Two world championships, one Aitken family

  • Mother and daughter - Morna and Gina Aitken © WCF / Tom Rowland

Sitting on a stone as a child, Morna Aitken, was twirled down the ice. Now, decades later she finds herself representing Scotland at the World Senior Curling Championships 2019 in Stavanger, Norway. While she is not new to the world of elite sport, this is the first time it is a family event for her.

Daughter Gina Aitken is competing in the World Mixed Doubles for the fifth time but for the first time joined by her mother. The World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2019 is located under the same roof as the World Seniors. At any given time, either of them can be spotted competing for a world title.

Just like Gina, Morna grew up in a curling family. When her parents moved to Long Niddrie
they heard a great roar. They discovered some locals playing outdoor curling.

This sparked their interest in the sport and eventually led them to their local curling rink. Morna remembers the many times she accompanied her parents but her personal career did not begin until 1979. At the time, the local rink was eager to recruit junior players. Morna took them up on the offer.

With parents like Morna and David, the current senior women’s coach, it is no surprise that Gina was introduced to many sports at an early age. Morna said, “It is good to get lots of sports and then they can choose what they want to do. We just got them started and they could decide what they wanted from there.”

Gina took to curling the way those who came before her had. “I really like the spirit of curling,” she said. “It’s kind of special when you sit with your opposition [after a game] and that’s a nice way to be competitive but still be sportsman-like and meet all sorts of people you may never meet otherwise.”

Gina continued, “We both find it so much fun. That’s why the whole family has just stuck with it.”

Supporting their family on the sidelines is just as important as playing. Throughout the championships friends and family can be seen dressed in Scottish flags chanting over the shouts of the curlers. “I really like watching my mum curl competitively,” said Gina, “She has definitely watched me a lot more than I have watched her. It is quite nice to return the favour. It’s a lot more nerve-wracking in the crowd than when you are on the ice. I guess that’s payback.”

The sidelines brings nervous energy for Morna as well, noting that Gina’s aggressive techniques leave her on edge, but she jokes, “don’t bother, just win it.”

When the pair are not competing on an international stage, they are playing in their local super league. “My favourite moment is when my mum was sweeping. Bob [another teammate] fell over and my mum just swept him away so he wasn’t in front of the stone. That was quite good,” said Gina.

Like any mother, Morna is thrilled with her daughter’s success. “I am very proud of her because she has done so well. She is always smiling,” said Morna as Gina interjects with a grin, “when we’re winning we are smiling.”

Gina and Morna are not the only families competing side by side. 2018 Olympic bronze medallist Satsuki Fujisawa and her father Mitsuyoshi Fujisawa are also competing.

“I am so excited to play mixed doubles but a little bit nervous because my father is playing. I am very happy to play with my dad,” said Satsuki.

And, there are more teams with family connections in Stavanger, the World Mixed Doubles and Seniors Curling Championships have always had that added element with brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children competing together under one roof.

You can follow the coverage and results of the World Mixed Doubles and Senior Curling Championships 2019 on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (@WorldCurlingFederation) and by searching the hashtags #WMDCC2019 #WSCC2019 #curling

by Sport Media Trainee Bailey Martens