Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Matt Murdoch

I walked into Lockerbie Ice Rink just before Christmas as we stopped off on our way North - the Junior weekend competition was coming to its climax and I knew that the English girls would be playing their semi-final and I had persuaded my family that we would get a good lunch at the rink - Marion would see us right.

Sure enough there she was in the canteen, not on duty for a change, but having a cuppa with Matt, both of them enjoying watching the new generation of curlers on the ice before them.We passed the time of day with them and they told me they would be going off to Sochi - but I said I would probably see Matt before then at the 4 Nations as he was a great supporter of that weekend and sure enough four weeks later at Hamilton there he was, playing down the rink for a change, and only just missing out on winning another gold medal as part of Scotland's highest up rink in the match against England. He won 4 of those over the years and was determined that he would match the 5 of England's Michael Sutherland one year - I probably said something like - 'there's always next year' - except there isn't now.

He won one of those gold medals by beating me and altogether we played against each other 5 times in the 4 Nations and he had the edge on me by 3-2. Apart from the scores that is about all I can remember about the games - but Matt would have been able to tell you chapter and verse about this end or that end. Ever gregarious Matt would chat away on the ice and by the time you realised that he was distracting you, you were beaten - it wasn't deliberate - just all part of his friendly character.

My last view of Matt was on the TV from Sochi, celebrating his son's silver medal and beaming from ear to ear with pride at David's achievement but I will always remember so much more about him, on and off the ice.

Rest in peace, Matt - you have left a fine legacy in your family and in the curling scene in Lockerbie - they will not forget you and neither will I.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The European Championships - thoughts part 1

In an earlier posting written in Stavanger at the European Championships I mentioned some of the various European Championships I had been at over the past 30 years.

For the record, the European Championships began in a small way in 1975 when just 8 nations were represented in the men's event and 7 in the women's event. Since then the Championships have been held as follows with the number of competing nations indicated:

1975   Megeve (8 men, 7 women)
1976   Berlin (9, 8)       
1977   Oslo (10, 8)  
1978   Aviemore (10, 9)      
1979   Varese (11, 9)         
1980   Copnhagen (12, 11)
1981   Grindelwald (14, 13)                      
1982   Kirkcaldy (14, 13)                        
1983   Vasteras (14, 14)                           
1984   Morzine (14, 14)                           
1985   Grindelwald (14, 14)                    
1986   Copenhagen (13, 13)                   
1987   Obertsdorf (14, 13)                      
1988   Perth (14, 12)
1989   Engelberg (14, 13)
1990   Lillehammer (14, 13)
1991   Chamonix (17, 13)
1992   Perth (19, 15)
1993   Leukerbad (18, 14)
1994   Sundsvall (19, 17)
1995   Grindelwald (19, 16)
1996   Copenhagen (18, 16)
1997   Fussen (17, 14)
1998   Flims (17, 14)
1999   Chamonix (16, 14)
2000   Obertsdorf (18, 13)
2001   Vierumaki (18, 14)
2002   Grindelwald (21, 18)
2003   Courmayeur (22, 19)
2004   Sofia (27, 22)
2005   Garmisch-Partenkirchen (29, 24)
2006   Basel (30, 22)
2007   Fussen (31, 23)
2008   Ornskoldsvik (28, 21)
2009   Aberdeen (30, 21)
2010   Champery (26, 20)*
2011   Moscow (26, 20)*
2012   Karlstad (26, 20)*
2013   Stavanger (26, 20)*

*Since 2010 the number of nations participating in the A and B Group Championships has been limited to 26 men and 20 women with a C Group being used as a qualifying competition.Including those countries which did not qualify the total entries have been:

2010 (31, 23)
2011 (33, 28)
2012 (31, 24)
2013 (32, 22)

It is interesting to see how the numbers have grown at certain times - throughout the 1980s the entries stabilised at around 14 in each Championships and then at the beginning of the 1990s, as the WCF tried to get curling into the Olympics, the number increased gradually with a peak in 1994 before a decline in 1999 to almost 1980s levels. In the early 2000s as the effect of the introduction of curling at the 1998 Nagano Olympics began to kick in the numbers increased slowly until exploding at Sofia in 2004 to record levels which then rose to a peak in 2011.

By 2009 the numbers were getting unmanageable and so it was necessary to introduce a qualifying competition (the C Group) which allowed for promotion and relegation, while still allowing all nations the chance to reach the World Championship each year. This in itself introduced new issues with the successful nations in the C Group now having to finance two International trips within a couple of months of each other - a difficult proposition for people who are essentially still amateurs.

Personally I attended the Championships between 1982 and 1986 as a competitor and then have been at all of them since 2000, variously as an alternate, coach or as the ECA's representative at WCF and ECF meetings. So I think it is fair to say that I have been at most of the types of venue - big cities (Copenhagen, Sofia, Basel, Moscow), smaller cities (Aberdeen, Vasteras, Karlstad), Alpine resorts (Grindelwald, Morzine, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Fussen, Oberstdorf, Courmayeur, Champery), out of the way places you would never otherwise go to (Ornskoldsvik, Vierumaki) and coastal towns with no real winter sports connections  (Kirkcaldy, Stavanger).

An interesting cross-section of locations I think you will agree and if I were to rate them as a TripAdvisor critic I think I would group them as follows:

5 stars - Grindelwald - just the most gorgeous Alpine resort with stunning views
5 stars - Copenhagen - one of my favourite European cities with a great culture and friendly people

4 stars - Basel - another favourite destination with a superb transport system
4 stars - Garmisch-Partenkirchen - a big town with a small town feel - great views of the mountains
4 stars - Courmayeur - close to Mont Blanc and plenty to do when not curling
4 stars - Aberdeen - one of the best Scottish cities to spend some time in, not too big but lots to do
4 stars - Oberstdorf - a lovely little town with a great atmosphere pre-Christmas

3 stars - Moscow - a great tourist centre - for a couple of days -  but just something about it.....
3 stars - Morzine - a small, slightly old-fashioned resort (at least in 1984), but with character
3 stars - Fussen - a nice enough town but nothing to write home about
3 stars - Champery - lovely scenery but too hilly for some and not much to do
3 stars - Vierumaki - interesting venue in the middle of the Finnish forests - not much to do but just...different

2 stars - Vasteras - boring Swedish city
2 stars - Karlstad - see Vasteras
2 stars - Ornskoldsvik - see Vasteras and Karlstad
2 stars - Stavanger - see Swedish cities above but also VERY expensive

1 star - Sofia - the very worst of Eastern Europe communism and social deprivation
1 star - Kirkcaldy - not many package holidays sold for here - cold and dreich in December

Of course at many of these Championships the chances of getting out and about were limited what with watching games or attending meetings, and that has certainly got worse in recent years with the number of games increasing for each country - although nowadays of course the ECF is being shut down and the WCF no longer holds its meetings at the Europeans and so there is a bit more time to get out of the arenas / meeting rooms and see some of the sights.

Further posts will follow on different aspects of the European Championships but just to finish off a reminder of how time does not stand still for anyone:

Kirkcaldy 1982 - Duncan Stewart, Tony Fraser, John Brown, Ronnie Brock (dig the woollen jumpers) [Photo courtesy of Adrian Meikle]

Moscow 2011 - Tom Jaeggi, Andrew Woolston, Alan MacDougall, John Brown, Andrew Reed [Photo courtesy of Leslie Ingram-Brown]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Australian Junior Women Win Their First Game

Some months ago I wrote a post identifying the winless record of the Australian Junior Women in the Pacific Junior Championship - here

I am very pleased to say that they have at last had a win as they defeated the New Zealand team by 9-5 in Harbin, China yesterday, having been at one time 9-1 up. Unfortunately the rest of their results have followed the usual pattern as they have suffered more heavy defeats including two more when they have failed to score and the Junior Men have continued their winless record.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

And so to 2014......

A Happy New Year to all my readers for 2014 - I hope it brings you lots of happiness and success.