This year's mixed doubles curling championships are an experiment in trial and error, here's why
Largest-ever field includes 48 nations, including five countries making debut
STAVANGER, Norway — The Canadian duo of Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant are cruising along so far at the 2019 mixed doubles world curling championship — in fact, their first three games have resulted in somewhat laughable results.
The Canadians have outscored Romania, Ukraine and Belarus 39-4 in their three victories so far. It's been target practice for Peterman and Gallant.
The two knew it would be a breeze to start the championship. They'd never say it out loud publicly, but these results through the first part of the competition were always to be expected.
"It's crazy right now the number of different countries that are participating," said Gallant.
"For the world championship you want to make sure the competitive teams are battling each other," Gallant said.
That hasn't happened yet. And won't for a few more games.
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The heavyweight mixed doubles nations await the Canadians, including a tilt with the powerhouse Swedish duo of Olympic gold-medal skip Anna Hasselborg and world champion third Oskar Eriksson. There's also the Swiss, who have captured seven out of the last 11 mixed doubles titles. The Americans, Norwegians and Hungarians will also be tough to beat.
For the most part, the world mixed doubles curling championship only features about six or seven teams that could realistically win the entire thing.
Growing the game internationally
In an attempt to grow the game, the World Curling Federation has increased the mixed doubles world championship field to 48 nations this year.
Across six sheets of ice in the massive sporting complex in Stavanger, Norway there are 48 countries competing at this year's event — for perspective, there's 61 total member associations.
"This is a historic moment for our sport. I am delighted to see emerging member associations taking a bold step and entering a world event," said Kate Caithness, World Curling Federation President.
Those nations she's referring to who have taken that bold step onto the pebbled ice include Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Ukraine — they don't have a single sheet of ice to practice on in their countries.
All five of these nations are making their world curling debuts at a championship — the growing pains have been awfully apparent. None of them have won a game.
On Sunday, between two sheets of ice, Nigeria and Ukraine were outscored 38-0. Some of the scores have resembled a game of football.
"Having 48 teams compete in what will be our last open entry World Mixed Doubles Championship is a fitting end to this chapter in mixed doubles history," Caithness said.
At next year's event the field will be trimmed down from 48 teams to 20 teams. The 28 more nations this year was an intentional attempt to get non-curling countries to catch the roaring game spirit.
The coming years will prove whether or not this curling extravaganza in Norway paid off.
But is a world championship the proper place for this experiment? It's supposed to feature the best of the best.
It's fair to concede this year's event is an exercise in growing the game. The top teams will still be there in the end but getting to that point is going to somewhat disastrous on the ice for some of the first-timers.
"I think it's great for the game," said Canadian coach Jeff Stoughton. "There are obviously going to be some lopsided games out there if you're playing a team that is a little more experienced."
What next for mixed doubles on the world stage?
This somewhat new discipline burst onto the curling scene seemingly overnight when it was included in the Olympic program last February in Pyeongchang.
The Canadian team of Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris captured the hearts and minds of the country when they swept their way to the first-ever Olympic mixed doubles gold.
In a lot of ways they were the perfect duo for the event — poster children for the quirky, fast-paced style of game that was first met with skepticism by fans but that quickly changed. Winning does that. But so does the non-stop action mixed doubles curling provides.
So while the World Curling Federation continues to work relentlessly to grow the sport around the world in places where there isn't even ice nor snow, the Canadians will continue to relentlessly work to stay atop the curling world.
And yet despite all the success the Canadians have in curling, they've yet to win a mixed doubles world curling championship — some countries making their first appearances, Canada looking for its first gold medal.