GINA LOVES IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER FOR TEAM AITKEN
Gina Aitken and her team-mates in their newly formed line-up claimed something of a coup at their first event when they beat Team Muirhead to take victory in the September Shoot-Out at the National Curling Academy in Stirling.
She is leading the team, while Rebecca Morrison is playing the skip stones, with Mili Smith and Sophie Sinclair forming the front end and they demonstrated how quickly they have gelled as they registered an 8-4 win over three time Olympian Eve Muirhead and her colleagues Lauren Gray, Jen Dodds and Vicky Wright.
“We couldn’t be happier just now. It’s been the perfect start after quite a long pre-season so I’m really happy to see our work come together, especially in such a strong final,” said Aitken.
“We might be a new team, but we’ve all been around for a while and have different experiences and worked really hard over the last few months to try to make it come together as fast as possible, so it’s nice to see that pay off.”
Muirhead’s rink had earned automatic qualification for the final with a perfect record of four wins in the round-robin stages which included a win over Aitken, who had to negotiate a semi-final against youngsters Team Henderson to get into the title decider, winning that match 6-3 earlier in the day
“We felt confident and we were making a lot of shots, so we knew we could do it. We really got on top of our draws and tried to make Team Muirhead’s life as difficult as possible. I felt like we were totally in the game and in the moment,” said Aitken.
“It was a really nice first event at the NCA,” she said. “We’re really pleased with the way it was run. Everything seemed to work really well and it was a good atmosphere in here. We’re used to it in training and you could feel everyone getting into it and it getting really exciting.”
Muirhead was disappointed, not least because her team’s chances were damaged when they suffered a pick up at the sixth end which threw a stone crucially off line, but she was pleased with the way her team had performed and that they finally got the chance to play competitive matches.
“We can’t get too down on ourselves and they played very well. Rebecca played very good curling out there, but there’s a lot we can take from this week,” said Muirhead.
The men’s competition followed a similar pattern with Team Mouat, the Scottish champions of the past three years, claiming an 8-2 semi-final victory over Team Paterson, their closest rivals of recent seasons, before going on to beat previously unbeaten Team Whyte 6-4 in a close fought final.
Ross Whyte and team-mates Robin Brydone, Duncan McFadzean and Euan Kyle had impressed on the way to that final and took advantage of starting with the hammer to score a two at the opening end, before forcing Bruce Mouat to take a single at the second, but their more experienced opponents seized the upper hand at that point.
“At the third end we got a big steal of one,” said the winning skip.
“I played a really clutch draw to the back of the four foot to put Ross under some pressure, made him play a really tough shot and we got that steal which really turned the tide. Then at the fourth end we put pressure on and managed to get another steal of two, so that was what really turned the game for us.
“We knew they were going to come out firing, but with those steals their shoulders went down a bit and we could tell the momentum had changed and we would be able to control the game which we did. They played amazingly as well, though, so it’s exciting when this is just September and we’ve only had a few months of training and we’re seeing how talented a lot of the British athletes are. We’re in a really good spot.”
Mouat and his colleagues Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan have been used to competing with the world’s best for several years now and for all that it was a very different environment to the major arenas, he reckoned that this event had been hugely beneficial for the entire British Curling squad at a promising stage in their development with the Winter Olympics in Beijing now less than 500 days away.
“It's a bit different to the way we normally celebrate a win, staying two metres away from one another and saying ‘well done,’ but it’s still going to feel good,” he said.
“We’re very fortunate that we’ve got a lot of teams that can have competitive games against each other and even going down to the younger teams, James Craik and Fay Henderson have done really well this week.
“They should be lapping up this opportunity and for us to be able to play against teams that are in the top 15 in the world rankings, like we would normally do in international events, is great for all of us.”
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.
Day 1 Draw 1
Muirhead 9 - Wilson 1
PATERSON 8 - CRAIK 3
WHYTE 6 - MOUAT 3
Aitken 8 - Henderson 2
Day 1 Draw 2 Results
BRYCE 3 - CRAIK 1
Muirhead 6 - Aitken 4
Henderson 7 - Farmer 3
PATERSON 6 - MOUAT 3
Day 1 Draw 3 Results
WHYTE 6 PATERSON 5 (EE)
MOUAT 9 BRYCE 4
Aitken 10 Wilson 0
Muirhead 8 Farmer 3
Day 2 Draw 4 SKINS Results
WHYTE beat CRAIK
MOUAT beat PATERSON
Muirhead beat Aitken
Farmer beat Wilson
Day 2 Draw 5
Muirhead 6 Henderson 2
Wilson 7 Farmer 6
MOUAT 6 CRAIK 3
WHYTE 6 BRYCE 2
Day 2 Draw 6
Aitken 7 Farmer 2
WHYTE 8 CRAIK 1
BRYCE 6 PATERSON 2
Henderson 8 Wilson 7 (EE)
Day 3 Draw 7 Semi Finals
MOUAT 8 PATERSON 2
Aitken 6 Henderson 3
Day 3 Draw 9 - Finals
MOUAT 6 WHYTE 4
Aitken 8 Muirhead 4