There was one king in the curling Calgary ‘ice bubble’ earlier this year: Bruce Mouat.
Not unlike another warrior king of Scotland bearing the same name, Mouat is fast becoming something of a national hero courtesy of his conquests.
At the end of the 2020/2021 season, the 27-year-old executed a near-flawless campaign in a run of bio-secure competitions in Canada.
The soaring Scotsman skipped his team of Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, and Hammy McMillan to stunning consecutive Grand Slam of Curling men's event wins, and clinched silver in the World Men’s Curling Championship, securing Great Britain a berth for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Mouat then doubled downed on his desire to be selected for the Games in China, winning the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships on home soil in Aberdeen.
The man from Stirling, and partner Jennifer Dodds, dispensed with Olympic bronze medallists Norway in a thrilling final to book Britain another spot for Beijing.
With the 2021-2022 curling season now in full swing, Mouat has shown no signs of slowing down.
On their return to Canada, Mouat’s men pipped the home nation's Team Jacobs to claim the Stu Sells Oakville Tankard. The Scots are now 16 games undefeated since the World Championship final back in April.
While Mouat may be young in his sport, he is certainly showing his talent, and look like they’re peaking at the right time for a Winter Olympic medal challenge.
Curling between the margins of mystery and mastery
Though Team GB are yet to choose which curlers will represent them at Beijing 2022, Mouat is a name that is becoming increasingly hard to ignore; and his rivals are observing that too.
While that is in part down to the sweeping successes Team Mouat has enjoyed, it is also in part a result of the strategies the young curling upstart is employing to get ahead.
“We’re just really paying attention to the data that is being provided to us.”
“The stuff that we’re gathering… it’s on each team so it’s really good that we can go into a game, and we know if we’re playing Niklas [Edin] we’ll try and do a certain thing that’s maybe different to when we play Brendan [Bottcher] … all these different things.”
“You’re never going to be able to have enough data – in my opinion – but what we are doing right now is obviously quite a lot and as I say, it’s worked for us and we’re quite happy to have all that information playing against all the greatest teams in the world.”
There is something else that has caught the attention of his opposition; that is the way Mouat and his team choose to throw their stones.
Achieving the curl in curling is something of a balance between mystery and mastery.
Why the stone arcs the way that it does on the ice is something that still baffles physicists: that is, in essence, the mystery of it.
The mastery comes with developing a technique that, despite the lack of scientific understanding, enables you to tame the stones the way you want.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Team Mouat spent a long time studying each of their own individual throws. Their findings, Scotland’s top male rink believe, has provided them with an edge.
“We do a lot of individual sessions with our coach Alan Hannah and we have always said over the past years that we want to try and be able to throw it the same – it kind of makes my job easier as the skip so I know exactly what’s coming down the ice towards me rather than having to know three different releases plus my own,” Mouat details to Inside Curling.
“What we started to do in our individual sessions was to notice how many rotations we were doing… All these kind of things that would probably come natural to most teams then we’re trying to take it a wee bit further by making sure we’re always being positive, we’re always trying to give it that five, six rotations.”
“Teams were mentioning that quite a lot to us when we were at the worlds and the grand slams. I don’t think a lot of people had done or seen that many rotations.”
A stone will typically make three or four rotations on its trip before arriving and its intended destination. Mouat, however, believes that additional rotations allow the stone to be better manipulated when directionally sweeping:
“I don’t know if it’s a real science or not, I am not a genius by any stretch of the imagination but we’re getting that late finish.”
From an ice rink in Edinburgh to hopes of Beijing 2022
It was because of Moaut’s father that the Scot found himself in curling, but not perhaps in the way you might traditionally expect.
No member of the Mouat family had ever curled before. It was in fact a fateful clip in a newspaper asking for new junior curling club members that caught the attention of Mouat's parents.
His father took Bruce's brother, two years his senior, along for a session, leaving his younger son on the side peering through the glass. In awe of the sport the moment he saw it at just six years old, Mouat begged his father to let him have a go.
Eventually his insistence won them over and the young Scot was on the ice a year earlier than most clubs usually allow.
He’s rarely been off it since.
In 2018, after finishing his studies at Edinburgh Napier University, Mouat turned professional. Three out of the four members of his team are also committed full time to curling, travelling around the world to compete against the best.
The friends, family, and fans of the quartet are well known for the enthusiasm they pack with them. The familiar cry of the Scottish saying with a Mouat twist can often be heard in the stands: “There’s a Bruce loose about the house!”
While he waits to see if he makes the GB squad for Beijing 2022, Mouat hopes he has done enough to compete in both the men’s and mixed curling competitions:
“If I got the opportunity, I would definitely say yes… I want to get the opportunity to play for two Olympic gold medals.”