Its a topsy turvey world that we inhabit as curlers when in the morning you feel elated to have put a difficult team away and then at night you feel totally deflated after losing a really important game only to be lifted again less than 24 hrs later with an excellent performance to record another win. So it was yesterday and today. After my report on the Latvian game we came out somewhat flat for the evening game against Japan and allowed ourselves to be drawn ( literally ) into playing the game their way and we were unable to impose ourselves on it at all until the break. We fought really hard to steal 4 ends in a row but only singles and in the last end we again had a chance to get our last stone behind a cover stone only to see it rub the guard fractionally and stay in the open. A nose hit from the Japanese skip sealed the win for them. In truth we didn’t pay that badly but every rub seemed to go against us – it was one of those games. We decided a chill out beer was required – well catching up on FB and messages from home really; the beer was someone else’s!
A new day dawned this morning – chucking it down again. We had a minor soaking yesterday after lunch while leaving the Italian restaurant on campus. We were being chased by the waiter at the time who claimed we had short changed the payment of the bill!! Sir Hume is the kittymeister so inevitably got the blame although we are not entirely sure that he wasn’t ‘at it’ to quote T Tierney. On that note the food and facilities are good on the whole and thankfully also reasonably priced thanks to the weak Rouble. Breakfast is a refectory style buffet – reminiscent of boarding school mealtimes ( for Bill anyway).
We managed to take in some of the Mixed Doubles today before our 4pm game against the Czechs. The ice for the MD is undoubtedly superior to ours as it has a more normal swing but our arena has a much better atmosphere.
The Iceberg skating Palace in Curling Mode
David W has commented a few times what a buzz it is to curl in an Arena such as the Skating Palace and I’m sure David H feels the same. Bill and Neil have been fortunate to experience it before but both agree that they are a bit disappointed with the way the ice is playing – although it’s definitely improving and it may be that the stones are causing the slow surface and excessive swing.
The facilities, the welcome and the work of the organising committee has been excellent as has been the shuttle transport. The security checks are normal for Russia but we caused a bit of a stir trying to bring our Jameson miniatures in to gift to our opponents. Nyet to alcohol was the comment. Suffice to say we have resolved the problem……..initiative is our middle name.
Back to the curling briefly; we played really well against the Czech team today – managing to do everything we had failed to do yesterday evening. We called the game well and executed our shots well and ran out comfortable winners 11-3. We are now set up to take on Canada tomorrow. There were some really close games in tonight’s session which saw Canada narrowly defeat Japan and Latvia play a great inwick to score 2 in their final end against Scotland to record a 1 shot victory. This tightens up the group which makes our remaining three games crucial to our qualification ambitions. One at a time, tho and we are ready for Canada tomorrow. Even more so now that David W has carb loaded following a Carbonara Pizza!!
Yep It’s a Carbonara Pizza
Yep, seriously folks!! Here it is!!
finally huge thanks to all who have sent messages of support to the team. We really appreciate them.
Ireland 11 Czech Republic 3
Matej Neznal (Fourth, Skip)
Richard Hobzik (Third, Vice-Skip)
Roman Hasenoehrl (Second)
Vladimir Zelenka (Lead)
Karel Kubeska (Alternate)
A very comfortable win for Ireland’s men this afternoon. Two threes’ in the first two ends and two twos’ in the last two put them in cruise control.
Some R & R for our boys now before they meet Canada at the same time tomorrow – 2pm here 4pm over there.
Bill looking a bit pensive.
Here are some photographs of our men in action from the WCF photo collection:
David H, David W and Neil
David Hume and David Whyte
The skipper giving his all to shift that red stone!
Ireland 4 Japan 7
Masayasu Sato (Fourth, Skip)
Shunichi Fujita (Third, Vice-Skip)
Takahiro Hashimoto (Second)
Shozo Itoh (Lead)
Spirited fightback from Bill and the boys after losing five shots in the first three ends. Singles in the next four put them one down, without the hammer, in the last end when Japan got a two.
Next game is 4pm tomorrow (2pm here) against the Czech Republic.
Bill Gray (Fourth, Skip)
Neil Fyfe (Third, Vice-Skip)
David Whyte (Second)
David Hume (Lead)
Day 2 dawned with the knowledge that today’s games would be pivotal in our campaign and we needed to be at out best to come through the day with two wins. A 1200 start time and first practice for the game against Latvia was the order of the day with Bill and Neil rostered in for the two stone DSC. First use of the ice is always tricky and when the skippers draw shot pulled up ( just) at the back of the house, it needed Neil to salvage the situation with his draw – and he duly obliged. The Latvians however had the hammer after their DSC.
The game proved to be a nervy affair with both teams feeling a bit of pressure. We played the first half of the game well limiting the Latvians to a single in the second and picking up a three in the 4th with Bill playing a great angled raise at hack weight round a guard which proved to be the game changer. The second half was nervy with some mistakes – mostly due to the ice keening up dramatically- from both sides although David H and Neil adjusted more quickly than Bill and David W and held the show on the road. We came to the last 1 up with the hammer. The front end and Neil did a great job clearing the guards and when Bill played a good clearing shot on two stones in the house, a failed freeze by the Latvian skip who was heavy left us with a win without having to play last stone. Phew!! All in all, a tough game for various reasons but we were delighted to come out with a win, even if it wasn’t pretty. Japan next up this evening – another big one; but then again, at this level, they all are!!
Ireland 5 Latvia 3
Ansis Regza (Fourth, Skip)
Peteris Sveisbergs (Third, Vice-Skip)
Aivars Purmalis (Second)
Aivars Gulbis (Lead)
Ivars Cernajs (Alternate)
Two games and two wins for Ireland’s senior champs at the worlds.
A three in the fourth end was the difference between the teams and, no doubt, we will hear more detail from Bill in due course.
Next up Japan at 8pm (6pm Russia time). Well done and good luck to Bill, Neil and the Davids.
Finally, time to reflect on a helter skelter trip to Sochi , quick practice, some sleep and then the opening game.
Our disrupted travel plans were due to a cancelled flight from Moscow to Sochi which entailed a night in the Ramada hotel in Moscow. Interesting…….that’s all to be said about that.
The following day our 10.30 flight became 11.30 by the time we got to the airport and then 12.30 by the time we actually took off! A two hour flight resulted in a late arrival but we have been looked after brilliantly by our own ‘girl ‘guide, Alina. A late practice session gave us our first taste of the arena ice – surprisingly slow and extremely swingy and we hoped it would be better for the game the next day. Hotel accommodation is good and the shuttle service put on by the Russian Federation certainly eases the movement around the area. Security is tight as always and the scanners immediately picked up David Hume’s stash of miniature Irish Whiskey – not before one had met its demise on the lobby floor in the hotel!! Food and sleep are never far from the minds of this team and fortunately there is a great buffet hall on the campus of the hotel!!
Game 1 saw us take on the might of Kazahkstan in the shape of Victor Kim and his cohorts. It was also our first taste of the new DSC rules: two stones in each Draw Shot; one clockwise and one anti clockwise. Suffice to say, the first up in our rota, DH and DW combined to give us a two stone score of only 34 cm which was the best of all of the games in that session. We started well with a 4 in the first end and that settled us into a steady game where we played to a pretty good standard running out 9-1 winners.
Boys with their board boy
The opening ceremony followed included a fantastic display from some very talented young dancers and singers and the usual first stone this time delivered by the Mayor of Sochi.
The day ended inevitably with food…but not before Bill and Neil had taken in some of the sights of the Olympic Park
The Iceberg Skating Palace: The best looking building in the park
. Some of the buildings are spectacular and the addition of the sounds of cars racing all around you on the Formula 1 track adds a certain surreal nature.
Olympic Flame Tower
That’s all folks; two games tomorrow so into battle in earnest…..
Ireland 9 Kazakhstan 1
Viktor Kim (Fourth, Skip) Almaz Saidvakassov (Third, Vice-Skip) Roman Kazimirchik (Second) Nikolay Zhorov (Lead) Iskander Farizov (Alternate)
Solid starting performance from Bill and the boys. Four at the first then singles in the second, fourth and fifth put the game in the bag. Kazakhstan got a one in the sixth but a two for Ireland in the seventh end saw handshakes offered by the opposition. Well done men!
Next Game is against Latvia on Sunday at 12 noon local time.
This article, featuring our Neil, appeared in today’s edition of The Galloway Gazette:
Hugh, Neil and Norman
Earlier this week three Stranraer curlers headed off to the World Senior Curling Championships in Sochi, Russia, to play for two different nations.
Hugh Aitken and Norman Brown will pull on the blue jersey of Scotland while Neil Fyfe will be in the green of Ireland. And to add a bit of spice to the occasion the two nations are due to play each other next Thursday morning.
Hugh and Norman have appeared for Scotland many times over the years, both were junior world champions and European champions in the 1980s and 1990s. They are both making their second appearance on the world seniors stage having competed without success in Ferdericton, Canada in 2013.
Norman said: “We were disappointed with our placing two years ago and we are really going out there to carry on with unfinished business.”
Hugh added: “And as a jeweller, my favourite colour is gold so that’s the only colour of medal I’m coming back with!”
Neil, who has represented Ireland at international level since 2006, also played in Fredericton and at the World Seniors in Dumfries last year. The police sergeant was equally bullish about his team’s chances as three of his teammates won gold in 2012.
“We got knocked out in the quarter-finals last year and we were unlucky not to win that game as we all played well. We will see how it goes in Sochi.”
With a world title at stake, all three curlers said there would be no quarter given when the two teams meet next week. Friends before and after, but not on the ice!
Also in the same section as Scotland and Ireland are Kazakhstan, Latvia, Japan, Czech Republic, Canada and Italy.