Norway ruins Canada's Olympic mixed doubles curling debut
Canadians John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes suffer 1st-ever defeat at the Olympics
By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports
Canadian curlers John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes had never known what it felt like to lose a game at the Olympics — until now. They were a combined 22-0 in their past Winter Games experiences with their respective teams.
But in the historic debut of mixed doubles Olympic curling, Norway stunned the Canadians 9-6 under the bright lights of the Gangneung Curling Venue on Thursday in South Korea.
"The last three ends I missed a key shot each end and they were turning points," Morris said. "For the most part I think we outplayed them but key misses were killers."
A back-and-forth curling battle came down to the final shot. Lawes was forced to play a difficult tap to the button to force an extra end down 7-6. Her rock missed wide, sealing the victory for Norway.
"Obviously we wanted to start off with a win but thankfully it's a long week. We'll come back stronger," Lawes said.
Coming into the game, Morris and Lawes were undefeated at the Olympics. Morris was part of Kevin Martin's Canadian team that was perfect in Vancouver at the 2010 Games. Lawes was part of Jennifer Jones' team four years ago that was also perfect.
Norwegian curlers Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten were surprised after the game to find out they finally handed the two Canadian curlers their first loss at the Olympics.
"That's cool," Nedregotten said with a smile. "That's very good. I have a lot of respect for Canada. They're going to win a lot of games."
Skaslien was equally thrilled by defeating the curling giants.
"Canada is one of the favourites and beating them in the first game is a really great feeling."
Historic 1st game
A near capacity crowd of mostly Korean fans, many watching curling for the first time, cheered wildly when the home side made a shot. Many of the spectators waved Korean flags, some had cowbells, others wore flashing purple lights on their heads as they watched a spot they're just getting to know.
The loudest cheer of the day came in the seventh end, when the Koreans scored four points to defeat Finland 9-4. Hyeji Jang and Kijeong Lee smiled wide and waved to the crowd — they erupted in a thunderous applause.
In other games, the USA defeated the Olympic Athletes of Russia 9-3 and Switzerland defeated Japan 7-5.
Also in attendance for the first-ever mixed doubles Olympic game was Canada's Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. She sat among a group of red and white fans inside the venue.
Despite the loss to Norway, the magnitude of the event wasn't lost on Lawes.
"To be able to slide over the Olympic Rings and be part of something historic is really powerful and special and something I'll never forget," she said.
But she wouldn't mind more noise when Canada makes a shot.
"The louder the better so I encourage them to be a little bit more rowdy out there."
In the post-game interview after the loss, Morris and Lawes were cool, calm and seemingly relaxed. They've lost meaningful games at big events before (never at the Olympics though) and seemed unfazed by the opening game defeat.
"You have to have a short memory. We're going to park this one," Morris said.
The two Canadians will spend the day regrouping before Thursday game (6:05 a.m. ET) in South Korea against the United States. Matt and Becca Hamilton are a brother and sister duo representing the Americans. They are considered top contenders at this event.
"There are free bingo spaces here. They're the best in the world," Lawes said.
Morris and Lawes both admit to playing their best curling when they need it the most. They were 2-3 at one point during the Olympic trials last month when they were able to go on a winning streak.
"Bottom line is we have to make playoffs whatever we can," Morris said. "There are a lot of great teams here but if we play our game, we'll be fine."