Scotland’s title defence in good hands?

Scotland's Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat in Gangneung © WCF / Logan Hannigan-Downs

Scotland, in the shape of Olympic champion Eve Muirhead – now retired – and Olympic silver medallist Bobby Lammie, were gold medal winners at last year’s world mixed doubles championship in Geneva, Switzerland.

Now Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat are here in Gangneung to attempt to defend that title for the Scots.

Perhaps the title defence could not be in better hands. After all, Dodds and Mouat were gold medallists at the previous World Mixed Doubles, held in Aberdeen in 2021.

Since that 2021 victory on home ice, Dodds and Mouat have both gone on to further medal achievements.

Jennifer Dodds was a member of the Olympic gold medal winning British women’s team, skipped by Muirhead at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

Bruce Mouat led his men’s team to Olympic silver in Beijing, and followed that up with a first men’s gold medal for Scotland since 2009 at the BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship, in Ottawa, Canada earlier this month.

2023 World Men’s champions, Team Scotland © WCF / Céline Stucki

At the Olympic Winter Games, the curlers were the only medallists to emerge from a total Great Britain team of 50 athletes, across all snow and sliding disciplines, and were rightly feted in their home country on their return.

Their achievements saw them on the front as well as the back pages of almost all UK newspapers, as well as being involved in a whirlwind round of media interviews and appearances.

They were also nominated for various national sporting awards. Jennifer and her teammates even took part in an exclusive glamour frontpage photoshoot for ‘Hello!’ magazine.

Fast forward a season, Team Mouat’s world title success saw them upstage the perennial Scottish media sporting obsession with football teams, to grab front page pictures and shine an all-too-rare mainstream media spotlight on curling.

Regrettably, so much publicity is a rare occurrence for curling in most countries, so how do our medal winners react?

Bruce says, “I really hope that this will help the sport. The Olympics was great, we had a lot of exposure at that point, but to continue it onto winning the worlds, hopefully that will lead on to something good. Hopefully, it’s made an impact back home and encouraged people to take up the sport.”

As it happens, because of competition commitments, Bruce has not been back to Scotland since his world title win, and acknowledges he does not have a proper idea of the impact his gold medal has made.

He says, “I’ve not been home, so I’ve not really had to live with that, but if it does happen, it’ll be pretty cool.”

Looking back to the reaction once he got back from Beijing last year, he adds, “People recognising you in the street? I’ve had a small taste of it. I wouldn’t say it’s normal for me yet, but it’s a bit of a responsibility now.”

Asked how he reacts to this new-found admiration from strangers, he said, “As long as I hold myself to a standard in sportsmanship that I want to see for myself, then I’ll be happy.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer recalls her experiences, saying, “If people see me as a role model, then that’s a great honour. Obviously, I had role models when I was growing up, and I looked up to them. So, if young boys or girls can look up to me and say, ‘I want to get where she is now’, that’s a real honour for me.”

Team Great Britain celebrate their victory in the Olympic final © WCF / Céline Stucki

She also explained a typical experience once people start to recognise her, saying, “Once I say I’m a curler, people twig and get really excited and ask lots of questions. Meeting an Olympic champion, all people want to do is ask loads of questions. If it’s a curler or a non-curler, it doesn’t really matter.”

She adds, “If I can pass my experience on and show how excited and nervous I was in those situations, I think that’s a really good thing, because it will pass on.”

Looking back, she recalls, “The two years before Beijing was a rollercoaster for us to say the least, and now, looking back, I had my low moments. There were times where all I wanted to do was to stay in the flat, but I’m pretty thankful that sometimes we get made to go to the gym, and, for me that was a really good thing.

“I was really bad for over-thinking things and getting into my own head, so exercise is the best thing. Get outside, clear your head and you come back seeing things differently.”

Regardless of whatever admiration Jennifer and Bruce may be enjoying, they are pretty clear about keeping their feet on the ground.

As Jennifer says, “Your friends definitely keep you grounded,” while Bruce adds, “I’m told – ‘you’re a world champion, but it doesn’t matter in this house’.”

Turning to this week’s championship, when asked if all they are trying to do is to simply do their best, both Jennifer and Bruce gave an insight into the ruthlessness that makes world and Olympic champions.

Bruce says, “Doing our best?… that would be cute, but we’re here to win. We’ve won it before, Bobby and Eve won it last year, and we want to take the title back to Scotland again. Three years in a row would be pretty special. We’re very competitive people, we’re here to win.”

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Gangneung, South Korea

25 April 2023
World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2023