WHO SHOULD REP CANADA IN MIXED DOUBLES IN BEIJING?

There’s been a lot of talk about who should represent Canada in the Olympic Mixed Double competition so I thought I’d weigh in before the announcement is made. It has to come pretty soon!

There have been several pairings suggested as Curling Canada faces the never before situation of having to name a team.

In my mind there is only one team who can be named for which the logic of nomination cannot be criticized. That would be if the decision is to have John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes compete. Send the reigning Olympic Gold Medalists back to defend the title. Their competitive successes since 2018 show their talent is unabated and they have proven ability in the International Mixed Doubles arena.

The one small issue is that asking Kaitlyn to compete in both Mixed Doubles and 4’s with Team Jones would be contrary to standing Curling Canada policy of not having a player represent us in both disciplines.

That’s not a big issue in these unprecedented times – and I wouldn’t even worry about someone claiming it as a precedent at some future time. It would be easy to argue it was a unique time which demanded unique circumstances.

However, for the record, I would not favour the Lawes-Morris solution. The concern about negatively impacting results of the Jones team is real. I acknowledge both results are possible given that USA’s Matt Hamilton finished 6th in Mixed Doubles at the 2018 Olympics and then won gold with John Shuster but Becca Hamilton finished 6th in Mixed Doubles and 8th in the Women’s event at the same Olympics.

Some say send Kerri Einarson and Brad Gushue, as defending Canadian champions. I can see the arguments in their favour but my Lawes logic applies to Gushue as well.

Some say send Kaitlyn Lawes and Brad Gushue – two talented elite athletes who will already be on site. I like that logic but at the same time I worry about the impact on results for both teams.

Some say Kerri Einarson and Brad Jacobs (Gushue’s appointed replacement). I can’t see this one – Jacobs is one of the greatest players of our time but he has no Mixed Doubles experience – or at least his name does not appear on the CMDR (Canadian Mixed Doubles Ranking), even in the 37 teams with zero points, all ranked below #282.

And in my mind – the key to the nomination is international Mixed Doubles EXPERIENCE and SUCCESS as a team.

In 2017, in Lethbridge, I watched Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers play under the incredible pressure of having to win Canada a spot in the Olympics. My observation was that they succeeded for two reasons: first, they were (and are) incredibly talented players and second, they adapted their game as the event progressed. They had beaten Canadians to earn the right to play in Lethbridge but they knew they were inexperienced at the international game and they adopted strategy played against them and used it to beat the next team they played.

In the years since, Canada’s World Mixed Doubles results have shown no improvement – in other words we have yet to win a World Mixed Doubles championship sending the champion developed through our current system. We were all delighted when Einarson-Gushue earned Canada a spot in the 2022 Olympics but admittedly were less excited that they missed the medals at the Worlds.

I am thinking it is time we sent a more specialized Mixed Doubles team to major international events rather than hoping two talented players can combine their skills for a couple of weeks and win at the international level. We will only win long-term in the International Mixed Doubles arena when we compete with teams who play Mixed Doubles regularly, if not exclusively.

So if not Lawes and Morris, who I have already said I would understand but disagree with, I am in favour of sending a team to Beijing based on two primary considerations.

#1: The CMDR and I mean the pure one – the CMDR which ranks only the performance based on Mixed Doubles competition and does not bring in the individual CTRS-4’s team successes.

#2: Success in international Mixed Doubles competition

Only after weighing these two would I consider #3: performance in the Canadian championship and #4: the contributions to the CMDR of the players’ 4’s team successes.

When I look at the pure CMDR list, four teams in the top eight meet my #2 criteria – international Mixed Doubles success. The top two, Nancy Martin & Tyrel Griffith and Clancy Grandy & Patrick Janssen, lack significant international experience.

Kadriana Sahaidak & Colton Lott: Ranked #3 on CMDR, they have had very good success at the Canadian Championship (silver medal 2018 & 2021) but more important they have proven themselves internationally. They won gold in one of the three preliminary round events of the 2018-19 season’s Curling World Cup and they finished tied for third in the rankings at the series grand final event. That event was held in China so an extra bonus in selecting this team is that they have already had the experience of playing in the Olympic host nation.

Curling Canada Photo

Jocelyn Peterman & Brett Gallant: Ranked #6 on CMDR, they also have success internationally as a team. They won the Canadian Championship and the World Silver Medal in 2019. They also have the advantage (or disadvantage) of already planning to be in Beijing with the Jones and Gushue teams. That of course fits my Lawes argument on both sides and I wouldn’t want to risk results for the two 4’s teams despite the fact this pair is ranked #1 when the CTRS is rolled into the rankings discussion.

Curling Canada Photo

Laura Walker & Kirk Muyres: Ranked #7 on CMDR, they have the same (in fact slightly better) success internationally as a team as Sahiadak-Lott. They won gold in one of the World Cup preliminary events and silver in the grand final event in China. Added weight for them is that Muyres was the 2018 Canadian Champion and World Bronze Medalist (partnered with Laura Crocker).

Photo from Curling Canada website

Rachel Homan – John Morris: Ranked #8 on CMDR, purely on their names, they might be the logical choice of these four. Morris is the reigning gold medallist, a world champion and an accomplished Mixed Doubles player. Homan is a world champion, and an Olympian who has been in that arena, and she is surely motivated to win an Olympic medal to balance the 2018 results.

**

No matter who the choice is, there will be much more criticism than kudos. If that teams falls short of the medals there will be a different kind of criticism than if Teams Gushue &/or Jones fall short.

All I can say is I’m glad it is not my decision. There are 10 or a dozen teams who could logically be chosen – and they would all do it with pride. There just is no guarantee it is going to work but I will always maintain that an experienced Mixed Doubles team with a proven international track record is our best bet for a Mixed Doubles medal in Beijing.

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