GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Greetings from the Gangneung Curling Centre, which will be the site of some history tonight: the first gold medal match in the history of Olympic mixed doubles curling. Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris of Canada are set to face Jenny Perret and Martin Rios of Switzerland.
When the International Olympic Committee voted to add mixed doubles to its slate of events for the 2018 Winter Olympics, it stirred a bit of controversy in the curling world. Many curling purists considered — and still consider — mixed doubles to be something of a sideshow that lacks the strategy and nuance of the more traditional game, which pits four-player teams.
But here in Gangneung, mixed doubles has been a fun, fast-paced prelude ahead of the men’s and women’s events — and it has given the sport more exposure. And despite all the Cheetos ads and social media hubbub, the last we checked, curling could still benefit from more exposure.
In any case, you might want to check out our nifty curling primer, but here are a few things to know as we get set to watch the Canadians and the Swiss curl for gold:
• First, some basics on mixed doubles. Compared to the men’s and women’s team events, mixed doubles teams throw fewer rocks per end (which are like baseball innings) and the matches themselves are shorter, lasting just eight ends versus 10. The teams are also on a shot clock, which creates some fast-paced, high-octane drama. Catch the fever!
• You may have heard that Canadians are really good at curling — and care a lot about curling. (Shameless plug: Read our story on the fancy electronic curling broom designed by three dudes in Ontario.) Since curling made its debut as an Olympic sport in 1998, Canada has won a medal in every team event — and the men and women swept gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Lawes and Morris are a part of that legacy: Lawes won gold with the women in 2014, and Morris won gold with the men in 2010. Now, after going 6-1 in pool play here and cruising past Norway in the semifinals, they are back for more.
• Morris, 39, is a Renaissance man. Back home in Canada, he works as a firefighter. Known to his fans as “Johnny Mo,” he is also a nutritionist and a published author, and he once appeared on Entertainment Tonight Canada as one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. It seems most people consider him handsome.