Andy Woolston was back in Champéry for the third time competing for England, this time with the England Mixed Team at the World Mixed Curling Championships. The team was Andy Woolston, Lesley Gregory (vice skip), Martin Gregory, Kirsty Balfour and Coach Yvonne Gibson.
Skip Andy gives his account of the event which took place last week…
On my third time in Champéry, I had the pleasure of playing in the Palladium rather than the Ice Hockey hall in Monthey. The week started with a bye as Italy had withdrawn and China was a late addition and therefore moved across to their section. We were due to play China first which meant we had a practice session instead. The practice before the competition was only 30 minutes on one sheet rather than the usual 10 minutes per sheet, this was also on the sheet we were due to play our first game on, which we now had a bye. So all the time you usually have to look at stones wasn’t there and we also weren’t due to play that sheet again!
Midday on the Sunday was the bye, ice was really swingy caused by frost and no de-humidification. When we had the first game against Turkey the following day, we were on the sheet they had already played, and practiced on. We were slow and sluggish and the result proved this, 8-2 in their favour.
Next up, 8 am the following day was Canada. The game was tight with them forming a healthy lead before I made a double raise to lie shot and the Canadian skip trying to double it out and pushed us in for second. We stole the following end by another mistake by the Canadian skip after Andy hit and rolled to freeze to a shot in the 1 foot. It all came down to the last end where we were left a draw to the one foot for the win, I was slightly heavy and didn’t rub enough of their shot to just roll too far.
Poland were next up the following day at 8am again. We played well but the game was lost when we rolled the wrong way against two, really unlucky to lose the steal especially so late on.
By this point we were tired and a little frustrated, we felt as though we deserved a win and knew we had to win the rest of our games to stand within the smallest of hopes to qualify. Germany were up later that day and after a good lunch and some rest we came out playing well. Everyone knows how good Andrea Schöpp is and you just can never let your guard down. We went into the last end one up playing for a force. After 15 shots we were lying five and were well guarded. Andrea played a great double attempt but rolled too far. Finally a win we had craved and deserved.
No more morning games was great, normal waking up times and no rushing about. We played Australia at 16:00 on the Wednesday. They were down to three players as Kim had injured her ankle taking a photo! They had taken Canada to an extra end so we knew they were going to be tough. The ice was as swingy as usual, but they struggled with one sweeper. We played well and Hugh was forced to draw against five and unfortunately came up short. Win two was on the board and we were one step closer to qualifying.
Holland was our last game and without a win so far, were to be the easiest opponents in our group. They played well and we were forced to work hard for the win. We had now done all we could to qualify and were waiting on the following two sessions for results to go our way.
Firstly we needed Estonia to beat Croatia to put Wales in fifth, they had a better DSC than us. This went down to the last shot after the Croatian Skip has jammed his last stone forcing an easy draw to the 8 foot for Estonia to win by one. Next up was group D which by this point no one had qualified out of yet, five teams were on 4-2 record and four of them were playing each other. All we needed was Switzerland and Norway to not finish fourth as they had far superior DSC. JB worked out there were 8 possible outcomes and three were bad for us. Israel were beat comfortably by Finland which all but secured our qualification. Switzerland lost in an extra end which put them fifth.
We qualified in 16th position and therefore drew the top seed, Norway. They had two losses but the best DSC ranking them higher than Korea, Sweden, Canada and Russia who were on no losses. The game started well with us having an open hit for two, but it was slightly too heavy and we only took a one. The scoring went with the hammer and Norway took a big three when we flashed a double attempt.
In end six we were up against it with Norway making everything. We were facing a big end and truthfully we had accepted it prior to our last shot. We had just over 3 minutes left but weren’t bothered as we thought it was the last end. We peeled four shots out the house and sat for second shot, the Norwegian skip then threw his draw through the house. All of a sudden we were still clinging on. End seven was speed curling and two further misses from their skip allowed us to open hit for two. Peels going down to the last end, we played a great end and forced them to pick our shot off the button twice.
As our first international competition as a team it couldn’t have been better. We had a tough start and took a while to get going but the wins and good shots started coming and we relaxed into the games. Qualifying for the last 16 was a great achievement given how tough our group was, giving England the highest finish in the World Mixed Championships to date.
All photos courtesy of the World Curling Federation.