Canada falls 9-6 to Norway in first-ever Olympic mixed doubles curling draw

John Morris wasn’t making any excuses after Canada’s disappointing start to the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles curling competition.

The 39-year-old from Ottawa and teammate Kaitlyn Lawes fell 9-6 to Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten in Thursday’s opening draw thanks to some uncharacteristic mistakes at critical times.

“There were probably three key shots in the later ends that I didn’t execute … that was the turning point of that game,” said Morris. ”If I make any of them we’re in a real good position.

“Just have to pick up the ice a little bit better. The ice was nice and consistent, but I have to make sure I throw to my tolerance a bit more so that if I do miss, it’s not a killer miss.”

Down 7-6 in the eighth and final end, Canada was lying two when Morris bumped his team’s rocks out of position while at the same time promoting a Norwegian stone — a mistake the Canadians would be unable to recover from as their opponents stole two to seal the win.

“We weren’t in a great position,” said Morris. ”We were lying two, but they had a few outs so we wanted to make sure we gave Kaitlyn a shot for two rather than no shot for two. We played a more aggressive call … I missed it the wrong way.

“I’ve got to be better than that.”

Canada was set to play Matt and Becca Hamilton of the United States, who opened with a 9-3 victory over the Russian duo of Aleksandr Krushelhitickii and Anastasia Bryzgalova in seven ends, in Thursday’s late draw.

“Obviously wanted to start off with a win, but it’s a long week thankfully,” said Lawes, a 29-year-old from Winnipeg. ”We’ll come back stronger.

“If we can turn those full misses into at least half shots then we’ll have a little bit more success.”

Traditional men’s and women’s curling has been an Olympic sport since 1998, but mixed doubles — a faster and sometimes seemingly more chaotic version of the sport — is making its debut at the Pyeongchang Games.

In mixed doubles, each team comprises one male and one female and has six stones to play instead of eight. Games are eight ends instead of 10.

Morris won Olympic gold in 2010 playing third for Kevin Martin, while Lawes topped the podium in 2014 as vice for Jennifer Jones.

They are Canada’s first competitors at these games, which officially open Friday.

“To be able to slide over the Olympic rings and to feel as though we’re part of something historic is really powerful and special,” said Lawes. ”It’s something I’ll never forget. I’m really proud and honoured to be a part of this.”

Morris and Lawes had little experience playing mixed doubles together prior to winning January’s trials — a competition where they rebounded to qualify after losing three of their first five games.

The stands at the Gangneung Curling Centre for Thursday’s morning draw that started at 9:05 a.m. local time filled out soon after the first stones hit the ice, with the South Korean fans cheering their team onto a 9-4 victory over Finland.

“It was a really awesome atmosphere,” said Morris. “It was so amazing to see a lot of Korean fans out there. A lot of them, I think it was their first time watching curling.

“It was fantastic to hear the roars from the Korean fans.”

Eight teams are taking part in mixed curling at the Pyeongchang Olympics, with the top-4 qualifying for the medal round.

Canada has made the mixed doubles podium just twice at the world championships, grabbing a silver in 2017 and a bronze in 2009.

“Unfortunately there’s not free bingo spaces here,” said Lawes. ”Everyone has earned their right and they’re the best of the world.

“We’re going to have to be playing well and make a few more shots out there.”

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