Canada has opened as a 2.5-point favorite over Switzerland in the gold medal match of the first ever mixed doubles curling tournament at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The Canadian team of Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris started the tournament with a 9-6 loss to Norway, but haven’t been defeated since, finishing the round-robin portion in first place with a 6-1 record. They then defeated Norway by an 8-4 score in their semifinal match, scoring a big three in the seventh end to put the game out of reach.
Experience Key for Canada
Lawes didn’t have her best performance in the semifinal, shooting just 58 percent for the match. But both her and Morris have plenty of experience under pressure (both have previous curling gold medals in the four-player women’s and men’s events), and that came in handy in putting away the Norwegians.
“It certainly helps to have played in big games,” Lawes told the National Post. It could be so easy to just continue down that path and not make your shots, but I want to enjoy this experience and leave it all on the ice and have no regrets. I would have regretted it if I didn’t give myself a chance to make those shots.”
To grab the first ever gold medals in mixed doubles curling, however, the Canadians will have to defeat the defending world champions. The Swiss team of Jenny Perret and Martin Rios finished the round-robin in second place with a 5-2 record, then squeaked out a 7-5 victory over the Olympic Athletes from Russia in a semifinal that came down to the last shot.
“[OAR] made a lot of shots,” Rios said after the game. “This time we were the lucky winners. That’s it. They should be proud of themselves. They’re a great team.”
World Champs Underdogs to Canadian Duo
Switzerland won the 2017 World Championship in mixed doubles curling by defeating Canada’s Reid Carruthers and Joanne Courtney in the finals last year. They’ll now have to repeat that feat against a different elite Canadian team in order to claim gold for their country.
Oddsmakers are heavily favoring the Canadians. At bwin, Canada is -400 to win the match outright, with Switzerland a +270 underdog. Canada has never won a world championship in the ten years that mixed doubles curling has been contested at that level, while this is the first time the discipline has been included in the Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, a very tight match is expected for the bronze medal contest between Norway and OAR. The Russian team of Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitskiy has been installed as a 1.5-point favorite over Norway. Both teams finished at 4-3 in the round-robin portion of the competition, with OAR winning 4-3 in the tightly played meeting between the two countries.
While the two sides seem evenly matched this week, OAR definitely has more hardware historically. Their team won gold in the 2016 World Mixed Doubles Championship, and both players were part of the Russian squad that won the 2016 World Mixed Championship (a four-player format requiring two men and two women per team) as well.
The Norwegian team of Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten does have high-level experience as well. They were the bronze medal winners at the 2015 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.