Monday, November 21, 2011

Edinburgh International 2011

Robin Copland sends this preview of next weekend's Edinburgh International:

"Twenty-four teams will compete in this season’s Edinburgh International Curling Championships. The event can trace its history back to the old Worlds Championships, first competed in 1922 at the Haymarket rink. In 1975, the event changed its name to the Edinburgh International Curling Championship and thus it has remained ever since. It is the oldest curling event on the Curling Champions Tour. This year’s competition’s first games start at 08.30 on Friday, November 25, and league play continues all the way through Friday and Saturday. Sunday is given over to knock-out quarter and semifinals and culminates in the final at 2.30 pm.

There is an interesting field assembling for this year’s competition. For the first time in a number of seasons, we have three Swiss teams in the draw, skipped by Stefan Häsler, Jan Hauser and Pascal Hess. Pascal and his team of Yves Hess, Florian Meister and Stefan Meienberg are currently lying in eighth spot on the Champions Tour Men’s league.

Comeback man Markku Uusipaavalniemi, who famously drew the button against David Murdoch in the Olympic semifinal in Pinerolo five years ago and went on to win a Silver Medal in those Games, brings a new team from his native Finland. Toni Antilla, Kasper Hakunti and Joni Ikonen make up his foursome. Currently they are in ninth position in the league. His brother, Jussi, plays third in another team from Finland skipped by Toni Rantamäki.

Norway’s European Champion team, skipped by Thomas Ulsrud, is competing in Edinburgh for the first time. Torger Negård throws third stones, Christopher Svae is his hard-hitting second and Håvard Vad Peterson is the team’s lead. Thomas and company bring an incredible level of consistency with them to Edinburgh. In all the World and European Championships in which they have competed since the 2007 European Championships in Füssen, as well as 2010 the Olympic Games in Vancouver, they have never finished lower than fourth. They have competed in eight championships and medalled in seven of them – just a remarkable record of consistent performance in fields of the highest class. Methinks that the winner of the 2011 Edinburgh International may very well have to get past the Norwegians before they get their hands on the cup!

Italian teams skipped by Marco Pascale and Joel Retornaz return, as do Jiri Snitil and regular visitors David Śik from the Czech Republic.

The Scottish challenge is headed by Scotland’s champion rink of skip Tom Brewster, third Greg Drummond, second Scott Andrews and lead Michael Goodfellow. These chaps are having a great season on the European Curling Champions Tour circuit and currently sit proudly at the top of the league table.

Sadly for them, they are not going to represent Scotland at the European Championships. David Murdoch’s new-look team of Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson and Richard Woods take Scotland’s hopes to Moscow after beating Tom in a best of three final at Perth last month. David won the Edinburgh International Championship two seasons ago when he skipped Ewan MacDonald, Pete Smith and Euan Byers to victory in 2009.

Last season’s champion rink returns minus substitute Kerr Drummond. Graham Shaw skips Brian Binnie, David Hay and Robin Niven in what they hope will be a successful defence of their title. Most of the top Scottish teams join Graham, David and Tom in what looks like an exciting competition. Expect strong Scottish challenges from the likes of David Smith, Sandy Reid, David Edwards, Logan Gray, Graham Shedden, Frazer Hare, Lee McCleary, Graeme Black and Murrayfield’s own Paul Stevenson and John Hamilton.

Jay McWilliam skips the only junior team in this season’s competition. He has two Scottish Junior Champions in his rink, Murrayfield’s Colin Dick and Billy Morton from Ayr. Grant Hardie, second in the team, played much of his school curling at Murrayfield and knows the ice well. I give them special mention because they have come off a couple of very special weekends, winning a junior competition in Canada and following that up with a magnificent win – against a strong field – in the inaugural Stirling Invitational on November 13. Could they be the team to fly Scotland’s flag in Edinburgh?"

For details of the draw and the webcast, go to the event website here.