s team who won the World Junior Championships last year, the World University Games earlier this year just before reaching the finals of the Scottish Championships. He lost that final to Olympic silver medallists Team Murdoch, but relished the prospect of competing at two World Championships and has juggled the two curling disciplines which he referred to as ‘keeping both doors open’ in the hope of realising his ultimate ambition of reaching an Olympics.
“It takes time to adjust from playing in a team to the Mixed Doubles format and we have got a head start. We have a great opportunity in front of us and we need to take hold of that and see what we can do with it.
“It would be incredible to go to an Olympics – it is our biggest goal as it is the pinnacle of our sport. We need to do well this month, to secure the investment in us so we can continue full time and continue the dream.”
Scotland is drawn in Group B along with fellow home nations Wales, who are represented by British Curling Director Dawn Watson and partner Adrian Meikle, whilst Ireland’s standard bearers are father and daughter duo Neil and Alison Fyffe. England is also counting on strong family ties, with brother and sister pair Ben and Anna Fowler representing their nation’s hopes in group D.
Groups at Lethbridge:
Group A: Belarus, Brazil, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Japan, and Latvia
Group B: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Scotland, Serbia, and Wales
Group C: Australia, Austria, China, Israel, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden
Group D: hosts Canada, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Turkey and USA
Group E: New Zealand, Romania, defending champions Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland
The round-robin stage starts on Saturday 22 April until Thursday 27 April. 16 teams will proceed to the knock out stage and the medal games take place on Saturday 29 April.
Please click here for full results
PHOTOS: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart