Man-Sask Canadian Team ready for Wheelchair Mixed Doubles Worlds

(Curling Canada Release) With the inaugural Wheelchair Curling Mixed Doubles World Championship just days away, Canada’s athletes don’t really know what to expect.

Canadian Wheelchair Mixed Doubles team in a recent training camp session at Fort Rouge.

“I think it will be great,” said Jamie Anseeuw (Winnipeg). “There are no expectations, because it’s the first one.”

Anseeuw, along with partner Marie Wright were selected from the National Team Program to act as Canada’s representatives for the first mixed doubles wheelchair event, starting Saturday in Lohja, Finland. The 18-team event is split into two pools of nine, and will require an eight-game round robin before the playoff teams are decided.

As a new discipline, even the athletes aren’t sure how the first championship will unfold.

“Some of the European teams have actually been playing a lot of mixed doubles over there,” said Wright (Moose Jaw, Sask.). “We’ll come up against some pretty good teams for sure.”

“There’s pressure because Canada is always one of the strongest countries in the world of curling,” said Answeeuw. “But at the same time, because there are no expectations from prior championships, it takes some of that pressure away.”

Instead of worrying about what they don’t know, coach Dana Ferguson (Edmonton) has been working with the pair to make sure they focus on what they can control.

“They’ve worked really hard,” she said. “Every time we got together, they put the work in. They put the practice in. They’re doing all the stuff off the ice, which is all we can really ask for.”

Ferguson, a Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion in 2019 with Chelsea Carey, is in her first season as coach of the wheelchair team. She admits there’s been some on-the-job learning.

“Mixed doubles, even able bodied, is something that I don’t think people have mastered yet,” said Ferguson. “Adding in wheelchair mixed doubles – it’s a little bit different. So every practice we talk, we learn, and that’s all we can really do. So, the plan is to keep learning and use what we know to our advantage.”

“For Dana to say she’s new at this and doesn’t know much – I don’t buy that” says Wright. “She’s taught us a lot. We’ve learned a lot from her, specifically about strategy and tolerances.”

“We talk a lot about tolerance,” said Ferguson. “We know when a shot needs to be played, and what you can’t do, and what’s okay. We’ve given that a lot of thought, so we know we can get something out of every shot. We know that if we stay within our tolerance, we’ll get better success. Does that mean we’re going to win every game? No. It just gives us something to focus on.”

The pair of athletes, along with Ferguson and team leader Wayne Kiel arrived in Finland on Monday after a long journey from their training camp in Winnipeg.

“It was nice to have the opportunity to get together and practice,” said Wright “It’s given us a really good opportunity to read each other’s rocks, and see how we throw. I think that’s going to help too.”

The team had a practice in Lohja on Wednesday, and will open the tournament on Saturday against Latvia. The Canadians are anxious to get started.

“I think because it’s the first world championship,” said Anseuw, “the whole country is waiting to see how we come out of it. There’s a bit of pressure there, but I think it’s good pressure. We’re a solid team from a solid country so I expect good things.” “Anytime you can put the Maple Leaf on your back and represent your country, it’s an honour,” said Wright. “I’m really happy to have the privilege once again.”

HOMAN-MORRIS NAMED CANADA’S MIXED DOUBLES TEAM

(Curling Canada News Release – January 13) A pair of Olympians and former world champions will represent Canada in mixed doubles curling at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, it was announced jointly today by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Curling Canada.

Morris-Homan
(Photo from Curling Canada website)

Rachel Homan (Beaumont, Alta.) and John Morris (Canmore, Alta.), along with national coach Scott Pfeifer (Sherwood Park, Alta.), will play their first game at the National Aquatics Centre (AKA the Ice Cube) in Beijing on Feb. 2 at 8:05 p.m. ET against the Great British duo of Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat, the reigning world mixed doubles champions.

It will be Morris’s third trip to the Winter Olympics and an opportunity to be a three-time Olympic gold-medallist. He teamed with Kaitlyn Lawes in 2018 at PyeongChang to win the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles gold medal, and also played vice-skip for Kevin Martin’s four-player men’s team that claimed gold in 2010 at Vancouver. He is a three-time champion at the Tim Hortons Brier, and a member of Martin’s 2008 world championship gold-medal team.

Homan will be playing in her second Olympics, having skipped Canada’s women’s team in 2018 in PyeongChang. Homan, a three-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion, also skipped her team to a world women’s championship gold medal in 2017 in Beijing at the Capital Indoor Stadium — just 17 minutes away from the Ice Cube curling venue.

“John and I are eager to get to Beijing and make Canada proud,” said Homan. “We know these are difficult circumstances, and we truly appreciate the faith being shown in us by Curling Canada.”

“Rachel and I have played a lot of mixed doubles together over the years with the dream of playing for Canada at the Olympics,” added Morris. “We can’t wait to get over there and give it our best. We know it’s a tough field, but we’ve worked extremely hard this season and we’ll be fighting hard for gold in Beijing.”

Canada’s Olympic mixed doubles team was supposed to be the winner of the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials that were scheduled for Dec. 28-Jan. 2 in Portage la Prairie, Man. But positive tests for COVID-19 among athletes who were scheduled to attend, along with the potential for more cases during the event, forced Curling Canada to cancel the Trials and select a team to nominate to the COC.“After cancelling the Trials, we engaged in extensive consultation with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium and it became increasingly apparent that the nomination criteria for selecting athletes should put a premium on experience on the world championship and Olympic stage, as well as experience and success playing together in mixed doubles,” said Katherine Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of Curling Canada. “We are blessed with an amazing pool of mixed doubles players, and I feel nothing but compassion for the curlers who were to compete in the Trials and had that opportunity taken from them by the pandemic. But we are confident that Rachel and John will make Canada proud in Beijing.”

Homan and Morris, both originally from Ottawa and now playing out of the Canmore Golf and Curling Club, have extensive experience in the mixed doubles discipline. They were slated to team up at the 2017 Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials before Homan’s four-player women’s team prevailed at the 2017 Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials. Morris then teamed with Lawes to win the mixed doubles trials and went on to the Olympic gold a few weeks later.

Homan and Morris won a silver medal at the 2017 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship, and earlier this season topped a world-class field to win the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic in Canmore and Banff, Alta., beating the duo of Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant (both 2022 Olympians in four-player curling) in the final.

Team Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg) and Team Brad Gushue (St. John’s, N.L.) will be Canada’s four-player teams at the Winter Olympics.

Prior to being named to Team Canada, all nominations are subject to approval by the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Team Selection Committee following its receipt of nominations by all National Sport Organizations.

“We fully support the adjustment made by Curling Canada in their team selection criteria for mixed doubles under the extraordinary circumstances, and we are excited to watch Team Canada compete,” said Eric Myles, Chief of Sport for the Canadian Olympic Committee.

“Every sport has been impacted differently around qualifying Olympic quota spots as a result of COVID-19, and the cancellation of the mixed doubles curling trials in Canada is another example of that,” added Anne Merklinger, chief executive officer, Own the Podium. “We are fortunate in Canada to have significant depth in our national curling program. While it is unfortunate the nation’s elite curling athletes were not able to compete head-to-head for the opportunity to represent Canada in Beijing during these unprecedented times, we are thrilled that Curling Canada has been able to find a solution to field a strong team at the Olympic Winter Games.”

CLICK HERE for the full Olympic curling schedule. CBC will provide full broadcast coverage of the Olympic Winter Games on its various platforms.

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.

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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.