DODDS AND MOUAT SET FOR WORLD MIXED DOUBLES OPPORTUNITY ON HOME ICE
After missing out on the chance to represent his country at a World Championships on home ice when the men’s event was cancelled last year, Bruce Mouat will belatedly get that opportunity as he and Jennifer Dodds form Team Scotland at this year's World Mixed Doubles Championships which are now to take place at Curl Aberdeen from May 16-23.
Mouat and his team, who are travelling to Canada this week to contest this season’s World Men’s Championships, had been due to compete at that event in Glasgow when it fell victim to lockdown last year.
Dodds, who will be contesting her first World Mixed Doubles Championships, is also making up for lost time, since she had been in Canada with Team Muirhead for the World Women's Championships when they were cancelled on the eve of that event a year ago and they are now set to return there for this year's rearranged World Championships. She should have made her World Mixed Doubles Championships debut with Mouat a year ago, but all of curling’s major events that followed the 2020 World Wheelchair Championships were cancelled as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Bubble conditions created in Calgary have already seen the staging of the Canadian Women’s Championships – the Scotties Tournament of Hearts – and the Canadian Men's Championships - The Brier - and will continue with a string of competitions which now include the BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championships (April 2-11) and the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship (April 30-May9) either side of two Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events.
The mixed doubles partners will compete in those Slams (Champions Cup – 14-18 April and Players’ Cup – 20-25 April) with Team Mouat and Team Muirhead, but Dodds is thrilled to get this chance to play alongside Mouat who has previously played in four World Mixed Doubles Championships with former partner Gina Aitken.
“Bruce has been to World Mixed Doubles Championships before, but this will be my first and I am so excited about that and also so pleased to have someone as experienced as Bruce with me, so I am really looking forward to competing with him on the world stage,” she said.
“It has been a hard year building to this after missing out on two World Champs opportunities last year. It is a privilege to represent Scotland and I think you always know how fortunate you are to get that opportunity, but having to wait for it and to get a second chance will make it really special.
“It will of course be a different environment that we will have to get used to, but we have had a whole year of us all having to change our behaviours and everyone has been affected.”
There is added responsibility this time around, too, with the opportunity to earn qualification for Team GB at next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing also on the line.
“The stakes are higher with only one year of qualification for the Olympics rather than two in usual cycles,” Dodds acknowledged.
“Everyone knows they have one shot at getting that Olympic spot and we want to make sure we secure that for Team GB.
“In early April we join the Calgary bubble for the Slam events, so it will be a very different preparation phase to whatever has been done before. We know what we need to do before Bruce goes away for the Men’s Worlds.
“I don’t think we will see each other during the Slams as it will be segregated. It will be so different to how arena events usually take place in Canada. However, we will take whatever changes are required to keep everyone safe and we are more than happy to that because we realise how fortunate we are to be able to be competing.”
It also means there will be an unknown element about the opposition.
“In a usual season we are competing every other week, sometimes back to back and you are able to gauge where you are at with your international rivals. This year we just don’t know,” Dodds pointed out.
“We know we have had great domestic rivals giving us preparation and we have had to rely heavily on the data to show us what to work on and you have to trust that when there is no international experience ahead of the Worlds.
Mouat and Dodds were pipped to that fiercely contested British Curling Mixed Doubles League title when they lost the final match to Eve Muirhead and Bobby Lammie. However, either side of that, the reigning Scottish Champions won the only tournament-style mixed doubles competitions staged in Scotland this season, beating two more of their team-mates – Vicky Wright and Grant Hardie – in the final of the Mixed Doubles Tankard in December, then getting the better of Muirhead and Lammie in the deciding match at last month’s Elite Finals in earning their selection.
“Bobby was incredibly gracious about it all – he phoned to congratulate me and wish me the very best. He didn’t have to do that but he did and that was really nice of him,” said Mouat.
With these twin campaigns lined up, the now vastly experienced 26-year-old skip is setting his sights high, aiming to improve on his best performances in both events having won bronze on his first appearance at the Men’s Worlds in 2018, while the closest he and Aitken came to medalling was when they finished fourth in 2016.
“Our goal will be the same for both events, we need a good top six ranking to get that Olympic spot qualified for Team GB and from there the aim is to medal,” he said.
“It will be Jen’s first Mixed Doubles Worlds and I want to be able to give her as much support as possible so we are as prepared as we can be. It will be really exciting for her and I am glad to be able to share that with her.
“We hope to get some time together before we compete, but we are glad we have had Mixed Doubles Fridays in the NCA every week as part of our training schedule. Because of this situation those Friday league matches will probably be key to our success and we will utilise that experience and hope it all comes back.
“The competition in mixed doubles has definitely got higher and we have experienced that domestically, so it will be the same when we face global rivals at the Worlds. It will be keenly contested and we want to reach the final weekend.”
Images: PPA Graeme Hart