The final curling championship of this abbreviated 2021 season gets underway today in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The World Mixed Doubles Championship sees 20 nations competing for the first time. In 2019 a record 48 nations participated in the last year of open-entry event status. The 2020 championship, cancelled due to COVID-19, was to be the first managed under a new system of qualification.

Curl Aberdeen, founded in 2005 and located in the northeast of Scotland, has previously hosted the 2009 European Championships, the 2018 World Juniors and the 2019 World Mixed Championship.

Special Covid-secure arrangements have been developed in consultation with the Scottish government and relevant authorities. Athletes and coaches recently emerged from hotel quarantine for practice sessions in advance of today’s round robin play.

The field is divided into two 10-team round robin groups:

Group A: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Korea, RCF, Scotland

Group B: China, England, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, United States.

In Group A, Canada’s Kerri Einarson and Brad Gushue will be most likely challenged by Scotland’s Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat—the latter excelled at the Calgary bubble—and Hungary’s Dorottya Palancsa and Zsolt Kiss, who won the 2013 and 2015 titles.

Canada • Céline Stucki-World Curling Federation

Canada • Céline Stucki-World Curling Federation

Australians Gill Talhi and Dean Hewitt earned their country’s highest-ever finish (fourth) in 2019, while the success of RCF’s men’s and women’s squads in Calgary mean the mixed doubled pairing of Anastasia Moskaleva and Aleksandr Eremin cannot be discounted.

Group B features three of Europe’s top teams. 2018 Olympic silver went to Switzerland’s Jenny Perret and Martin Rios; Olympic bronze to Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten; and Sweden’s Almida De Val now partners 2019 double world champion Oskar Eriksson.

USA’s Tabitha Peterson and veteran Joe Polo are an impressive pairing, and international curling fans will recognize Finland’s Oona and Aku Kauste, the former skips of Finland’s national four-player teams.

Scotland • Céline Stucki-World Curling Federation

Scotland • Céline Stucki-World Curling Federation

The round robin concludes on Friday, May 21 and determines the top three from each group moving on to playoffs.

Both group leaders will qualify direct for the semifinals, while the second and third teams from Group A will play the third and second teams from Group B in qualification games. The winners of those games proceed to the semifinals. Qualification games and semifinals will take place on May 22.

The bronze medal game and the gold medal final will both be staged on Sunday, May 23.

The championship acts as a direct qualifier for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games mixed doubles event.

The Olympics will involve 10 teams (expanded from eight teams in 2018) and the results from this world championship will qualify seven spots, in addition to hosts China.

USA • Céline Stucki-World Curling Federation

USA • Céline Stucki-World Curling Federation

 The remaining two available Olympic berths will be determined at an Olympic Qualification Event later in 2021, with all teams taking part in this championship that have not qualified directly eligible to compete.

The teams finishing at the bottom of each group in Aberdeen will be relegated to next season’s World Mixed Doubles Qualification event.

There will be relegation games that will see the eighth-ranked team of each group playing the ninth-ranked team in the other group. The winners of these matchups will become the last two of 16 teams to qualify directly for next year’s championship, while the losers will move onto next season’s Qualification Event.

World Curling TV will be broadcasting a single game from each session of play during the round robin stage. A single qualification game will then be broadcast, then followed by each semifinal and both medal games.