Mixed doubles teams prepare to debut in Olympic Winter Games

  • China duo Rui Wang and Dexin Ba Photo: © WCF / Richard Gray

Adding mixed doubles to the curling programme for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, in the Republic of Korea, will have spectators around the world asking what this one male, one female team game is about.

For the athletes, representing their Member Association as a mixed doubles pair is something that’s been on their radar since it was first announced by the International Olympic Committee in June 2015.

All competing Member Associations – excluding the hosts Korea – received their berth to the Games through their cumulative points earned at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships in 2016, in Karlstad, Sweden, and the 2017 championship in Lethbridge, Canada.

Come February, there will be many familiar faces from the curling circuit in PyeongChang, as seven of the eight teams are returning pairs who competed in the last world mixed doubles event.

The experienced field of players battling it out on the Olympic stage has great depth, both in traditional four-person curling and mixed doubles. But, their road to the Games hasn’t always been traditional – just ask team Canada.

Making history on her way to the Games, 2014 Olympic gold medalist, Kaitlyn Lawes, is the first Canadian curler to represent her country in back-to-back Olympics. Lawes, accompanied by 2010 Olympic gold medalist John Morris creates a duo who know what it takes to win on the sport’s biggest stage.

But before their Olympic mixed doubles trials, a winning ticket to the Olympic Winter Games for Canadian skip Rachel Homan, Morris’ original mixed doubles partner, took Homan out of the picture and left him on the hunt for a new teammate, “I got really lucky that Kaitlyn was available and I knew we’d make a great combo. I’ve always felt our dynamics were really good, we’re good friends and she’s just a heck of a shot maker.”

With only one practice under their belt prior to the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials, the Olympians came out on top with an 8-6 win over Val Sweeting and Brad Gushue. [Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris pictured below, © Curling Canada]

"The goal was to try and get back there one way or the other. Right now, this is an absolute dream come true," Lawes said.

For many pairs, mixed doubles is a comfort zone – they’ve been playing for years in hopes of representing their Member Association at the Games. For others, they’re learning the strategy and adapting to the fast-paced version of the game as they go. The good news for the teams jumping on the mixed doubles train is that it still comes down to one thing – shot making.

Jenny Perret and Martin Rios of Switzerland [pictured below, © WCF / Richard Gray] know a thing or two about making big shots to win. The reigning world champions will lead the field with as much expertise a duo could hope for. The two went through the World Mixed Doubles Championship 2017 undefeated, after Perret made a stunning draw for four points in the tenth end to win the title 6-5 over Canada’s Joanne Courtney and Reid Carruthers. After a year of complete dedication to the discipline, the victory secured their ticket to the Games. “The last year we’ve worked very hard. We practiced every day – twice. It was a long time, but now we are Olympians,” Perret said after their world championship win.
The Swiss team however has some solid competition ahead of them, especially with the Chinese pair of Dexin Ba and Rui Wang. The Chinese duo put themselves in strong Olympic qualifying contention after getting the silver medal at the World Mixed Doubles Championship 2016.

Without a doubt, the two were in search of gold at the 2017 championship, but ended the event feeling content with their bronze medal after defeating Czech Republic 6-2. Ba admitted the mixed doubles teams are getting stronger, and even though they didn’t make the final he feels confident going into the Olympic year. 2018 will mark his second Olympic appearance, after a fourth-place finish with the men’s team at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, in Sochi, Russia. It will be the first Olympic appearance for Wang, but she’s no stranger to the world stage after representing China in three world women’s championships.

Also new to the Games, and fresh off an impressive 2018 win at the International Mixed Doubles Trophy in Aarau, Switzerland, Olympic Athletes from Russia, Anastasia Bryzgalova and Aleksandr Krushelnitckii (subject to International Olympic Committee approval), are coming into the Games on form. The team from St Petersburg defeated the current Swiss world champions 6-5, making a strong statement as the weeks countdown to PyeongChang.

Well known in the mixed doubles circuit, Bryzgalova and Krushelnitckii [pictured below, © WCF / Céline Stucki] won gold at the 2016 mixed doubles championship in April followed by a ninth-place finish in 2017.
Between world champions, Olympic gold medalists, and the excitement of the first mixed doubles game – there will be no lack of entertainment for curling fans around the world.

In the run-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea we celebrate the success of the curling qualifiers heading to the Games next (8-25) February.

In the coming weeks we will speak to the athletes that have been selected or qualified to represent their Member Association in the Gangneung Curling Centre. Check back here, on Friday (12 Janury), to find out more about the remaining eight athletes that will compete in the mixed doubles tournament.

To follow the build-up to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #Roadto2018 #curling