Sunday, February 28, 2010

Armchair Olympics final post

Kevin Martin's Canadian side were always looking like the team to win the Olympic final, and they did. Martin himself was impressive, his freeze in the seventh end, played and judged, was curling perfection. Canada was undefeated in eleven games at the Vancouver Olympic Centre. Congratulations to them, and well done too to Norway for putting up a great fight.

Happiness is winning Olympic bronze medals, to judge by the Swiss reaction yesterday! I hope their governing body is pleased - you will perhaps remember that the Eggler team's participation at Vancouver depended on them doing well at the Europeans at Aberdeen. There they lost in the final to the Swedes. Swiss revenge came in the form of winning yesterday's game in Vancouver.

I've never watched so much television before. I have thoroughly enjoyed BBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics - not only the curling - this past fortnight. Still, my main reason for being glued to the box at ridiculous times of the day and night was our sport. At times watching the GB teams was difficult, but the semifinals and medal matches were great. I just feel somewhat jetlagged today!

Anyway, what did I like, and what did I not? However much I would have wished to be in Vancouver, I cannot say I missed out on the Olympic experience. I had my own 'virtual Olympics'. I've mentioned the television. The official website was first class with all the linescores and standings. Mike Haggerty did a good job with his reports for the RCCC website, and the WCF updates were both timely and accurate.

I watched all the Daily Host Videos. And I enjoyed looking at the best of sports photography on the official website and elsewhere.

I cannot say that I saw every curling shot on the red button coverage by the BBC, but I gave it my best effort. I thought the beeb did a good job, although not everyone agrees that they should even have been there, see here! I warmed to the Steve Cram and Rhona Martin double act on the commentary. They commented through twenty-five games, something of a record I would think. I wonder if Rhona enjoyed the experience!

It would have been better to have some knowledgeable experts contributing at times and helping out - I hardly think that Carl Lewis and Paula Radcliffe added much. All credit to Eve Muirhead coming on during the women's final. I wish I had been able to tape all she said in answer to Steve's questioning. I certainly got the impression that if future GB teams are to be selected she would like to see players picked for their positions, and that in itself said volumes. She also said that she was looking forward to getting a new team together for another tilt at the Scottish Junior Championship. Altogether she sounded very positive looking ahead to next weekend's Columba Cream Scottish Championship, and that has to be a good thing.

I have to say something about the performance of the GB teams. I was disappointed in what I saw. The television was full on. Players were miked up. There was no hiding and we saw, and heard, everything that happened in excruciating detail! Prior to Vancouver, the word was that these two teams were the best prepared... ever. No expense had been spared. Strength and conditioning, diet, physiotherapy, video analysis, psychology, everything had been considered. For the past year, the teams have been accompanied to each event by a retinue of followers, in addition to the coaching staff. Was it all worthwhile?

We did NOT see the best prepared, best coached, best team efforts, on the ice in Vancouver.

Take the shotplay statistics (here) as an example. Over nine games these indicate just how well players have executed the shots they have been asked for. In the men's event, the average for Team GB was 81%, fifth in the ranking, and that was of course the position in which the team finished. Better was expected of the World Champions.

Individually David Murdoch's average was 80%, equal with Niklas Edin in third place of the skips' ranking. Ewan MacDonald was 80%, ranked in fourth place of all the thirds. Pete Smith finished with an average of 76%, bottom equal of all the second players. Euan Byers was on 86%, top equal of all the leads!

In the women's event, the stats show (here) that Team GB finished with an average over nine games of 75%, equal sixth in the rankings. Individually Eve can take much credit in that she was ranked fourth of the skips, on 76%. Jackie Lockhart was fifth equal of the thirds on 74%. Kelly Wood was ranked seventh of the second players on 74%. Lorna Vevers was sixth equal of the leads on 75%.

As we all know though, stats only tell part of the story. China's team average was 74%, equal eighth, yet the team are of course the Bronze Medallists!

Back to the television coverage, at times I was shouting at the screen to see such poor releases and sometimes poor deliveries, not to mention the fact that one of our sweepers was not even sweeping in front of the stone on occasion. Where was the great team chemistry that the Murdoch team had shown in the past? It was obviously missing in some games. And some of the tactical decisions at key points left me puzzled.

But, hey, what do I know.

The buzz in the media generally about the Olympic curling was great. Jennifer Jones, one of Canada's greatest players - she is that country's skip at the Worlds in Swift Current next month - was writing and video blogging for Yahoo! Sports. She definitely has a big future as the most knowledgeable hack on the media bench! And she was even answering questions in a Live Chat during both gold medal games.

I learned such a lot this past couple of weeks. How about this article about the passion that some Wall Street traders have for curling! Or this one from someone whose sport is skeleton. But the Americans have an uphill struggle to educate a largely ignorant percentage of their population about curling, but this Christian Science Monitor article makes a good attempt. Jay Leno trying to be funny is here, and this post with seven pieces of photographic evidence of why curling is not a sport made me smile.

There should really be a special medal for the Norwegian team uniform. A Facebook page in tribute (The Norwegian Olympic Curling Team's Pants) has more than half a million fans!

Executives of Loudmouth Golf head for the arena! The California sportswear company sells 'golf pants only for the bravest'. The Norwegians were certainly brave to sport their colourful trousers. Well done to them.

I would retire happy if I thought that colour would return to Scottish ice. I doubt it will happen, and for now I'd just like to see four curlers all dressed the same, preferably not in black or navy, in major championships such as the Scottish Championships.

Anyway, thanks to all who visited skipcottagecurling this past fortnight.

These pics are from the Pants Facebook albums. More here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Armchair Olympics 16

I was thrilled to see Sweden win the Olympic Gold. It was a great game to watch, full of drama right to the last stone of an extra end! I've met skip Anette Norberg, third Eva Lund, second Cathrine Lindahl and lead Anna Le Moine a number of times in the past seven years and I've always been impressed by them. Greatest women's curling team ever - I'm right behind The Curling News with that assessment, see here.

Mind you, other great women's curling teams have come out of Sweden. I will always remain a big fan of Elisabeth Hogstrom and her team - I was just beginning to write about curling when Bettan was winning Europeans and Worlds in the early 80s. Then of course there was Elisabet Gustafson in the 90s. Another great Swedish skip/team.

But with two sets of Olympic gold medals, the Norberg team are the greatest, no question. Congratulations to them. To beat the home team, in Canada, in front of such a partisan crowd, many ignorant of the behaviour expected at say, a world championship, was a huge achievement, and sweet to watch.

I haven't been as emotional at 2.00 in the morning for many years!

The report of the game is here.

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images © VANOC

Friday, February 26, 2010

What happened next at Lockerbie?

Moira Hastings has just delivered her first stone at the last end in the Henderson Bishop final at Lockerbie. What happened next?

1. Did a stray stone from the adjacent rink knock the Lockerbie front end over?
2. Did the front end just trip over each other, and crash onto the ice?
3. Did the other members of her team decide to rehearse a three-woman sandwich group pose for the next 'Fire on Ice' calendar?

Did you say '1'? That's Fiona Robson and Linda Smith in a heap on the ice. And could that be the incriminating stone? But you are not correct!

If you said '2', you might have been right, looking at the photo above. But this too is the wrong choice.

'3' is the best option. Yes, that's Anne Smith appearing from the bottom of the pile. She had rushed out to sweep and knocked her teammates over in the process! Notwithstanding this upset, the team went on to win the game against Mary Barr's Kinross side.

No ice, ice technicians, or curlers were seriously harmed in the making of this post! And to take a lead from Linda above, that's 'The End' of this season's Henderson Bishop reports from skipcottagecurling! Thanks Linda.

Pics © Skip Cottage

Britain's wheels ready to roll in Vancouver

The Vancouver Olympics are winding up, but attention will soon be all on the Paralympic Games. Here's a piece to promote our team on the ice next month:

The all-Scottish Great Britain wheelchair curling team were given a rousing send off from their home rink yesterday, before heading to Canada to compete in the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. And as they met supporters and well-wishers at the Braehead Curling Rink - where the team train and play the club matches - skip Michael McCreadie said, “We’re quietly confident of bringing home the gold medals.”

Joining Michael, from Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, in the GB Paralympics curling team are Tom Killin, from Edinburgh; Angie Malone, from Girvan, South Ayrshire; Aileen Neilson, from Strathaven, Lanarkshire and Jim Sellar, from Bellshill, in Lanarkshire. The GB wheelchair curling team, which included Michael, Tom and Angie, won a silver medal at the last Paralympics, in Turin, Italy in 2006.

But in Vancouver, next month the GB wheelchairs curlers are aiming to go one better. Michael continued, “If we play at our best we will be a real handful for any country in the world. “I know it’s a football cliché, but we’ll be taking it one game at a time and let’s hope we’ll end up with gold medals to bring home. We can’t wait to get out there and start competing. You can’t put into words how it feels putting on that GB tracksuit and representing your country.”

He added, “The GB Paralympic teams work just as hard all year round and prepare for our winter games just as much as the competitors who are presently out in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics.”

Braehead leisure manager, Bruce Harley said, “The skill, passion and determination of these wheelchair curlers is fantastic and I see these qualities week in week out when they play at Braehead. We’ll be rooting for them when the competition starts and I’ve no doubt we’ll be having a big welcome home event at the curling rink when the team comes back clutching gold medals in their hands.”

L-R: Jim Sellar, Angie Malone, Michael McCreadie, Aileen Neilson and Tom Killin. Photo is courtesy Macdonald Media.

Henderson Bishop: The Finals

Moira Hastings (in front) skipped her team of Anne Smith, Fiona Robson and Linda Smith to win the Henderson Bishop trophy yesterday, defeating Mary Barr, Ena Stevenson, Joy Bowie and Maureen Aitken in a close game. The linescore is here, and a photo of the trophy presentation is here.

Here is the Hastings rink in action on their home ice.

Ena and Joy look after Maureen's stone.

The thirds in the house.

Still waiting for the bus. L-R: Moira, Fiona, Linda.

Moira delivers.

It's a caption competition!

Mary delivers, with Joy and Maureen ready as a front end should be.

Ena in full concentration

Anne has a worried look!

The winning skip with Carys, her biggest supporter!

Low Road final now. June Swan, Glynnice Lauder, Gillian Smith and Joan Forrest (Borders) faced Lanarkshire 1 - Marion MacDonald, Mhairi Baird, Jackie Craig and Caroline Morrison. That's June in front. The Lanarkshire team finished 7-5 in front, here.

Marion was one of the first youngsters I coached way back in the mid 1980s, and I was pleased to see she still throws the stone very well!

She got good support from her team, including third Mhairi, above.

Mhairi and Jackie attentive on Caroline's stone.

The skip comes to help her sweepers.

Here's June

And Glynnice

The front end at work.

A team thrilled to be winners!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Henderson Bishop Winners

Lockerbie won the Henderson Bishop trophy today, beating Kinross in the final. The results and linescores are here.

The winning team is above. L-R: Fiona Robson (2nd), Anne Smith (3rd), Moira Hastings (skip) and Linda Smith (lead).

Lanarkshire 1 beat the Borders rink to capture the Low Road competition for the Cherrystone Trophy. L-R: Marion MacDonald (skip), Mhairi Baird (3rd), Jackie Craig (2nd) and Caroline Morrison (lead).

Congratulations to the winners! It was a most enjoyable event, and it was fun to be involved. I'll have more photos from the final games here tomorrow.

Pics © Skip Cottage.

Henderson Bishop Semifinals

Today was Henderson Bishop semifinals day at the Lockerbie rink. The big game was the match between Moira Hastings (that's her in the front) and her local side and Maggie Agnew's Ayr team. It was the Lockerbie side which was on top of its game this morning, and ran out comfortably in front. All the linescores are here.

Mary Barr's Kinross team had the measure of Susan Kesley's Murrayfield rink this morning, finishing 9-4 in front.

The Low Road saw Inverness against the Borders, skipped by June Swan.

Abby Brodie took over skipping duties for Inverness, but in a game which swung one way and then the other, her team finished second to the Swan side.

Marion MacDonald's Lanarkshire team were just too strong for Kate Adams' Stranraer this morning. I'm sure it was the red gloves that did it!

Pics by Bob

Armchair Olympics 15

Niklas Edin's Swedes beat David Murdoch's Team GB in the tiebreaker last night. I'm sure the boys are gutted, as all at home are. We were hoping for, and if I'm honest, we were expecting better. It was good to see the team back to their fighting best though, and playing as a team, compared with what was on show for all to see against Norway on Tuesday. Again, thanks to David, Ewan, Pete, Euan and Graeme - you are great ambassadors for our sport.

Mike Haggerty's report on the game is here. But unless I was dreaming, Niklas played a hit and not a draw with his last stone.

Watching the GB-Sweden game last night, it was ironic to think that if the radicals within the WCF have their way, tiebreakers like this will soon be a thing of the past. Even though two teams finish on the same win-loss record, no tiebreaker will be played and progression forward will be based on who won the game when they met in the round robin. If this regulation had been in place for this competition, then Sweden would have progressed to the semifinals on the basis that they beat GB in the first game of the round robin. Just something to ponder!

Onwards and upwards. With no Team GB to support in the playoffs, this Armchair Olympic curling fan can settle back to watching some great curling as the semifinals and finals are played out in Vancouver. Then I look forward to restoring some normal sleeping patterns!

Photo of the Swedish players acknowledging the fans is courtesy Michael Burns Photography/WCF. More here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Henderson Bishop: The Dinner

I was honoured to be invited to the main social function of the Henderson Bishop competition, dinner at the Dryfesdale House Hotel. This was our top table: Brenda Macintyre (Ladies Branch vice-president), Linda Imrie (chair of the local organising committee) and Robbie Scott (RCCC vice-president). Robbie gave the Toast to the Ladies' Branch RCCC, and Brenda gave the reply.

The hotel put on a great spread, with lots of healthy athlete food, above! There was entertainment too. The Lockerbie Academy Fiddle Group entertained prior to the meal. Afterwards we moved to an adjacent room for a short performance by the Stageface Youth Theatre Group. It was indeed something different and the highlight of the evening! (Some will know I'm a fan of musical theatre anyway, see here.)

Of course, one of the important issues to be decided during the evening was the draw for the semifinals. Out of the hat, the High Road will see Kinross v Murrayfield 1 on one side of the draw, and the two favourites Ayr and Lockerbie, on the other.

In the Low Road, Borders will play Inverness 2, and Lanarkshire 1 will face Stranraer.

Here are the Lockerbie team in training (L-R) Moira Hastings, Anne Smith, Linda Smith, Fiona Robson.

And their opposition from Ayr, heading for an early night, (L-R) Anne Anderson, Gail Thomson, Karen Strang and Margaret Agnew.

And here am I, with two birthday girls Norma Brown and Ena Stevenson!

Pics by Bob

Henderson Bishop Wednesday

At sixteeen years old, Stranraer's Vicky Wright is a rising star amongst Scottish Juniors.

The youngest on the ice, she's enjoying her experiences at the Henderson Bishop at Lockerbie, playing third for Kate Adams' Stranraer reps, with Debbie Torbet and Alison Bell.

Kate (at the back) and her team were up against Forfar's Barbara Sherriff today, and won that game. All the results are here.

Today's caption competition. Forfar's Marnie Ewart and Barbara Sherriff. "Do you remember when you were that age, Barbara?"

We've been there too, Marnie!

Moira Hastings' local team have qualified for tomorrow's High Road semifinals.

Third Anne Smith in the game against the Borders.

Borders' skip June Swan

Lisa MacKellaich, here at the Lockerbie handbag shop, skips the Inverness 2 team.

Is that Morven Bridges hiding under the hat? (Apparently not - it's Abby Brodie!)

Murrayfield 1 in action

Maggie Agnew and her Ayr team were already in the High Road semis after just three of their four qualifying games.

Ayr against Stirling, skipped by Janette Wilson

Judy Mackenzie (Braehead) is in charge of the head in a tight match against Helen Murray-Lyon's Waterfront team this morning.

High Road and Low Road semifinals tomorrow. Kinross, Lockerbie, Murrayfield 1 and Ayr are through in the High Road. Stranraer, Borders, Inverness 2 and Lanarkshire 1 will play for the Cherrystone in the Low Road.

Pics by Bob