Murrayfield curlers Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken and will use last season’s near-miss as “extra motivation” going into this year’s World Mixed Doubles Championship, which begins in Lethbridge, Canada on Saturday.
The Edinburgh duo lost a bronze medal play-off in Karlstad, Sweden last April, and Mouat admitted this week: “We were absolutely gutted to be just outside the medals. Fourth place is never a nice place to finish – some say it’s the worst place – but looking back, we were quite happy to finish fourth and I think it’ll give us extra motivation this time. We’ve done a lot of hard work since then too.”
Aitken, recalling that they needed three 6-5 victories to reach the semi-finals, added: “We were actually pleased to get that far after really struggling in the group stages. Considering everything, finishing fourth was actually quite good.”
Expectations will be higher this time after a hugely-successful winter, the highlight of which was victory in Bern on Gina’s 24th birthday last November. They also claimed silver medals in Austria and the Netherlands and bronzes in Hungary and Latvia, while still finding time to win their fourth Scottish mixed doubles title.
Third place in Riga earlier this month was their most recent result, and Aitken reflected: “It was good to get some more games under our belt. We’re in a good place right now and hopefully we can peak at the right moment.
“We need to get enough points at the Worlds to qualify Great Britain for the Winter Olympics. A top-eight finish should do it.”
Both have already been to a major championship this season, albeit as individuals. Mouat struck gold at the World Student Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan in February, while Aitken narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot.
“I won all 11 of my games, so I couldn’t have done any better that week!” smiled Mouat. “Everything clicked in that tournament, and it was great to get more championship experience going into this week.”
Aitken vowed: “I have plenty of ambition to get a medal this time. Almaty was a really good experience and a very high standard of competition. It was great practice for us to play under pressure.”
Having arrived in Canada on Monday, the Scots begin their title bid against Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nodregotten on Saturday evening, but they already suspect that the formidable St Petersburg couple, Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alex Krushelnitsky, will be the team to beat.
“The Russians are really on form,” warned Mouat. “They won last year’s World Championship and they’ve done well again on tour this season. They’re going to be really tough to beat.”