The Current

Half the players, twice the fun? Mixed doubles curling debuts at Winter Games — and Canada seeks the gold

Canada's curling duo Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris take on this faster and more exciting variation of a favourite Canadian sport.
Kaitlyn Lawes, left, and John Morris, right, clinched an Olympic berth by winning the Canadian mixed doubles curling trials in Manitoba on Sunday. (Devin Heroux/CBC Sports)

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Curling has long been a Canadian staple, but the sport is facing a shake-up.

A new form of curling will make its Olympic debut at the Pyeonchang Games: mixed doubles.

It's faster, more exciting, and when mixed doubles curling kicks off ahead of Friday's opening ceremonies, Canada will be vying for a medal.

"Curling here in Canada, we're rock solid — we're amazing curlers and these countries have something to worry about, with us coming," said Pam Kok, President of Winnipeg's St. Vitaly Curling Club.

Olympic veterans Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris may only have had 30 minutes of training together before they hit the ice in Olympic trials, but the duo clinched their Olympic spot in the new curling mixed doubles event last month.

Lawes, Morris bound for Olympics after winning the Canadian mixed doubles curling trials

6 years ago
Duration 0:56
Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris clinch an Olympic berth after defeating Brad Gushue and Val Sweeting in Sunday's Canadian mixed doubles curling trials final.
Lawes and Morris are big names in the curling world in their own right — both have won Olympic golds — but never together. Now they're looking for gold, as one, at Pyeonchang.

Like many, Kok said she was unsure about the new curling form at first. But now, she's come around.

Kok enjoys the shorter, quicker game and says the speed will be more interesting for Canadian audiences.

"It's really fast-paced," Kok told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"I didn't realize how physically demanding it was, sweeping your own rock. You use your cardiovascular system a lot more."

So, what does mixed doubles curling look like?

Teams in curling have been traditionally separated by gender into teams of four, with each athlete having a specific role — but this new type of curling features a mixed gendered team made up of two people.

Instead of throwing the traditional eight rocks, five are thrown in mixed doubles, with rocks already placed at the end.

Kok says play is typically more to the centre, more difficult to score, and game speed is much faster — in fact it's half the time.

Canada, off to a late start?

According to Kok, the first mixed doubles curling competition popped up in Europe in 2008, so why did it take so long for Canada to catch on?

"I think we really love our four-person curling and we love the camaraderie. Our clubs have always been filled," Kok added. "It's my understanding that it started in Europe because it was easier to get two people into a club rather than four."

With a deep pool of talented curlers in Canada, Kok said filling the ice has never been a problem. This new version of the sport provides another opportunity for more Canadian medals.

But, not without hard-earned competition ahead.

"It's going to be tough"

"I'm really hoping they're going to medal — of course, gold," said Kok. "Their biggest competition is Switzerland — they've won six gold in the World Curling Championships."

Other countries like Russia and Hungary also have formidable teams, said Kok.

Kaitlyn Lawes and partner John Morris look to knock out the competition at this year's Winter Games. (Wong Maye-E/Associated Press)

But above all else, Kok deeply believes in Lawes' talent. She's seen it since she was a little girl where they belonged to the same hometown rink in Winnipeg.

"I saw this little girl throwing rocks — I was just mesmerized by her. I asked who is that young girl, I really need to know her name. Her technique and mechanics were just amazing, it just really caught my attention...She was 5 years-old."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Julie Crysler.