Morris and Lawes kept their heads up — and made Canadian curling history

From overcoming crushing defeats at the Canadian team trials to navigating some rocky moments at the Olympics, John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes never quit, always made the most of their second chances and were rewarded with gold.

Resilient mixed doubles champs become 1st Canadian curlers to win 2 Olympic gold medals

John Morris gave Kaitlyn Lawes a lift when they won the mixed doubles gold-medal game Tuesday in Pyeongchang— just as the Canadian teammates picked each other up several times on the road to their victory. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports

Their story is about second chances — and making good on them. 

Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris couldn't have known two months ago, after suffering bitter defeats at the Canadian team curling trials in Ottawa, that this moment was coming. 

Their second chance at Olympic glory came in the form of mixed doubles, which just made its debut at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang. On Tuesday night, they seized it. 

Under the bright lights of the Gangneung Curling Centre, with Canadian fans cheering loudly, Lawes and Morris captured the first-ever mixed doubles Olympic gold by defeating Switzerland 10-3 in six ends.

Morris, born in Winnipeg and raised in Ottawa, had previously won gold in the traditional team event in 2010. Lawes, from Winnipeg, won in 2014. They are the first Canadians ever to win two Olympic gold medals in curling.

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"You never know how many times you're going to get to an Olympics and it's just such a privilege if you can get one," Morris said. "If you can get to two coming from a country like Canada and wearing that maple leaf on your back, it's remarkable."

The game was never really in doubt. The closest it got was a 2-2 tie heading to the third end, where things turned in Canada's favour. Lawes made one of her many perfect shots in the final to put four points on the board. With a 6-2 lead, Canada never looked back.

"I don't know if this is ever going to sink in," Lawes said. "The first one hasn't yet, to be honest. It's an incredible honour to represent our country on the world stage and bring home another gold medal."

'Precious' moment

Morris had his mom and dad in the crowd. Lawes had her mom, brother and boyfriend. They were decked out from head to toe in Canadian gear, and when the game ended, they went wild in a sea of red and white. 

"Unbelievable," said Kaitlyn's mom, Cheryl, fighting back tears. "This is precious. So precious and our kids are precious. Every one of them."

Cheryl brought with her the same flag she draped over Kaitlyn four years ago in Sochi. But for the Lawes family, there was still someone missing. Kaitlyn's dad, Keith, died of cancer a little more than 10 years ago. 

"I just wish he could see this," Cheryl said. 

It was Keith who introduced Kaitlyn to curling. He loved the game. It was his life. And he shared that passion with his daughter.

"My dad is with me every time I'm on the ice," Lawes said.

Cheryl was embraced by Earle and Maureen Morris. They've been married for more than 40 years and have been together in the stands watching John win gold twice.

"This was a lot of work but it was well worth it," Maureen said at the end of the game. "A few more grey hairs, but I'm so proud."

She also talked about the maturity and growth of her son — not only on the ice, but off it as well.

"I think he showed a lot of Canadians that there's a lot more to John Morris than what they sometimes see."

Unlikely pairing

It's almost unfathomable to consider that, just two months ago, Lawes and Morris weren't even a team. They were so focused on their respective four-person rinks' Olympic pursuits that they hadn't really prepared for mixed doubles.

Morris normally plays mixed doubles with Rachel Homan. But when she skipped her team to victory at the Canadian trials, earning her own ticket to the Olympics, Morris had to scramble to find a new partner. He messaged Lawes after her team lost out in the trials and she jumped at the opportunity.

"It was an easy decision to want to play in mixed doubles," she said. "I played with John years ago and have been a huge fan of the game. It was really easy to get up for this."

They practised once, for about 30 minutes in Winnipeg, before the Canadian mixed doubles trials in Portage la Prairie, Man., last month. It didn't start well there. They were 2-3 after five games. But after that, they would only lose one more time in the trials — in the non-elimination 1 vs. 2 playoff game.

They won their next game — capitalizing on another one of those second chances — to fight their way back to the final, where they defeated Brad Gushue and Val Sweeting to get back to the Games.

"There are a lot of ups and downs in mixed doubles," Morris said. "It's really easy to get down on yourself. I think the key strength to our team is our dynamic. We have a really positive dynamic. We communicated really well in some challenging moments this week."

At the Olympics, there would be more adversity to overcome as a team. 

Lawes had played brilliantly early in the tournament, but in the semifinal against Norway, she found herself struggling in the first half of the game. At the break, Morris told her how much he believed in her ability to make shots. In the second half, Lawes was nearly perfect.

"John just reassured me we have to be patient and we'll find a way. He gave me the confidence to make those last shots when I needed it," Lawes said.

"That's a great teammate right there. To not give up on yourself or your teammate. I'm really lucky John brought out the best of me this week."

He gave her a second chance to be great. She seized it. 

They're golden again.