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Canada’s Olympic curling teams are finally complete
Rocks start flying in Beijing in 20 days, but it took until this morning for Canada to announce its final entry. John Morris and Rachel Homan will defend the mixed doubles gold medal that Morris won in 2018 with former teammate Kaitlyn Lawes.
Homan and Morris were among the 16 teams that were supposed to compete for Canada’s spot in the Olympic tournament at the national mixed doubles trials in Manitoba before the event was cancelled last month. A Curling Canada-led committee spent the last few weeks deciding which duo to send to China, weighing factors including recent mixed-doubles performance along with international success in traditional curling. Another flashy pairing in the running was reigning Scotties champ Kerri Einarson and 2014 Olympic men’s gold medallist Brad Jacobs. There was also considerable lobbying from players who devote themselves to mixed doubles and believe that should count.
But, in the end, talent won out. If the goal is to send the team with the highest ceiling, then the selection committee settled on the most obvious pick. Morris, 43, is a proven Olympic performer who won a men’s gold medal as the third for Kevin Martin in 2010 before taking the mixed doubles title with Lawes in 2018. The 32-year-old Homan is one of the most successful curlers ever, with three Scotties titles and a world championship in her trophy case. And theirs is no shotgun partnership. Homan and Morris have played mixed doubles together since 2015. Morris turned to Lawes four years ago after Homan won the Canadian women’s trials, which made her ineligible for Olympic mixed doubles because of the Curling Canada policy prohibiting anyone from competing in more than one curling event at the same Games.
As for Lawes, she’s heading to Beijing too as a member of the Jennifer Jones-skipped rink that won the Canadian women’s trials in November. Brad Gushue’s team won the men’s. In Gushue and Jones, Canada will have a former Olympic gold medallist at skip in both of the traditional curling tournaments in Beijing.
Now that we finally know everyone who’s playing for Canada, let’s take a quick look at the three Olympic curling tournaments and what the Canadian teams are facing:
First, let’s appreciate the simplicity of the Olympic curling tournaments. All three events start with a 10-team round robin, and the top four advance to the semifinals. The semifinal winners play for gold. The semifinal losers play for bronze. No Page playoffs, no weird triple-knockout brackets to decipher. Easy.
In 2018, when mixed doubles made its Olympic debut with an eight-team event, Morris and Lawes were a wrecking ball. After losing their opener to Norway, they reeled off eight straight wins to take gold, including a 10-3 demolition of Switzerland in the final.
The silver-medal Swiss duo of Jenny Perret and Martin Rios are back for Beijing. So is the Norwegian pairing of Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten, who were awarded bronze after the man on the Russian team that beat them failed a doping test. Besides Homan, the only other big-name skip involved in the mixed doubles tournament is Great Britain’s Bruce Mouat, a two-time European men’s champ who took silver at the men’s worlds last year.
A big storyline in Beijing will be Homan’s attempt to redeem herself from a disastrous showing in the women’s event in 2018. Her team went 4-5 and became the first Canadian rink to miss the playoffs at the Olympics.
The mixed doubles event gets underway Feb. 2 at 7:05 a.m. ET, and Homan and Morris play their first game that night at 8:05 p.m. ET vs. Great Britain. The semifinals are on the morning of Feb. 7 in Canadian time zones, and the gold-medal game is the next day at 7:05 a.m. ET.
Canada also flopped in this event in 2018, with Kevin Koe’s team losing in the semifinals to eventual champion John Shuster of the U.S. and then getting upset by Switzerland in the bronze-medal game. Before these Games, no Canadian curling team had ever failed to win a medal. In Pyeongchang, both traditional teams did.
For Gushue, a lot has changed since he won his Olympic gold medal in Italy 16 years ago. Back then, he was a talented yet still somewhat raw youngster who threw fourth rocks but leaned on the legendary Russ Howard to call games from the second position (in the official Olympic records, Howard is listed as the skip). Now Gushue is all grown up — a 41-year-old father of two who’s fully in command of his craft. He captured three Brier titles from 2017-20 and a world championship in ’17. Gushue took care of business as the favourite at the Canadian trials in November, losing only one game en route to defeating Jacobs in the final.
The competition in Beijing will be tough. It includes Shuster, Mouat and five-time world champion Nik Edin of Sweden, who’s looking for his first Olympic gold after taking bronze in 2014 and silver in ’18. The tournament opens Feb. 8 at 7:05 a.m. ET, when Canada faces Denmark. The semis are the morning of Feb. 17 in Canadian time zones, and the gold-medal game is Feb. 18 at 1:05 a.m. ET.
Jennifer Jones is curling royalty — the winner of a record-tying six Scotties, a two-time world champion and an Olympic gold medallist in 2014. But her victory at the Canadian trials was somewhat of a surprise. At 47, Jones was considered to be past her prime, and most observers rated her behind Homan, Einarson and the red-hot Tracy Fleury. Sure enough, Jones lost to all of them in the round robin. But when the chips were down she came through, trouncing Krista McCarville in the semis before stealing the final from an undefeated Fleury in an extra end.
In Beijing, Jones will be up against all three medallists from 2018: defending champ Anna Hasselborg of Sweden, South Korea’s Kim Eun-jung (silver) and Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa (bronze). There’s also the winner of the last two world championships — Switzerland’s Silvana Tirinzoni — and 2013 world champ Eve Muirhead of Great Britain, who took Olympic bronze in 2014.
The women’s tournament starts Feb. 9 at 8:05 p.m. ET, and Canada plays its first game Feb. 10 at 7:05 a.m. ET vs. South Korea. The semifinals go in the morning of Feb. 18 in Canadian time zones, and the final is Feb. 19 at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Read more about today’s mixed doubles team announcement in this story by CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux. Devin and co-host Colleen Jones (the other six-time Scotties winner) will be joined by Jones, Gushue, Homan and Morris on tonight’s episode of That Curling Show. Watch it at 7 p.m. ET on CBC Sports’ YouTube channel.
A Canadian woman is a candidate to become GM of the Minnesota Vikings. The NFL team has reportedly requested an interview with Catherine Raiche, a 33-year-old who is vice-president of football operations for the Philadelphia Eagles. The highest-ranking woman in an NFL personnel department, Raiche has been with the Eagles since 2019 and was promoted to her current role last year. Before that, she worked for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes, where she was the team’s assistant GM. Only one woman has been an NFL GM. Susan Tose Spencer was appointed by then Eagles owner Leonard Tose, her father, in 1983. Read more about Raiche’s potential interview with Minnesota here.
Novak Djokovic learned his opponent for the first round of the Australian Open — if he’s allowed to play. The men’s No. 1 will face unseeded fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday or Tuesday, assuming Australia’s immigration minister doesn’t exercise his power to deport Djokovic for failing to comply with the country’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for foreign visitors. A final decision on that has still not been announced. The highest-seeded Canadian singles player, men’s No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime, drew Finland’s unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori. No. 14 Denis Shapovalov, who along with Auger-Aliassime helped Canada win its first ATP Cup title last weekend, will face unseeded Serb Laslo Djere. Women’s No. 23 Leylah Fernandez looks to build on her surprising run to the U.S. Open final last year as she meets Australian wild card Maddison Inglis. Bianca Andreescu is skipping the tournament, while Rebecca Marino is the lone Canadian left in qualifying. Read more about Djokovic’s situation and the Aussie Open draw here. Read more about the Canadians’ paths here.
Coming up on CBC Sports
Here’s what you can live-stream Friday on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem:
Skeleton: Canada’s best hopes for a medal at this week’s World Cup stop in St. Moritz, Switzerland are in the women’s event. Mirela Rahneva is ranked ninth and captured Canada’s only medal so far this season with a bronze last month in Germany. Jane Channell is ranked 12th. Watch the women’s race starting at 3 a.m. ET and the men’s at 7 a.m. ET.
Alpine skiing: One of the most prestigious events in ski racing takes place at 6:30 a.m. ET with the World Cup men’s downhill on the revered Lauberhorn mountain in Wengen, Switzerland. Canada’s Jack Crawford placed fifth in today’s super-G on the same hill.
Ski cross: A bunch of Canadian Olympic contenders are competing in this week’s World Cup stop at Nakiska in Alberta. The women’s races feature 2014 Olympic champion Marielle Thompson and 2018 silver medallist Brittany Phelan. The men’s include reigning Olympic champ Brady Leman and defending World Cup champ Reece Howden. Watch the first of two sets of men’s and women’s events at Nakiska at 2:15 p.m. ET. The second set goes Saturday at the same time.
Freestyle skiing — moguls: Canadian star Mikaël Kingsbury heads into the final World Cup stop before the Olympics, at Utah’s Deer Valley, looking for his 100th career World Cup podium. He’s also chasing his 10th consecutive season title. Kingsbury recaptured the lead from Japan’s Ikuma Horishima with back-to-back victories last week at Mont-Tremblant, Que. They’re competing today at 4 p.m. ET. If you read this in time, watch live here. Friday’s event starts at the same time.
You’re up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.