The popularity of mixed curling is about to explode as Canada sends it’s very first hopefuls to Pyeongchang, South Korea next month. This will be the first time that Mixed Doubles Curling is an official sport at the Winter Games.

While this sport is in its infancy in Canada, it’s been gaining popularity for a number of years overseas. In countries where finding a solid foursome can be a challenge, doubles offer an opportunity to buddy up and hit the ice. And the game itself offers a lot of excitement.

Offence, and a lot of it! There’s also not a lot of downtime between shots. So while players admit that it puts the pressure on, for the fan, it’s a much more fast paced high risk, high reward style than traditional curling.

So how is it different?

mixed curling rock placementPhoto from www.worldcurling.org

  • Pre-placed stones will be positioned so that the team with last stone advantage (hammer) will start the end with one stone at the back of the four-foot circle. The team without the last stone advantage will start with a centre guard.

Important Rules:

  • One player plays stones one and five

  • The other player plays stones two, three and four.

  • Both players are allowed to switch playing positions in-between ends.

  • Both players can sweep

  • Having a player holding the broom at the other end is optional.

Important rules to remember in Mixed Doubles Curling:

  • The first take-out is allowed with the fourth stone played in each end

  • Before that, teams are not allowed to hit either their opponents or their own stones out of play

  • If an end is blanked (neither team scores), the team that delivered the first stone in that end shall have the decision on placement in the next end

  • Teams have 22 minutes of thinking time each

  • Games are 8 ends long, with an extra end played to break ties

The Power Play:

  • This means that both teams have the right to use a ’Power Play’ once in every game, in an end where they have last stone advantage.

  • When a ’Power Play’ is being used, the pre-placed stones will be moved out to one of the sides, and placed as a corner guard and a stone behind it, with the back of the stone against the tee line.

  • The ‘Power Play’ cannot be used in an extra end.

We were able to catch this action first hand in Portage La Prairie this past week as 18 teams mainly made up men and women curling superstars who joined forces after missing their chances at Pyeongchang as a foursome. Combos like Jennifer Jones and Mark Nichols, Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue, Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris, and even couples competing like Dawn and Mike McEwan.We were able to catch this action first hand in Portage La Prairie this past week as 18 teams mainly made up men and women curling superstars who joined forces after missing their chances at Pyeongchang as a foursome. Combos like Jennifer Jones and Mark Nichols, Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue, Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris, and even couples competing like Dawn and Mike McEwan.

morris lawes arms raisedKaitlyn Lawes and John Morris after securing the maple leaf and a trip to Pyeongchang

It may seem odd, or even amateur to you that Mixed Doubles is a “backup sport” for some of these superstars. A chance for them to make it to the Winter Games after failing to do so in the “sport of choice”. While you aren’t wrong, we have to understand that this sport is in its infancy and is only now about to explode in popularity.

There will come a day where Canada takes the international lead and brings news strategies and new dynamics to the sport. Players dedicating themselves to solely this discipline and foregoing their former foursomes. Elevating it to a new level of competition in much the same way that our Canadian teams have in mens and womens fours over the past two decades. For now though, we’re playing a bit of catch-up with the rest of the world.

So how does that affect our chances at medaling in February? You only have to look at the two very talented individuals that came out on top at the Mixed Curling Trials to have an answer. Not only did we get two of best curlers in Canada, but both are former gold medalists at the Winter Games with their respective foursomes. Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris rode on the back of a spectacular 4 point end in the 4th, ultimately defeating Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue to claim the maple leaf clad jackets and a trip to Pyeongchang.

A medal in curling for Canada is tradition. We’ve never missed since curling’s introduction in 1994 when Sandra Schmirler took Gold and Mike Harris silver. For Lawes and Morris, both have tasted Gold in the past, Morris in 2010 and Lawes in 2014. They bring talent, determination, and focus that is unparalleled in curling. What they lack is experience, both admitting that they are learning on the fly.

Even with little experience as a nation, Canada heads into the games ranked 2nd behind China and just ahead of “Olympic athletes from Russia.” The odds of a medal and even the top of the podium seem pretty good with Lawes and Morris at the helm. The odds of it being very entertaining are even better.

Here's what our champions had to say about the journey to come.

 

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