Mixed doubles curling gets Olympic boost in Thunder Bay

The Olympic debut of mixed doubles curling — in which Canada claimed gold this week — has thrown the sport into the international spotlight, and is already inspiring some people in northwestern Ontario to give it a try.

The Kakabeka Curling Club recently started a new mixed doubles league

Canada's Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris won the first-ever Winter Games gold medal in mixed doubles curling on Tuesday, defeating Switzerland 10-3 in six ends at the Gangneung Curling Centre in South Korea. (Harry How/Getty Images)

The Olympic debut of mixed doubles curling — in which Canada claimed gold this week — has thrown the sport into the international spotlight, and is already inspiring some people in northwestern Ontario to give it a try. 

Mixed doubles curling, which involves teams of two (one man and one woman) instead of four, is still a relatively new concept for many players. 

But curlers at the Kakabeka Curling Club, located just outside of Thunder Bay, Ont., are becoming more familiar with the game this winter, now that the club has launched its first mixed doubles league. 

"We had a couple of free nights at the curling club, and so the board got together and thought that this would be a good time, with it being an Olympic sport, to introduce it to the curlers," said club member Ralph Rosengren.  

"Last week was the first week and it went over very well. A lot of interest."

Rosengren said the new league has attracted eight teams, and a good mix of novice and experienced curlers, and since you only need two players, it's easy for people to sign up with a spouse or friend. 

Now that mixed doubles is an Olympic sport, he expects it will continue to catch on, he said. 

He's not the only one who expects the sport will grow in the city. 

Sarah and Jordan Potts decided to give mixed doubles curling a try a few years ago, and made it to national competition. (Sarah Potts)

'Fast-paced' and 'athletic'

Although it's still gaining a foothold in Canada, there's lots to love about the game, said Sarah Potts, a competitive curler in Thunder Bay who, several years ago, played mixed doubles curling with her husband, Jordan Potts, at the nationals. 

With only two players per team, the games are quick and action-packed, she said. 

"It's very athletic. If you watch the sport, it's super fast-paced, they're getting up and sweeping their own rocks, or they're holding the broom and they run to go sweep. There's a lot less down time. It looks exhausting to watch." 

Potts, who is on the board of the Fort William Curling Club, said they don't have a mixed doubles league yet, but she expects that will change soon.

"I think [a league] could be really appealing," she said. "I think it's definitely something we want to look at for next curling season."