GRAND SLAM BOOST FOR SCOTTISH MIXED DOUBLES
A last minute call up to the Scottish Mixed Doubles at into Braehead this week (20-23 December) will see a member of the Grand Slam winning team, Duncan Menzies, pair up with four time national champion Gina Aitken.
Menzies, who plays second for Team Paterson, was part of an historic all Scottish final at the Pinty’s Boost National Grand Slam in Newfoundland, where his team etched themselves into the history books as only the second British and Scottish men’s team to win a Slam when they beat compatriots and defending champions, Team Mouat at an extra end.
Fresh from that successful campaign in Canada, the 24 year old will team up with Aitken, as her partner, Scott Andrews, continues his rehab from injury.
“I am really excited to be asked to step in for Scott this week, Gina and I played in three Mixed Doubles events last season, performing consistently well and we’re looking forward to picking up where we left off,” said Menzies.
“We have both had good season’s so far enjoying successes on Tour and coming off the Slam victory is definitely a career high and a huge confidence boost coming into this competition, although it is fair to say it is unfortunate circumstances that have caused me to be taking part this week.
“We know that Scott needs a bit more recovery time and he will be back for events in the new year, but for now I have very big boots to fill,” he added.
Aitken and Andrews made rapid progress this season since they paired up on the British Curling Mixed Doubles programme, which represented a change of discipline for Andrews as he set his sights on new Olympic goals after Mixed Doubles was included in the Olympic programme in PyeongChang in 2018.
The new formation reached the quarter final in their first event together in Oberstdorf and followed that by making the final in their next tournament in Kitzbuehel, before heading to Sochi - where Andrews won silver in the 2014 Olympics - and won the Mixed Doubles title. From there they travelled to Bern where they reached the semi final, however, returning from that event Andrews realised he had picked up an injury and withdrew from a tournament in Poland in the hope of being ready for the Scottish Championships.
Andrews said: “There is never a great time to get injured and I had hoped to get fit in time for the event this week, but I am not quite there yet.
“I can’t thank the programme support staff enough for all of their efforts, giving me the best chance possible to be ready for this week, but I just have to look at the long-term and get myself fully fit for the rest of the season.
“I will still be very much part of the team, providing as much support as possible and I will be on the coaching bench helping with time-outs and any tactical input and game plans. This is just a bump in the road and the rehab is going really well and I know I will come back stronger from this,” he said.
Partner Aitken, who has won title before in 2016, 2015, 2013 and 2012, said: “We have made adjustments and this is a case of putting into practice the planning when the ‘what if scenario’ happens, however we are looking forward to this week even though it is not as we originally anticipated. Scott and I were able to achieve the number one ranking in a short time together and for this event Duncan brings a lot of good form from his Slam success and we hope to continue that to this weekend.
“Being part of a squad this year has had many positive effects, including having summer ice at the National Curling Academy and that positive environment and access to ice has resulted in being better prepared for this season, which is starting to show in a number of results already, she said.
That sentiment was reinforced by Jayne Stirling and Fraser Kingan who joined the programme for the first time this season and will be hoping that additional support will fuel their title defence this week.
“Being on the programme has had a big impact, we are much more organised and implement better planning around as well as during tournaments, which really helps to ensure we perform to our best ability,” said Stirling.
“Greg Drummond will be on our coaching bench and having that support is great and he has a lot of confidence in us and during time outs he will help consolidate our decision making, both helping and guiding us to the right choices.
“It is disappointing that Scott will not be competing this week, but Duncan will be a really good stand-in, as we are all hoping for a really good week,” she said.
“Last year I don’t think there were any expectations and we approached the tournament one game at a time. This time around as current title holders there is more expectation, but we will be careful to stick to our plans and processes.”
British Curling Performance Coach Nancy Smith who manages the Mixed Doubles squad, said: “It is great seeing this discipline gathering momentum since its inclusion in the Olympic programme earlier this year and it will be interesting to see how this impacts on the growing skill level.
“Our current national champions have had a good start to their first year on tour with programme support, along with Scott and Gina and that has shown in their world rankings, so we hope both teams have a good event this week.”
Meanwhile, Team Fowler are finalising their preparations for the English Mixed Doubles Championships in January and will compete in their last event of the year at the Italian Mixed Doubles Championships, in Pinerolo (20-23 December).
British Curling Mixed Doubles Teams:
British Curling Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency - Graeme Hart.