Some of Canada’s biggest curling names had to quickly find another big name to get a second chance at wearing the Maple Leaf at the 2018 Olympic Games.
When Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe won the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings in Ottawa on Sunday and punched their ticket to Pyeongchang, South Korea, it meant a partner swap on some teams bound for the Olympic mixed doubles curling trials on Jan. 2-7.
Mixed doubles — with teams comprised of a male and a female curler — will make its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.
The 18-team Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Curling Trials in Portage La Prairie, Man., will determine Canada’s first representative in Olympic mixed doubles.
Curling Canada decided it wasn’t good for the country’s medal chances in mixed doubles and full team competition to have the country’s top curlers compete in both in Pyeongchang.
So the Homan and Koe victories took players from those teams out of the mix for mixed doubles and impacted five teams. The five had until Thursday to name a replacement partner.
The following are the changes to the five impacted teams with previous partner in brackets:
— Jennifer Jones (Brent Laing) Mark Nichols.
— John Morris (Rachel Homan) Kaitlyn Lawes.
— Reid Carruthers (Joanne Courtney) Jill Officer.
— Tyrel Griffith (Emma Miskew) Sherry Just.
— John Epping (Lisa Weagle) Sherry Middaugh.
“I think all the matchups are good for all the players for all different reasons,” said Jeff Stoughton, Curling Canada mixed doubles program manager.
“Kaitlyn Lawes has played a ton of mixed doubles, Jill Officer has played lots, Mark Nichols has played a lot of mixed doubles and so has Sherry Just, who Tyrel Griffith picked up. It’s nothing new to them.
“It’s good news for those teams who have played a lot of mixed doubles and understand the game. Now it’s just understanding each other.”
Koe third Marc Kennedy previously played mixed doubles with Lawes, who is Jones’s vice. Jones’s husband Brent Laing is Koe’s second. The Jones team from Winnipeg lost the women’s semifinal to Homan in Ottawa.
Morris and Homan are the top-ranked team in Canada in mixed doubles with Carruthers/Courtney second and Jones/Laing third.
Courtney, Homan’s second, and Carruthers won a silver medal at the 2017 world mixed doubles championship for Canada’s best result in the event.
Canada’s mixed doubles trials will feature 11 curlers whose teams finished second or third at the Roar of the Rings.
Mike McEwen, who lost in the men’s final to Koe, will play with wife Dawn, who is Jones’s lead. The entire Brad Gushue team that placed third in Ottawa will play in the mixed doubles trials with various partners.
“A lot of these teams coming from the trials have played a lot of games and are game-ready,” Stoughton said.
“We’re putting these teams through a bit of a grind. They’re all going to play eight games in three days. It’s a little bit of survival out there as well as skill.”