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Drawing closer to making up for Sochi absence

Ewan MacDonald edged ever closer to making up for missing out on a place at the Winter Olympics for the first time in 16 years by qualifying for another World Championship appearance when he and his rink completed their round-robin matches unbeaten at the Scottish Championships yesterday.

Hannah Fleming and Ewan MacDonald led the qualifiers ahead of this weekend's knockout stages of the Scottish Championships. Pictures: Stewart Attwood
Hannah Fleming and Ewan MacDonald led the qualifiers ahead of this weekend's knockout stages of the Scottish Championships. Pictures: Stewart Attwood

The 38-year-old from Inverness has taken part in every Olympics bar the first one since curling was reintroduced in 1998 but, by his own admission, he has taken something of a back seat in recent years.

"It is a bit funny watching it having played in the last three," he observed yesterday. "The Olympics are very special, but the Scottish Championships are very important too and we want to represent Scotland in Beijing [at this year's World Championships] so we're really putting a lot of focus into this."

Part of the rink skipped at the 2010 Games in Vancouver by Dave Murdoch, who now leads a completely different team in Sochi, MacDonald is now a skip himself and seems to have timed his bid to return to the elite level of the sport well.

"Pretty much since I finished playing with Dave four years ago, it's been pretty quiet," he said after completing a nine-match winning run. "I suppose after the [2010] Olympics, Euan [Byers] and I, who are still playing together, had other commitments so it was hard to continue at that same level of commitment. So we've been playing in some Scottish tour events but we've not been going to European events; we've just been ticking along quite quietly.

"However we've put a fair bit of effort into this week and the lead-in, and we've played well in the qualifiers. We've got a good feeling in the team, the guys are all playing great and we'll look to keep it going."

A comprehensive 10-3 win to eliminate Grant Hardie's rink from play-off contention wrapped up their round-robin sequence and MacDonald believes they can build on that. "That was another good strong performance from the guys so it's just about keeping the momentum," he said. "We've played really well all week, the ice has been great and it really seems to be suiting us so we'll just be trying to keep that going into the play-offs tomorrow.

"It gives you a lot of confidence. You don't want to slacken off at this stage, you want to keep the standards as high as possible and send out that message that you're playing well."

They are joined in the semi-finals by David Edwards' rink which finished second after Logan Gray's pre-champion­ship favourites - minus their skip for the second half of the match - lost their final round-robin tie to John Hamilton's team, allowing them to claim the final play-off place.

Even with Gray, who has been suffering from a virus, off the ice, that tie came down to the final stone. Glen Muirhead's final stone came up just an inch or two short and effectively ruled out three other rinks, since it meant Hamilton's men finished with one more win than those of Hardie, Warwick Smith and Kyle Smith's world junior champions.

Earlier in the day, Hannah Fleming's dominant run in the women's event ended with an 11-1 record, four clear of second-placed Kerry Barr, who suffered a painful-looking tumble on the ice yesterday. Jennifer Martin, daughter of former Olympic champion Rhona, also managed a 7-5 record to claim the third play-off place.

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