Jones, Nichols start road to Olympic return with opening draw win at mixed trials

SWAN RIVER, Man. — Jennifer Jones and Mark Nichols scored five over the first two ends and cruised to a 9-3 win over Jason Gunnlaugson and Shannon Birchard on Tuesday in the opening draw of the Canadian mixed doubles championship.

Jones, form Winnipeg, and Nichols, from St. John’s, N.L., added two in the fifth and seventh ends to seal the victory.

The winning duo at the championship will represent Canada when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut next month at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Both Jones and Nichols are former Olympic champions. Nichols was part of Brad Gushue’s men’s Olympic champion team in 2006, and Jones skilled Canada’s women’s team to gold in 2014.

Jones was originally tabbed to play with husband Brent Laing. A switch had to be made since Canadian curlers cannot compete in both disciplines at the Games and Laing’s four-man team skipped by Kevin Koe beat McEwen in the Trials final.

In other opening draw scores, Robert Desjardins and Emile Desjardins downed Dawn McEwen and Mike McEwen 5-3, Catlin Schneider and Nancy Martin defeated Sherry Just and Tyrel Griffith 11-5 and Brett Gallant and Jocelyn Peterman downed Kimberley Tuck and Wayne Tuck 11-4.

Six draws will be played daily through Thursday.

The first- and second-place team in each pool will advance along with the next four teams in the overall standings. Tiebreakers and the opening round of the playoffs begin Friday and the final is scheduled for Sunday.

The Pyeongchang Games are scheduled for Feb. 9-25.

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