European Curling Championships return 'home' to Scotland after seven years

Eve Muirhead (centre), Claire Hamilton (left) and Vicki Adams (right)
Eve Muirhead (centre) leads Scottish women's hopes at the European Curling Championships
European Curling Championships
Venue: Braehead Arena, Glasgow Dates: 19-26 November
Coverage: Selected games will be streamed on the BBC Sport website.

It is claimed the first curling stone was thrown in Paisley Abbey in 1541 - so it is perhaps fitting that this year's European Curling Championships will be held only four and a half miles away at the Braehead Arena.

It is not the first time Scotland has hosted the championships, but they are returning to the home of curling after a seven-year absence.

The tournament, which runs from 19-26 November, will has 26 nations represented, with the competition split into two divisions.

Scotland will compete in the elite Division A, with both the men's and women's team battling it out with nine other countries to be European champions.

Bob Kelly, a former Scottish curling champion, helped play a part in bringing the tournament to the Braehead Arena.

As chairman of the local organising committee, he admits this is a ''very proud moment'' for him.

Speaking to BBC Scotland on the eve of the championships, he said: ''I played in the world championships in Braehead in 2000, so it's great to be back, albeit in a different capacity.

''We're hoping for good crowds and we're hoping for great things from our Scottish teams to give the fans plenty to cheer about.''

Both home sides, the men's team led by Tom Brewster and the women's by Eve Muirhead, should be up there challenging come next weekend, but there's stiff competition.

Niklas Edin
Sweden's Niklas Edin is hoping they can defend their title

In the men's event, Sweden are the current European Champions and skip Niklas Edin is confident they can defend their title.

''We played our first European championship here in 2009 and we won it, so we've got some good memories and good feelings coming back here," said Edin.

Edin believes his team are in ''the form of their lives''.

"We've just won a couple of grand slam events, so I think we're definitely the favourites going in," he said.

"We need to focus on what we're here doing and if we can do that we have a good chance.''

However, the Swedish captain is also wary of other nations, including Tom Brewster's rink, especially as the will have the home support behind them.

That is a sentiment echoed by Norway skip Thomas Ulsrud, although he admits that playing in front of a home crowd can go either way.

''A couple years ago, we had the European Championships in Norway and that was a different pressure, so it's going to be different for the Scottish boys," said Ulsrud.

"A lot of friends, family and fans are going to show up. If you get off to a good start, it's the best weekend ever, but if you get off to a bad start, it's no advantage to play on home soil."

Ulsrud admits he has a soft spot for Team Brewster.

''I hope they do well," he said. "As long as we beat them in the final, it's okay.''

The Norwegian team are hoping to continue an impressive record in this tournament. They're going for their 10th consecutive European medal.

As well as European glory, the teams next week will also be eyeing potential places at next year's world championships.

The European event acts as a qualifier, with the top seven teams, plus the host nation (Canada for the men), reaching the worlds.

Norwegian team
The Norwegian team have a tradition of wearing colourful trousers on the ice

''You want to finish top seven," said Ulsrud. "Our goals are shooting for a medals here, so we should make that."

However Norway fare on the Braehead ice, they certainly will not go unnoticed given their recent tradition of donning rather colourful trousers on the ice.

''For the Olympics in 2010 in Vancouver, we decided to put on colourful pants and, ever since, that has pretty much been our trade mark," Ulsrud added.

"Usually curlers play in black pants, but if we tuned up in black pants, that would be unusual.''

The European Curling Championships get underway at the Braehead Arena on Saturday the 19th of November. Selected group and the concluding deciding final matches featuring the Scottish men's and women's bid for European glory will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website.

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