Canadian mixed curlers owe debt of thanks to a clutch 5th-place finish
Dustin Kalthoff and Marliese Kasner's performance at world championship 2 years ago paved way to Olympic berth
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — When the first Canadian mixed doubles Olympic team in history heads to South Korea this February, there's a Saskatchewan duo that, in a small way, will feel they played a part in the journey.
Lost in all of the hoopla of this new discipline was the performance by Dustin Kalthoff and Marliese Kasner at the world championship two years ago.
They earned the right to represent Canada at that championship by virtue of placing third at nationals. The teams of Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant as well as Laura Crocker and Geoff Walker placed first and second but had prior commitments with their four-person teams and weren't able to go.
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After going undefeated through the round robin in Karlstad, Sweden, Kalthoff and Kasner lost the quarter-final game against Scotland. They were gutted.
"We were playing so well and at the peak of our game," Kalthoff said. "To lose that quarter-final was heartbreaking. It's one we'll never forget about it."
Despite the disappointment, they had to rally and play two more games because Olympic points for qualifying were on the line.
"They came off the ice and were really dejected. And we had to put the Canada hat on and get over that loss and win the next two," said Jeff Stoughton, the program manager for mixed doubles.
The new discipline was only introduced to the Olympics two years ago. Since then Stoughton has been trying to prepare Canadian curlers for the Games in Pyeongchang. That meant getting there first — Canada's mixed doubles teams had to get enough qualifying points at world championships just to earn an available spot to compete in the Games.
That week in Sweden, Stoughton gave Kasner and Kalthoff a pep talk, stressing the importance of the next two games after their quarter-final loss.
"It was a reminder about what was at stake. It was gut-check time and we needed them to win both," Stoughton saod.
Kasner and Kalthoff went out in the next two games and dominated, winning both and collecting the all-important qualifying points.
It might go down as the best fifth-place finish in Canada's curling history, and it has gone a long way in this Olympic pursuit.
"That was a pretty awesome experience. We understood how important it was for Canada and [we went out there] and got the two wins," Kalthoff said.
"I guess we have played a big role in getting Canada into the Olympics," Kasner said, fighting back tears. "It warms my heart to know we did that and help our country out in that way."
The points the pair earned proved vital at last year's world championship, where the duo of Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers assured Canada of a spot in the Olympics by reaching the final, ultimately losing the gold-medal game to Switzerland.
At this week's trials, Kasner and Kalthoff had hoped to parlay that fifth-place finish into a spot in Pyeongchang, but they won just one game and missed the playoffs.
But should Canada win a medal in this new discipline at the Olympics, they can take some solace in knowing they played a part in it.