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Canadian Mixed starts Saturday in Sudbury

The Canadian Mixed Curling Championship gets underway Saturday at the Sudbury Curling Club.

However, for the first time, 14 teams, representing the 10 provinces plus separate entries for Northern Ontario, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon, will compete in the round robin, which features three draws daily through Thursday, with a final draw on Friday morning, prior to any required tiebreakers and playoffs.

2012 Canadian Mixed Curling Championship

The first place team qualifies directly into the final on Saturday, November 19, while the second and third place teams meet in a semi-final to determine the other finalist. The bottom four provinces/territories this year will compete in a double knockout prior to next year’s Mixed in order to qualify two of them for the national championship, which will thus become a 12-team draw in future.

Among the skips competing in this 49th edition of The Mixed, which began in 1964 in Toronto, are Alberta’s Kurt Balderston, Manitoba’s Sean Grassie and Prince Edward Island’s Brett Gallant.

Balderston won the 1992 Canadian Mixed in Grande Prairie, Alberta, while Grassie is also a former Mixed champion, having taken the 2009 renewal in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Gallant won the 2009 M&M Meat Shops Canadian Junior Men’s title in Salmon Arm, BC, before going on to capture a silver medal at the World Juniors that year in Vancouver.

Also competing will be New Brunswick skip Sylvie Robichaud, a former provincial junior and women’s champion, who is bidding to become only the second female to win the Mixed as skip, and Ontario’s Rachel Homan, the 2010 Canadian Junior Women’s champion (in Sorel-Tracy, QC) and World Juniors silver medallist (in Flims, Switzerland), who will play third for her brother Mark Homan.

Last year, Prince Edward Island, skipped by Robert Campbell, won the Canadian Mixed in Morris, Manitoba, defeating the host province’s Terry McNamee in the final.

Alberta leads all provinces/territories with nine Mixed crowns, the last by skip Dean Ross in the 2008 edition in Calgary. Saskatchewan and Manitoba each have eight wins. In fact, every province, plus Northern Ontario, has won at least one Canadian Mixed title since the competition began in 1964. Host Northern Ontario is a three-time winner, the last by skip Chris Johnson in 1997 in Kindersley, Saskatchewan.

Over the years, the Mixed has been won by such well-known curlers as Jeff Stoughton, Rick Folk, Rick Lang, Kevin Koe, Mark Dacey, Mark Nichols, Jean-Michel Ménard, Colleen Jones and Shannon Kleibrink, who became the first woman to win the Mixed as skip in 2004 in Schumacher (Timmins), Ontario.

Saskatchewan’s Larry McGrath is the only three-time winning skip, having won the Mixed in 1967, 1968 and 1971.

Next year’s Canadian Mixed is slated for Montreal, while Ottawa will host the championship the following year.