PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Man. — Three of the four curlers in today’s mixed doubles Olympic trials final are past Olympic champions — Brad Gushue, Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris have all won gold at the Games.
Now they want to get back for a second chance at glory.
Gushue is alongside Alberta skip Val Sweeting preparing to take on the team of Lawes and Morris in the first-ever event to determine who will represent Canada at the Olympics in mixed doubles.
The teams have already met two previous times at the trials this week with Sweeting and Gushue winning both games.
Morris and Lawes had to win a Saturday night semifinal game against Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant to make it into today’s final.
“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity,” Lawes said. “I want this for John as much as I want it for me. What an honour it would be to be part of the first mixed doubles Olympics.”
Lawes plays third for Jennifer Jones and was part of the team that won gold four years ago in Sochi.
Morris won Olympic gold as a third for Kevin Martin at the Vancouver Olympics eight years ago. He knows what it takes to win a trials final to get to the Games but also knows it won’t be easy today.
“It feels great to be in this game but we’re not looking past Brad and Val. They’re formidable opponents. But I think if we can keep the heat on them it’s going to be a great game,” Morris said.
The two haven’t played together very often in mixed doubles — normally Morris plays with Rachel Homan but teamed up with Lawes after Homan clinched her Olympic spot at the trials in Ottawa.
“I just got lucky that Kaitlyn wasn’t on a mixed doubles team already,” Morris said. “She was my No. 1 choice to play with when Rachel won her spot.”
Gushue, Sweeting finding mixed magic
It wasn’t a smooth start for the skips to begin the competition. They dropped their first two games and at times looked lost as they tried to navigate the relatively new-to-them discipline.
Gushue and Sweeting had only played together three previous times before the mixed doubles trials and needed to learn how each other operated on the ice. They figured it out in a hurry.
They’ve won eight of their last nine games to punch a ticket into today’s final.
Gushue says he wasn’t sure about this event until they started playing here this week and really grasped the game. And in a lot of ways it was Sweeting that got Gushue fired up about this event.
“When Val made a triple against Laura [Crocker] and Geoff [Walker], I gave a pretty good fist-pump and shout and the guys gave me a hard time,” he said. “But the juices are flowing. I’m into this now. I want to win as much as anybody.”
And so does Sweeting. She’s never made it to the Olympics. Gushue won 2006 Olympic gold in Italy when he was 25 years old.
Sweeting is throwing last rock for the team this week and says she’s ready to seize this moment.
“This is what we play for. It’s really exciting that we have this opportunity,” she said.
Mixed doubles curling, featuring eight countries, gets underway the day before the opening ceremonies on Feb. 8, and will conclude with the gold- and bronze-medal games on Feb. 13.
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