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Boosted by the successful defence of their title at last weekend’s Perth Masters, Scotland’s Team Mouat heads into this week’s Continental Cup knowing that their defeat of a top Canadian rink in the final has only enhanced their growing reputation and that of British Curling as a whole.

The current Scottish champions, who will also bid to defend that title next month, joined compatriots Team Muirhead, who had won the women’s title, in immediately heading across the Atlantic to compete in the Continental Cup, curling’s answer to the Ryder Cup with the best in Canada facing their European counterparts.

While Eve Muirhead has long led teams that have been ranked among the best in the world, Mouat’s men have spearheaded a drive that has taken the Scottish men’s game to new heights and Sunday’s 7-2 victory over Team McEwen, completing an unbeaten run through the event, earned them warm praise from their beaten opponents. 

“They’re class,” said the Canadian rink’s lead, Colin Hodgson.

“It’s enjoyable to play against these guys. We spend so much time all over the world playing against each other, it’s nice when you get to play a final against colleagues that we play against in Canada, in Scotland, in Korea or Japan and it’s just wonderful to enjoy playing in a final.

“It’s a pleasure to play in these and it’s not to say we’re not being competitive, which we are, but this is the most fun I have playing at a top level, against such class.”

The 29-year-old from Winnipeg also noted that Mouat’s men are by no means alone and that their successes of recent years, including becoming the first Scots to win a Grand Slam title in Canada – a feat subsequently matched by domestic rivals Team Paterson – was indicative of Scottish curling’s growing strength in depth that is earning increasing respect.

“It’s wonderful, there’s so many great young Scottish teams. Fortunately for us they bless us with coming to our events as well, so we’ve got to know them quite well,” said Hodgson.

“A lot of the Canadians have noticed how strong the programmes over here have become.” 

He said that what was particularly telling was the age profile of the talent that has begun to emerge as British Curling has been able to develop its systems using its purpose-built facility at the National Curling Academy in Stirling, as exemplified by Team Whyte, who were beaten by Team McEwen in a hard fought semi-final in Perth as they continued an impressive first full season on the senior circuit.

“Having young teams like Ross Whyte’s, not even out of juniors yet, but foregoing the last year (at junior level) is an incredible feat,” said Hodgson.

“When I was growing up that was unthinkable to be playing at this kind of level at that age. I think that’s credit not only to the (British and Scottish Curling) programmes, but to the actual curlers themselves and the competition that has become apparent between these teams. They’re very competitive with each other and everybody’s getting better very quickly, at an accelerated rate, which is exciting.”

However, he also pointed out that the increase in Scottish competitiveness is reflected in the way the sport is developing globally.

“I think it’s just surprising how young these teams are and how, in the sport in general, not just here, there’s a youth movement going on which is very exciting, because now names are popping up and there’s more parity, more different teams that are not household names,” Hodgson observed.

“Clearly (former Scottish, European and World champion) David Murdoch’s one of the greatest curlers in the world, or has been in the history of the sport, but it’s not just one team continuously winning, there are so many teams that just continue to get better and it’s pushing the world.  

“It’s happening in different countries, not just here. It’s happening in Canada now, possibly not quite at the same rate, but it’s certainly happening. You have young teams in the Grand Slams. It’s just such a massive thing for the sport that there’s so many young people that are going to be pushing and moving and playing with each other. You’re not going to get the same team playing together for 20 years.”

Having been played as North America v the Rest of the World in recent years with World winning the title last year for the first time since 2008, this season’s Continental Cup will be contested between all-Canadian and all-European line-ups, with the visitors coached by British Curling’s National Coach David Murdoch.

The event gets underway at the Western Fair Sports Centre in London, Ontario tomorrow (January 9 - 13), with the two 24 player teams facing one another in an array of different formats over four days of competition in front of sell-out crowds.

TEAM EUROPE                                         NORTH AMERICA
TEAM MUIRHEAD                                    TEAM FLEURY
TEAM MOUAT                                          TEAM HOMAN
TEAM HASSELBORG                                TEAM CAREY
TEAM EDIN                                               TEAM BOTTCHER
TEAM TIRINZONI                                     TEAM KOE
TEAM DE CRUZ                                        TEAM EPPING

Please follow the link to the event

Photos from 2019 Continental Cup courtesy of Curling Canada – Michael Burns

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