March 03, 2009

World Junior Championships

The World Junior Championships get underway in Vancouver's Olympic Centre on Thursday. The event website is here. Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams and Sarah Macintyre, with Kay Adams as alternate, play France in their first game.

So, what can I say about this team? Eve, Vicki, Sarah and Kay were in the winning squad last year in Ostersund, and Eve of course has just won the Columba Cream Scottish Ladies Championship, with her senior team. Vicki, Sarah and Kay were competing last week at the World University Games in Harbin, China, and indeed flew straight to Vancouver from there to meet up with the other team members and coach Isobel Hannen. Anna Sloan skipped her GB team to gold medals at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Poland recently. There was a feature about Anna and her curling connections in Scotland on Sunday here. 'Teenager with an icy determination' was how the article was titled. A good description, as all who know her will testify!

If there is one negative thing to say, it is only that the team has not played that much together this season, given Eve's other commitments to her senior team and with the GB Squad of which she is a member. But I expect that the Muirhead team will be the one that the others will be looking to beat in Vancouver. Who to look out for there? There's no easy games at the Worlds at any level. Canada is represented again by Kaitlin Lawes, who finished with bronze medals last year. Lawes' team will be more comfortable too in her home country. Sweden is strong this year too, with Anna Hasselborg's team. The other teams are listed here.

Graeme Black, Ally Fraser, Steven Mitchell and Thomas Sloan have impressed on the ice all season. Graeme and his cousin Thomas have played together for a number of years. Steven was with them last year when they reached the Scottish semifinal, losing then to the eventual winner Glen Muirhead. Ally Fraser has joined the team this year and the rapport between skip and third can be seen to work well. The four competed in the WCT-e Junior Tour and finished second in the rankings (see here).

This is the first time for the team on the biggest of stages, and Graeme's delight and excitement of having the opportunity to don the Scottish jersey came out in an interview on John Beattie's Radio Scotland programme on Saturday. Graeme identifed the strength of his side as their ability to work as a team. "When we get into sticky situations we fight," he said. And those who saw the team come back in their semifinal game against Blair Fraser at Perth last month witnessed that. His first stated goal is to ensure Scotland's participation in next year's World Championship. Things can go wrong so easily, as we saw in Ostersund last year, but Black's team certainly have the potential to be challenging for the playoffs.

Glen Muirhead is the team's alternate and Alan Hannah is the coach.

The team which finished ahead of Black in the Junior Tour standings will be one of the favourites in Vancouver. The Swedish team is skipped by Oskar Eriksson, who won the ROK Highland Inverness Junior event earlier this season (see here). The current World Junior Champs are skipped by Chris Plys, who is back in the draw this year, his team having won the recent US Junior Championships. Scotland plays the US in the first round. The full draw is here.

Last season at this time I was getting all set to go off moose hunting in Sweden! But with the recent news (here) you will understand I'm not going anywhere far this season. So, I'll be following Mike Haggerty's reports on the Royal Club's website here, and the results, stats and photos being provided by Curlit, see here.

Good luck to both our teams!

Top: Eve Muirhead. Above: Graeme Black. Pics by Bob.

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