By Steve Keating
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Canada were crowned the first Olympics mixed doubles curling champions on Tuesday, claiming gold with a 10-3 blowout win over world champions Switzerland.
The victory placed John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes in elite company, the Canadians adding their names to a short list of four curlers who have won two Olympic gold medals.
Lawes, a member of Canada’s gold medal women’s team in Sochi, and Morris, part of the men’s gold medal foursome at the 2010 Vancouver Games, got the Pyeongchang Games off to a rocky start by dropping their opener but that would be their only blemish on an otherwise flawless run to the gold medal.
Swiss pair Jenny Perret and Martin Rios added an Olympic silver to their world championship title.
“You never know how many times you are going to get to an Olympics, it’s such a privilege if you can get to one,” Morris told reporters.
“The pressure is always on whether you are a hockey player or a hockey fan everyone wants you to bring home the gold and it just feels so great that we were able to do that.”
The final was at first a strategic tug-of-war between Olympic and world champions with Canada scoring two in the opening end and the Swiss answering with a pair in the second.
But the turning-point came early in the third end when Rios missed a takeout and Lawes with her final stone made a superb raise tap to give Canada a four and a commanding 6-2 lead the Swiss could never overcome.
After Canada scored a pair in the fifth end and stole a pair in the sixth the Swiss waved the white flag, conceding the gold to Lawes and Morris with two ends still to play.
“The game of mixed doubles the strategy is offense,” said Morris. “That’s why I think it is such a great sport because when you get up a few points unlike team curling where you can coast and play defensive, the best defense in mixed-doubles is a good offense you have to keep the pressure on.
“As a result you are either going to get games that are 12-11 or games that are lopsided.”
For all the success Canada has had in the traditional format, winning the last three Olympic gold in the men’s competition and the women’s twice, the curling powerhouse has never won a mixed doubles world title.
Only three times since the International Curling Federation introduced a mixed-doubles world championship in 2008 has Canada stood on the podium.
Switzerland on the other hand has claimed the world title six of 10 times it has been contested.
Mixed doubles is making its debut as an Olympic event at the Pyeongchang Games.
The teams play a maximum eight ends as opposed to 10, and there is no shot-calling skip as in the four-player, single sex format of the sport.
The new event has brought pace, excitement and interesting partnerships, including brothers and sisters like Americans Becca and Matt Hamilton, and husbands and wives like Aleksandr Krushelnitckiy and Anastasia Bryzgalova who won bronze for Olympic Athletes from Russia with an 8-4 win over Norway.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of the game (mixed-doubles), I love the fast pace, high-scoring athleticism mixed-doubles brings,” Lawes said.
“It’s an incredible honor to represent your country on the world’s biggest stage and to be able to bring home another gold medal with John is an absolute honor.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)