Edinburgh curler Bruce Mouat and his team will be marked men at today’s World Championships in Lethbridge, Alberta after finishing third in Las Vegas last year, but the Murrayfield skip believes their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites can help them add another gold medal to November’s European title.
“Yes, the other teams all know who we are now, but having a target on your back can also be an advantage to you,” suggested the Napier graduate. “When you’ve won big events in the past, some people are a bit scared to play you, so you can use that and intimidate them before you even get on the ice.”
Mouat and his team-mates Hammy McMillan, Bobby Lammie and Grant Hardie had already won a Grand Slam title and five other tournaments before arriving in Vegas last March, but it was their first appearance at a World Championship and they had seen fellow Scot Hannah Fleming fail to do herself justice on her own world debut the previous week.
The four Scotsmen rose to the occasion, however, winning 11 round-robin matches out of 12 to top the overall standings with eventual gold medallist Niklas Edin from Sweden. A semi-final defeat to Canadian Brad Gushue ended their golden dreams, but they salvaged an excellent bronze medal by trouncing South Korean Kim Chang-Min 11-4 in the third place play-off.
“We now know what playing in a World Championship is all about and we know how long a week it is,” said Mouat. “Maybe the standard wasn’t as high last year because people focused on the Winter Olympics a bit more. Obviously we gained a lot of experience in Las Vegas and hopefully that can help us do better than a bronze medal this time.
“When you’re a kid growing up, you really want to play at a World Championship in Canada, so I hope it lives up to expectations.
“The Olympic gold, silver and bronze medallists (American John Shuster, Edin and Switzerland’s Peter De Cruz) will all be there and Canada’s Kevin Koe has a really great team too. They have a huge advantage playing at home in Alberta, but there will be huge expectations on them as well.”
Team Mouat’s form has been ultra-consistent in their second season together, lifting them to fourth place in the world rankings behind three Canadian rinks. The undoubted highlight this winter was November’s 9-5 victory over world champion Edin in the European final in Tallinn. They also won the Perth Masters and successfully defended their Scottish title, although they narrowly failed to retain their National Grand Slam crown when their compatriot Ross Paterson beat them in an all-tartan final in Newfoundland in December.
Their final tournament before the Worlds saw the holders surprisingly beaten in the quarter-finals of this month’s Aberdeen International after winning all five group games, but Mouat stressed: “It was just one unfortunate match where we didn’t perform as well as we had all week.”
The Scots have been getting used to the speed of the ice in Lethbridge after arriving in Canada last Sunday, and they open their round-robin campaign against Russian, Sergei Glukhov, at 8pm UK time today.
“They played at the Aberdeen International and we also know them from the juniors,” said Mouat, who then faces De Cruz and Dutchman Jaap Van Dorp on Sunday.