Canada improves to 1-1 on first-ever day of Olympic mixed doubles curling
GANGNEUNG, Korea, Republic Of - Canada’s John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes improved to 1-1 in the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles curling competition on Thursday.
The pair picked up a hard-fought 6-4 victory over Matt and Becca Hamilton of the United States in the evening draw after dropping their opener 9-6 to Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten in the morning.
Canada’s first competitors at the Pyeongchang Games, which officially open Friday, Morris and Lawes were disappointed with a couple of crucial mistakes against the Norwegians, but were much better against the American brother-sister duo, who also now sit at 1-1.
The Canadians scored three in the fifth end to grab a 5-2 lead over the Hamiltons before the U.S. team replied with one in the sixth and stole another point in the seventh when Lawes nicked the guard on her final throw.
But the 29-year-old from Winnipeg sealed things in the eight and final end with a draw to the button for the 6-4 final.
Morris and Lawes are set to meet China (1-1) and Finland (0-2) on Friday.
Traditional men’s and women’s curling has been at the Olympics since 1998, but mixed doubles — a faster and sometimes seemingly more chaotic incarnation of the sport — is making its debut at the 2018 Winter Games.
Each team is comprised of one male and one female, with six stones to play instead of the usual eight. Games are eight ends instead of 10.
“To be able to slide over the Olympic rings and to feel as though we’re part of something historic is really powerful and special,” said Lawes. “It’s something I’ll never forget. I’m really proud and honoured to be a part of this.”
Morris shouldered the blame for the loss to Norway after some uncharacteristic errors at critical times.
“There were probably three key shots in the later ends that I didn’t execute ... that was the turning point of that game,” the 39-year-old from Ottawa said following the morning draw. “If I make any of them we’re in a real good position.
“Just have to pick up the ice a little bit better. The ice was nice and consistent, but I have to make sure I throw to my tolerance a bit more so that if I do miss, it’s not a killer miss.”
Down 7-6 in the eighth end, Canada was lying two when Morris bumped a pair of his team’s rocks out of position while at the same time promoting a Norwegian stone — a mistake the Canadians would be unable to recover from as their opponents stole two to seal the win.
“We weren’t in a great position,” said Morris. “We were lying two, but they had a few outs so we wanted to make sure we gave Kaitlyn a shot for two rather than no shot for two. We played a more aggressive call ... I missed it the wrong way.
“I’ve got to be better than that.”
Morris won Olympic gold in 2010 playing third for Kevin Martin, while Lawes topped the podium in 2014 as vice for Jennifer Jones.
The duo had little experience playing mixed doubles together prior to winning January’s trials — a competition where they rebounded to qualify for Pyeongchang after losing three of their first five games.
The stands at the Gangneung Curling Centre for Thursday’s early draw that started just after 9 a.m. local time filled out soon after the first stones hit the ice, with the South Korean fans cheering their team onto a 9-4 victory over Finland.
“It was a really awesome atmosphere,” said Morris. “It was so amazing to see a lot of Korean fans out there. A lot of them, I think it was their first time watching curling.
“It was fantastic to hear the roars from the Korean fans.”
Eight teams are taking part in mixed curling at the Olympics, with the top-4 qualifying for the medal round.
Canada has made the mixed doubles podium just twice at the world championships, grabbing a silver in 2017 and a bronze in 2009.
“Unfortunately there’s not free bingo spaces here,” Lawes said following the loss to Finland. “Everyone has earned their right and they’re the best of the world.”
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