Scotland Miss Out On Olympic Qualification At World Champs
Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat were left devastated after a run of nine wins in 11 matches proved insufficient to earn Team GB a place in the first ever Winter Olympics Mixed Doubles competition in PyeongChang next year.
The Scottish pair went into the competition ranked fourth on the basis of last year’s results when they just missed out on a World Championship medal and with seven of the 39 teams competing in Lethbridge set to join Korea at the Olympics they made the perfect start in their round-robin campaign with seven straight wins.
Knowing they needed only to finish in the top eight that should have left them perfectly positioned in the first knockout match, but two unexpected defeats for hosts Canada meant they were ranked unexpectedly low and the Scots consequently drew them in the crucial last 16 round.
Knowing there was a danger that Canada might fail to qualify for the Olympics, Reid Carruthers and Joanne Courtney, both world class players in the men’s and women’s games, found their form when they needed it to edge the Scots out.
That left Aitken and Mouat in a scramble for qualifying points and after a win over Sweden they then got another unlucky break when they met last year’s champions Russia and they lost another close battle 6-5 after an extra end.
That left them needing to beat Italy in their last match, which they duly did, 7-5, but victories for Norway and Finland in their final matches saw both overtake the Scots by a single point to leave them just one place adrift.
“It was tough results,” said Bruce Mouat, who skipped his rinks to victories at the World Junior Championships last year and the World University Games this season.
“We thought we were looking good after the first seven games and then unfortunately drew Canada who came out really firing. We played really well against Sweden to give ourselves a chance, but then drew Russia.
“We took them to an extra end but unfortunately didn’t manage to win. So I’m really gutted, but really proud of how we played in this World Champs. It’s probably the best we’ve played all season though, so onwards and upwards.”
Gina Aitken echoed those sentiments, saying: “11th is not where we’d planned on finishing but almost all our games were great and we played some really good shots and had some close games.
“Unfortunately we came off the wrong side of a couple of really big ones which has resulted in us not getting enough points. So we’re a bit gutted, but we’ve got plenty of positives to take. We know we can compete really well with the teams on the podium, so I guess we just look on from here and hope we can come back from here and hopefully better this.”
Doubly disappointed, since he is also Gina’s father, their coach David Aitken expressed pride in the performance of the pair and said he had no doubt that they would respond well to the setback.
“Unfortunately the way things turned out, although we finished with a nine wins, two loss record, it meant we didn’t get enough points for qualification. Finland and Norway both leapfrogged us by a point by winning their last games,” he said.
“When we found that out I’ve never seen them so shocked by an outcome. It hasn’t really sunk in yet because obviously we had high hopes and it’s hard to take because they played so well across the competition, got some great wins, but just came across teams on form at awkward times in the draw which cost us dearly in terms of qualification points.
“It’s just something we have to put down to experience. I’m very proud of the way the team played and they’ll be a better team for this. These setbacks are part of the sport so we’ve no complaints. Sometimes you get a bit of a break, sometimes you don’t.
“A bit of a sad end but once the dust settles we’ll look back on a campaign that didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, but a lot of positives and I think we’ll be stronger for it in the longer term.”
Scotland v Norway 6-3
Scotland v Bulgaria 10-3
Scotland v Ireland 8-5
Scotland v Wales 11-2
Scotland v Serbia 11-0
Scotland v Denmark 8-2
Scotland v Italy 8-4
Scotland v Canada 3-8
Scotland v Sweden 9-2
Scotland v Russia 5-6
Scotland v Italy 7-5
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
Please click here for full results
PHOTOS: WCF – Richard Gray