The curling spotlight will be shining brightly on Scotland over the next week.
For the first time since 2016, we’re hosting the European Championships.
It was at Braehead back then, when our team got the bronze, and now we’re up in Aberdeen.
Before I start my Eurosport commentating duties, I’ll be in Perth to throw the first stone on Saturday to officially open the B event, which is taking place at the Dewar’s centre.
My old coach, Dave Hay, is on the organising committee and I know that everything will be set-up perfectly for the curlers.
Fingers crossed, this will start the ball rolling for the Scottish Championships to come back ‘home’ and for the main Europeans to be held in Perth one day.
Admission is free and it’s a great opportunity to see top class curling.
You only have to look at how things stand just now.
The Italian men and women had to work their way up from B to A and now the men are number one in the World and the women are in the top 10.
I’d have to make Team Retornaz favourites to win gold – just ahead of our own Team Mouat.
That’s purely on form.
They’ve just won two Grand Slams and you couldn’t ask for more than that going into the first major international championship of the season.
Joel Retornaz has got better and better – this will be his 15th Euro appearance.
With Italy hosting the next Winter Olympics he’s going to have to get used to dealing with big pressure!
Everything will be building to that.
And here’s a great fact – if (when) he competes at Milano-Cortina in 2026 he’ll become the first athlete to take part in two home Games.
He started his Olympic journey at Turin in 2006.
That would be an incredible achievement in itself.
Bruce Mouat and the boys haven’t been firing on all cylinders this season but they’re what I’d called a ‘championship’ team these days.
That means I’m expecting them to raise their level for this one – especially as it’s on home ice.
They were understandably gutted when the Glasgow World Championships had to be cancelled because of Covid and they’ll be so motivated to make sure they give their best in Aberdeen because of that.
And, let’s not forget, they’re the reigning European and World champions.
It’s a very close call between them and the Italians.
And I’d never rule out Team Edin – especially as they reached a Slam final last week.
No Anna Hasselborg
In the women’s event it does feel weird that there will be no Team Hasselborg representing Sweden.
Team Wranaa have only beaten them four times this season but those four times were in the best of seven play-off.
Make no mistake, though, the other medal hopefuls will be delighted Anna and the girls aren’t there.
Team Tirinzoni take FIVE in the second end! 🖐️
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 11, 2023
That makes Team Tirinzoni from Switzerland even stronger favourites.
They’re World number one, reigning champions World Champions and are the team with the aura that nobody else in the field can come close to.
Watch out for Rebecca Morrison’s Scottish rink, though.
They won bronze 12 months ago but they’re a far more established team this time around.
With a home support and home comforts, they’ve got a great chance of getting on the podium again.