Curling: Olympians descend on city for ice battle with mixed doubles champs

Team Aitken Mouat.

Aberdeen is to play host as Team Aitken Mouat defend their Scottish mixed doubles curling title, starting today

Gina Aitken and Bruce Mouat are to try to hold on to the crown this week at Curl Aberdeen, at an event which has attracted one of the strongest fields ever assembled for the national title.

In the season which marks the inclusion of the mixed doubles in the Winter Olympic Games for the first time in PyeongChang next year, there is growing interest in the discipline with a number of Olympians in this year’s line-up.

Aitken said: “The field at the Scottish event seems higher than ever, which is great to see even though it means we’ll have to be really on top of our game if we want to retain our title.”

Team Aitken Mouat, who have won the title four times in the last five years, were disappointed to narrowly miss out on qualifying for a Team GB place at the Winter Olympics when aiming to secure qualifying points at the World Championships in Lethbridge earlier this year.

“In April we were of course really disappointed to come so close to Olympic qualification and fall just short,” said Aitken.

“We took some time off to regroup and now we’re back training together albeit with a slightly less intense focus.

“There’s a big change in our season this year in comparison to last year – with an increased focus on competing with our separate teams. We have still had time to train together and we enjoy playing mixed doubles so we are genuinely excited to get back to it.”

A renewed focus also saw Mouat bounce back with a stunning start to his season skipping his new team line-up to titles at the Stu Sells and Oakville Classic, but he is also keen to get back to his successful pairing with Aitken.

“I’m excited to play the mixed doubles (MD) again with Gina – hopefully we will be able to defend our title.

“It will be great to see other British Curling athletes playing the format, I think some of them will enjoy it as much and Gina and I do,” he said.

“After our bitter disappointment in Canada at the end of last season (at the World Championships) I took a short break from the MD training and focused on my new men’s team. But I feel ready to get back into the MD mindset.

“I personally feel that Gina and I have unfinished business at the Worlds so it would be amazing to get the chance to represent Scotland again.”

Judith and Lee McLeary, who were runners up last year and two-time mixed doubles champions, will provide opposition to those title hopes and are not the only formidable pairing in the line-up.

Sochi silver medallist Greg Drummond, one of five 2014 Olympic medallists in the field, has jokingly admitted teaming up with girlfriend Vicky Wright to compete in mixed doubles represents one of the biggest risks of his career.

The partnership is one of several new combinations taking to the ice as British Curling’s elite teams sample the new Olympic discipline.

Great Britain unluckily missed out on being represented among the first nations to contest mixed doubles at PyeongChang.

however, leading players are now being encouraged to compete in the discipline and Drummond said he is looking forward to it.

“We have never played mixed doubles together before but I have previous experience from Continental Cups in the past. I like the format as it’s something different and challenges players in different ways.”

The only all-Olympian pairing sees Drummond’s former team-mate Scott Andrews partner Claire Hamilton, who claimed bronze with Team Muirhead in Sochi.

Michael Goodfellow will join forces with Laura Barr, while Tom Brewster teams up with wife Kim, who has played at the highest level in her native Canada, as well as in Scotland.