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Bruce Mouat: Curling skip on rink closures & Scottish Championship hopes

Scottish Curling Championships 2024

When: Sunday 4-Saturday 10 February 2024 Venue: Dumfries Ice Bowl

Coverage: Watch men's and women's semi-finals and finals on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website & app

As the current face of Scottish curling, Bruce Mouat is a man with a lot to think about.

There is the imminent defence of his Scottish Championship title. Then, if all goes to plan, the defence of the world title his rink won for the first time last year.

The halfway mark to the next Winter Olympics has arrived, too. So there is the ongoing process to arrive in Milan in 2026 in top form, so he can upgrade his silver medal from Beijing to a gold.

But closer to home, there is the battle to make sure the next Bruce Mouat or Eve Muirhead have a pathway to success. The fight to save curling's future.

The surge in energy costs in the past two years have put ice rinks across the nation under severe pressure.

Ayr Ice Rink, which hosted 500 curlers, closed last autumn because of financial problems and only an almighty scrap and intervention from Muirhead and others prevented the Dewars Centre in Perth going the same way last month.

With the number of ice rinks in the country now down at just 21, curling's future is in the balance.

"It's very concerning for all curlers across the country because energy prices mean we're having to hike prices up in in our local rinks, which means that for every game a local club curler goes and plays they might be spending three or four pounds more, over four or five games a week," Mouat says.

"It's quite a big increase for an individual to have to pay. So they might be attracted by another sport to go and try that one. So it's quite a scary situation."

Solutions are not easy, nor plentiful. With curling only really given UK-wide attention every four years at the Olympics, that puts pressure on those such as Mouat to succeed, and therefore inspire others to get into the sport.

"It comes with the role," he says. "I'll promote it to the end of my days. I love the sport, it's been an amazing social thing for me as well as a day job. I've met so many friends that I still have to this day. It's been a very family orientated sport for me, and that's what curling is.

"It was really nice to see that there was so many people that banded together to help save Perth. It might have to happen for other rinks down the line. But I'm sure it will happen exactly the same, a lot of people band together.

"Hopefully, we can continue to see all these rinks stay open and encourage recreational curling."

'We're not anywhere near done'

Back on the ice, Mouat and his team - Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, and Hammy McMillan - are set to defend their national title in Dumfries this week.

Another win would go a long way to securing selection for the World Championships in early April, as the quartet aim to defend their crown in Switzerland.

They will start as favourites but with the rinks of Ross Whyte, James Craik and others are sure to provide stiff competition, with the depth in men's curling currently strong.

"It's a double-edged sword, I suppose," Mouat explains. "It puts a target on your back a wee bit, but then it also might be a wee bit of intimidation for the younger teams.

"There's a lot of really good teams in Scotland now. It's kind of showing on the world ranking tour points as well, we've got five teams in the top 25 in the world, which is probably the first time that we've ever had that.

"So we're doing really well, there's a lot of really good domestic challenges."

Mouat's rink have cleaned up when it comes to honours in the two years since narrowly losing the Olympic final. Another European title - their third in a row - and a maiden world crown to go with Grand Slam wins.

Their rise has been almost inevitable given the work they have put in to improve. Anchored by Mouat's calm confidence, there is still plenty for them to get stuck into.

"We're still in a good spot," the skip says. "I still feel like we're curling at some of our best that we have done over the seven years, and I don't think that we're anywhere near done.

"I think there's still things that we want to achieve. The big one is the Olympics in two years' time. We still need to qualify for that, and a big stepping stone would be winning the national championships this week."

You can watch the semi-finals and finals of the Scottish Curling Championships on BBC iPlayer and on the BBC Sport website and app on 9 & 10 February 2024