Mixed curling partnerships give new meaning to casting 1st stone
From betrothed to engaged to related to just friends, the 18 teams at the Olympic trials are a varied cast
PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — When it comes to the mixed doubles Olympic curling trials, there are all sorts of different pairings, making for some dynamic conversations on and off the ice.
From married couples, an engaged couple, the father/daughter duo of Emilie and Robert Desjardins, a boyfriend and girlfriend team and best friends Chelsea Carey and Colin Hodgson — there have been some great verbal exchanges and body language that tells the story of a shot.
Then there are teams who are playing together for the first time.
It begs the question: is there an advantage to playing with the person you love, or can that just get in the way?
"Your greatest advantage could turn out to be a disadvantage pretty quickly," Manitoba's Mike McEwen says.
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Mike is playing alongside his wife, Dawn, this week. They've done this all before, but they admit they're still learning how to communicate during the game.
"It's taken us two seasons and it's still a work in progress, to learn how communicate out there," Dawn says. "Sometimes when you're playing with your partner you get a little bit vulnerable out there and it could be good and it could be bad."
Mike is candid when he talks about playing with his wife and how he approaches the mixed doubles game. He says in a lot of ways he's his own worst critic and he can be overly hard on himself after key misses.
"Sometimes you can only look in the mirror for who to blame," he says. "It's a learning curve because sometimes I need to be picked up and maybe Dawn's not happy with me for missing."
Despite some vulnerable moments on the ice, Dawn says this is still a remarkable experience.
"I mean, I get to play in the mixed doubles Olympic curling trials with my husband. That's pretty awesome," she says.
The top eight teams advance to the playoff round on Friday, with the championship game set for Sunday afternoon. CBC Sports.ca is streaming every draw through the week and CBC Sports has full television coverage all weekend.
Mixed doubles dating game
Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant owe at least some of their romance to mixed doubles. The two really didn't know one another before Gallant reached out to Peterman a couple of years ago.
Gallant needed a partner for that year's Canadian mixed doubles championship in Saskatoon.
"He just asked me to play over Facebook," Peterman says with a laugh.
Gallant says (with a smirk) his only intention was to find a solid curling partner.
"It was strictly about curling ability," he says.
In that first event together the two captured the championship.
"We've been together ever since and we like mixed doubles a lot," Peterman says.
When it comes to communicating on the ice, both Gallant and Peterman say it's an advantage to be dating because they can be blunt with one another and not fear hurting the other's feelings.
"Sometimes I request his feedback to be a little bit nicer," Peterman says.
"I think Jocelyn knows I'm just trying to get the information across as best I can," Gallant counters. "I think she knows I might say things she might not hear normally, but knows it comes from a good place."
The two are undefeated so far this week going into play Wednesday night.
Rules of engagement
Then there's the engaged couple of Geoff Walker and Laura Crocker.
Walker popped the question about a year ago when they finally escaped the curling rink for a warm escape to Jamaica.
"Geoff proposed on our balcony in Jamaica," Crocker says. "It was really sweet. So we're finally going to get married this coming May."
She plays third on an team out of Edmonton skipped by Kelsey Rocque. Walker plays lead for 2006 Olympic champion Brad Gushue. The two lost in the final of that same national championship two years ago against Peterman and Gallant.
"We're lucky because we've been able to play five or six events together and we practise together as much as we can. And of course we're engaged so we talk a lot," Walker says.
When it comes to the delicate on-ice dance of being critical of each other, both say they don't mind some harsh words from time-to-time.
"We don't have to tip-toe around each other's feelings because we know how to communicate," Crocker says.
The communication about the game doesn't stop on the ice, either.
"After every game we recognize what we did well and what we can improve upon," Walker says.
Crocker and Walker are also undefeated so far at the trials.
They both know how magical this year could be with a wedding on the way and a potential Olympic berth.
"The two of us have dreamed about it but we don't talk about it a lot. It would be the thrill of a lifetime," Walker says.
Getting to know you
Gushue refers to this all as being almost like a first date. He's never played mixed doubles with Val Sweeting before, but here they are, competing for an Olympic opportunity together.
"You're not going to go out there and be an ass. It's like a first date," he says. "You're going to be a nice guy and put a smile on if someone misses."
The two are getting to know one another in a hurry at this competition and say they're improving with each game.
"I think our communication is getting better," Sweeting says.
Gushue and Sweeting are both skips and are used to calling the shots. Now they have make those decisions together. Skips are known for their sweeping prowess and Gushue says there's an advantage to having a sweeper.
"In an ideal world you'd take a women's skip and a front-end men's curler," he says. "Without the sweeping component we have to throw it as pure as we can."
And when they miss, they're not afraid to tell one another about it.
"It sucks to hear you threw it bad, but I think it helps you learn," Sweeting says. "You have to be okay with getting that. Honest feedback is important."