Two Olympic gold-medallists will be in the field when the second Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials get underway on Wednesday at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.
Calgary’s John Morris, who played third for Kevin Martin’s 2010 Canadian men’s gold-medal Olympic team in Vancouver, and Winnipeg’s Kaitlyn Lawes, the vice-skip for Jennifer Jones’s gold-medal Canadian women’s team last month in Sochi, will be playing for the right to represent Canada at the World Mixed Doubles Championship, April 23-30 in Dumfries, Scotland.
Morris, who skipped B.C. to a silver-medal finish at the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier earlier this month in Kamloops, B.C., will be teaming with former Canadian mixed champ Heather Smith of Halifax as part of the 32-team field, while Lawes will be playing with her nephew Connor.
Other notable names in the field include two-time world junior men’s champ Charley Thomas of Airdrie, Alta., who’s teaming with fellow Albertan Kalynn Park; five-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts and two-time world women’s champ Mary-Anne Arsenault of Halifax, who’s teamed with Tom Sullivan; defending Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials champ Robert Desjardins of Quebec, who has a new partner this year, Brittany O’Rourke, who played second for Quebec’s Allison Ross at the 2014 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal; 2012 Canadian junior women’s champ Jocelyn Peterman of Red Deer, Alta., who’s teaming with Mitch Young of the Yukon; 2012 Canadian mixed champs Jason Ackerman and Colleen Ackerman of Saskatchewan; and 2013 Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials runners-up Dustin Kalthoff and Nancy Martin of Saskatchewan.
Draw times on Wednesday are set for 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).
It’s the second time the Canadian Curling Association has staged a mixed doubles trials; the pairing of Desjardins and Isabelle Néron captured gold last year in Leduc, Alta., and went on to finish 10th at the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Fredericton, N.B.; Canadian teams for previous world mixed doubles championships were drawn from the winning team at the traditional four-player Canadian mixed curling championship.
The traditional mixed Canadian championship will continue (the 2014-15 Canadian mixed is Nov. 8-15, 2014, at the Granite Curling Club in North Bay, Ont.). The World Curling Federation, with support from the CCA, is making a concerted push to have mixed doubles curling included in the Winter Olympics as soon as the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Canadian Trials competition format will consist of 32 teams (each team consists of one male curler and one female curler) divided into four pools of eight, with the top two from each pool after the round robin plus the four teams with the next-best records advancing to a 12-team single elimination playoff.
The gold-medal game is scheduled for Sunday at 5 p.m.
Twelve Member Association champions are in the field, with 20 more teams coming from a call for entries with priority given to players based on their standing on the Order of Merit, which is based on the CCA’s Canadian Team Ranking System.
The World Mixed Doubles Championship began in 2008 in Vierumäki, Finland. It has since been captured four times in five years by Switzerland. In 2008, it was won by Switzerland’s Irene Schori and Toni Müller, who successfully defended their title the following year in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Russia’s Yana Nekrosova and Petr Dron won the 2010 event in Chelyabinsk, while Switzerland’s Alina Pätz and Sven Michel took the 2011 renewal in St. Paul, Minn. The 2012 edition in Turkey was again won by Switzerland, this time represented by Nadine Lehmann and Martin Rios, while Hungary’s Zsolt Kiss and Dorottya Palancsa won last year in Fredericton, N.B.
In 2008, Canada (Susan O’Connor and Dean Ross) finished fifth while in 2009, Canada earned a bronze medal with a third-place finish by Sean Grassie and Allison Nimik. In 2010, Canada did not compete because the Icelandic volcanic ash caused the temporary cancellation of air travel which prevented Mark Dacey and Heather Smith from arriving in time for the competition.
In 2011, Canada’s Rebecca Jean MacDonald and Robert Campbell finished 12th, while in 2012, Canada’s Chantelle Eberle and Dean Hicke were sixth.
The mixed doubles game format is played over eight ends (instead of the usual 10 at CCA events). Each team has only six stones and one of those stones from each team is pre-positioned on the centre line before every end of play. One player delivers the first and last stones of the end while the other player throws the second, third and fourth stones. If they choose to, the two players may swap positions from one end to the next. Both team members are also allowed to sweep.