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Sports Morris, Lawes make mixed doubles magic

19:22  13 february  2018
19:22  13 february  2018 Source:   msn.com

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PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of - When mixed doubles curling got the green light to be an Olympic sport less than three years ago, Canada wasn't that good at it.

But the first ever gold medal belongs to Canada.

Facing a Swiss team with more experience in the accelerated version of the sport, John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes so dominated Tuesday's final that defending world champions Martin Rio and Jenny Perret conceded after the sixth end when Canada led 10-3.

Ottawa's Morris and Winnipeg's Lawes also became the first curlers to win two Olympic gold medals in their careers.

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Lawes, 29, was third for the Jennifer Jones team that went undefeated to claim women's team gold in 2014. Morris, 39, was vice for Kevin Martin when they took the men's team title in 2010.

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"It's an amazing feeling winning the gold medal," Morris said. "I’m really proud of us for coming here and putting mixed doubles on the map."

Mixed doubles games are eight ends instead of the traditional 10. Each team delivers five stones, but has six rocks in play because a stone from each team is pre-positioned in front of the rings and in the house.

While Canada helped pioneer mixed doubles by including it in the annual Continental Cup of Curling, it was the Olympic backup plan of the country's elite curlers.

Their priority was winning the team trials in December.

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And in a decade of world mixed doubles championships, Canadian teams have won one silver medal (2017) and a bronze (2009).

"I honestly didn't feel we were the favourites coming in," Lawes said. "There are so many talented teams here that have had so much success at the world championship.

"I'm just so proud of our efforts to be able to compete against the top teams in mixed doubles."

Other than a few Continental Cup games a few years ago, Morris and Lawes had little experience as a mixed doubles team before winning trials in January.

But skills, shots and strategy honed through their years of successful team curling more than compensated that. Lawes threw the first and fifth stones, while Morris delivered the second, third and fourth rocks.

They topped the preliminary round with a 6-1 record and beat Norway 8-4 in the semifinal to advance to the championship game.

The Canadians outshot the Swiss 92 per cent to 63 after five ends Tuesday to lead 8-3.

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Rios, who also won a world title in 2012 with Nadine Lehmann, struggled mightily shooting just 50 per cent for the first four ends.

After Morris's hit and roll to lay four in the third, Rios sailed an attempted hit through the rings. A delicate raise by Lawes scored quadruple points for a 6-2 cushion.

The Swiss set up for a multi-point end in the sixth, but a tap by Lawes had Canada lying two. Perret had a difficult hit to score. The Swiss gave up a steal of two and shook hands.

Morris hoisted the diminutive Lawes into the air in triumph and she then ran up into the stands to hug her family.

"I call her Mighty Mouse," Morris said. "I don't know if she's like a buck 10 and five feet tall, but she can sweep better than a lot of men out there. She packs a big punch and makes a lot of clutch shots."

When the International Olympic Committee announced it would be a 2018 Olympic sport, former Canadian and world men's champion Jeff Stoughton was hired by Curling Canada to oversee a mixed doubles program in hurry-up mode.

"Three years ago, we were scrambling to figure out what we were going to do," Stoughton said. "And now we've got two champions that are going to have a beautiful gold medal tomorrow night put around their necks."

Curling tends to develop a cult following at Olympic Games and mixed doubles was no different in Pyeongchang.

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Even A-Team actor Mr. T tweeted: "I am watching events I never thought I would watch before, like curling. You heard me, curling Fool!"

Said Morris: "We would accept a challenge from Mr. T. Maybe not an arm-wrestling challenge, but maybe a mixed doubles curling challenge if he's around."

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