INAUGURAL NCA EVENT SEES TOP SCOTS RETURN TO ACTION
Scotland’s top curlers will finally return to competitive action in the September Shoot-Out, a newly created event to be hosted at the National Curling Academy (NCA) in Stirling which starts tomorrow (23-25 September). The curling season has so far been curtailed due to Covid 19, however British Curling will host its first event in the purpose built facility to enable Scotland’s top ranked teams their first taste of competition in an all important season ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
Bruce Mouat who led his team to their third successive national title last year is keen to get competition experience under his belt and says tomorrow’s event will require a new mindset.
“We are so used to travelling to different venues to compete after flights or long journeys, it will be quite different going to compete where we usually train and where we have been preparing,” said the 26 year old skip.
Mouat’s men missed out on the chance to represent Scotland at the World Championships in Glasgow earlier this year and suffered a second disappointment after the European Championships, which were due to take place in November, were also cancelled due to the ongoing restrictions because of the global pandemic. However with the programme creating a brand new event, the skip is keen his team experience their first test after their longest spell away from competitive action.
“It is a really exciting prospect to get the chance to play in what will be really competitive games over the next few days. It will take a different kind of focus and we will treat it the same as if we were competing in Baden or Oakville and it will be a great chance to test ourselves against our Scottish rivals,” he added.
Eve Muirhead, who like Mouat, has not had to chance to compete since March this year is also ready to test the prolonged spell of training.
“In many ways the next few days will be like a version of the Scottish Champs and the five teams we will be competing against we will probably see next February too. With some new line-ups that will give us a great chance for us and all of them to see how we are faring and what improvements we might want to make.
“From that perspective it is going to be useful for all of us and we really are ready for tournaments now and will approach every game wanting to win.
“We are very lucky that we have the facility at the NCA and we are able to adapt and find a different way of competing which is really important this year. We are also now so well drilled with the protocols at the NCA that it has become second nature to us all.
“That is something for us all to be proud of regardless of outcomes this week, in that all of the athletes have adapted to all of the changes. The guidelines and safety measures put in place have been done really well, which means there will be fewer distractions over the next few days. There are silver linings and we always knew this season was going to look very different to before, it is just good that we are making the best of the situation and it will be the same as usual for us in that we want to be the best team in every game we play over the next three days.”
Muirhead’s domestic rivals include the new look Team Aitken and Team Wilson as well as Teams Farmer and Henderson. The men’s draw includes Mouat and Team Paterson, along with Performance Foundation Teams Whyte, Bryce and Craik.
The round robin event comprises three draws a day with the winners progressing straight to the semi final and the second and third placed teams battling it out to join them. The men’s and women’s final takes place on Friday at 5pm.
Executive Performance Director Nigel Holl is looking forward to hosting the first men’s and women’s tournament at the NCA.
“Our programme coaches have worked incredibly hard in order to provide our athletes with the stimulus required to remain match ready and competitive as we continue to navigate ever changing times for sport and the wider world,” he said.
“It is such an important year and the athletes are well aware of the timescales and we are fortunate that we have such a high level of competitive talent in Scotland just now that we are able to provide an event which will be a great start to the season for all of them.
“We remain grateful to our partners Active Stirling and sportscotland as their full support means that we can continue our preparations in the final and all important final stages of the Bejing Olympiad, ensuring our athletes will be the best prepared they can be for the world stage next year.”
The event and new guidelines:
- The competition format follows and adheres to Scottish Curling’s published return to curling guidance (as approved by sportscotland).
- 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 22/9/20 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.
Images: PPA Graene Hart