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Monday, 9 April, 2001, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Scotland's curling crisis
The Scotland team in action
The Scotland team were placed fourth in Lausanne
Mike Haggerty reflects on a poor season for Scotland's curlers.

Julia Ewart's fourth-placed finish at the World Curling Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland means that, for the first time in some twenty years, Scotland's curling teams have gone through a season at European and World level - senior and junior - without gaining a medal.

This is the sobering thought for the sport's organisers with the game's biggest showcase - the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City - now just ten months away.

From this season of mediocrity, in which Scotland even managed to fail to qualify a men's team for the World Championships for the first time ever, the performance of the Ewart team - third Heather Byers, second player Nancy Murdoch and lead Lynn Cameron - shone out like a beacon.

They were truly unlucky that they reserved their poorest performance of the World Championships for their semi-final against Sweden and then found themselves up against an in-form Denmark in the bronze medal play-off.

Top of the rankings

By leading the season-long Scottish Championship Gold League from its first session last autumn, the Ewart team showed that they are currently the best and most consistent women's team in the country. But their fourth-placed finish was not enough to let them challenge for Olympic selection.

Before the Worlds, the British Curling Association promised Ewart a selection play-off should she make it to the final.

As Ewart is all too aware, she failed at the last hurdle.

Now the way is clear for the BCA and the British Olympic selectors to ratify the quartet led by Rhona Martin from Greenacres as the female British team for Salt Lake City.

Martin has gathered sufficient pre-qualifying selection points to place her clearly at the top of the rankings. With no Olympic hope available to them, and because of career moves, the Ewart team had decided the bronze medal game would be their last together.

British Olympic team

But with the benefit of 24 hours' thinking time, they confirmed, as they watched Sweden beat Norway in the men's final, that they were re-considering their position.

This is a glimmer of good news for Scottish curling, a sport which, as this season's results show, can hardly afford to let a talented skip like Ewart simply walk away.

On the Olympic front, when her selection is confirmed, Rhona Martin will join 1999 men's world champion Hammy McMillan from Stranraer in Britain's line-up.

McMillan and his team of Warwick Smith, Ewan MacDonald and Peter Loudon were the first names to be ratified as members of the British Olympic team last month.

To prepare the way for the Olympic squads, Scottish curling has already agreed that the two teams nominated for Salt Lake City will automatically be selected to represent Scotland at the 2001 European Championships, which will be held in Finland at the start of December.

This will be the last major Championship before the Salt Lake City Games and, with most other nations also using it as an Olympic dress rehearsal, performances there will give a clear indication as to whether Britain is capable of winning its first-ever Olympic curling medals.

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See also:

08 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots curlers in medal woe
07 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots curlers crash out
04 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots women still on track
03 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots freeze out opponents
03 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots women suffer fresh blow
02 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots curlers bounce back
01 Apr 01 |  Other Sports
Scots curlers draw a blank
30 Mar 01 |  Other Sports
Scots prepare for World challenge
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