When the field was set for the mixed doubles curling competition at the 2018 Olympics, opinions were mixed as to how the new team of Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris of Canada would fare against a field that was deep with some of the world’s best and most experienced mixed doubles teams. Team Canada had an inauspicious start to the round-robin losing to a veteran Norwegian team but have now reeled off 5 straight convincing wins and became the first team to secure a playoff spot.
Team Canada started Draw 5 tied atop of the standings with three other teams including their opponents from Switzerland who happen to be the reigning world champions. The team of Lawes/Morris started slowly giving up a steal of one in the 1st end but bounced back nicely in the 2nd end scoring a four-ender to take control of the game. The Swiss duo, particularly skip Jenny Perret, struggled throughout and were never able to work their way back into the game. The Swiss team conceded the win after Canada took a 7-2 lead following steals in both the 5th and 6th ends.
The American team of Becca and Matt Hamilton started slowly at the Olympics, entering Draw 5 with a record of 1-3 but a couple of victories on Saturday in Pyeongchang would have kept them in the chase for the playoffs. The Americans got off to a strong start in Draw 5 by stealing two points in the 1st end but China came back to steal points in both the 5th and 6th ends then scored two points in the 8th end for a 6-4 victory that put a dagger into the American playoff hopes although they did remain mathematically alive.
The OAR won a hotly contested game against the upstart team from Korea. The OAR was up 5-3 when Korea looked like it was in a terrific position for a big score in the 8th end until some questionable strategy by the Koreans and a well-placed freeze by the OAR limited the Koreans to two points and forced an extra end. The OAR was in trouble in the extra end until a timely shot by Anastasia Bryzgalova opened up the front of the four-foot and allowed her teammate to make a hit for the winning point. Both the Koreans and OAR teams played with emotion, exchanging screams following made shots late in the game.
For its part, Norway has been quietly going about its business in the round-robin, struggling in some games but finding ways to win. The Norwegians entered Draw 5 with a 3-1 record which they improved to 4-1 by defeating Finland 7-6 in an extra-end. Norway would go into their Draw 6 game against a struggling American team with a chance to secure a playoff spot.
The Americans certainly looked like they were on their way to another loss in Draw 6 when they were held to a single point in the 1st end by Norway who then scored three points in the 2nd end to take a 3-1 lead. Things didn’t seem to get any better for Becca and Matt Hamilton in the 3rd end when they were held to another single point but the Americans then stole four points in the 4th end and three more points in the 6th end for a 10-3 victory. Despite the impressive win over Norway, the American team has now been officially eliminated from playoff contention in Pyeongchang.
The Chinese team desperately needed a win against Finland to keep their playoff hopes alive. The two teams were tied 4-4 at the break but China blew the game open by scoring a four-ender in the 5th end to take a commanding 8-4 lead on their way to a 10-5 victory. It has been a difficult week for a Finnish team that will have to defeat the United States in the final round-robin draw to avoid going winless at the Olympics. Meanwhile, China must win their game against Norway in Draw 7 if they hope to make the playoffs.
Switzerland responded nicely to their loss earlier in the day against Canada taking a 4-2 lead into the 4th end break and holding on for a 6-4 victory against a Korean team that was looking to keep its faint playoff hopes alive. The young Koreans have shown moments of brilliance in Pyeongchang but have also been inconsistent at times in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. In their final game of the Olympics, the Koreans will face a Canadian team that has clearly hit its stride.
Team Canada entered Draw 6 against an OAR team that was tied with the Canadians atop the standings meaning that this game had clear playoff implications. The team of Bryzgalova and Krushelnitckii had been playing with a lot of emotion as the round-robin progressed and their confidence had grown throughout the competition. Canada clearly stunted their opponent’s confidence early in Draw 6 by scoring 3 points in the 1st end followed by a steal of one in the 2nd. The game was all but over at the 4th end break with Canada ahead by a score of 6-1 and the OAR made it official after 6 ends as they conceded with Canada leading 8-2. The victory by Canada secured a playoff spot for Lawes/Morris who will look to secure the top seed in the playoffs in their final round-robin game against Korea. The news was not all bad for the OAR as they also secured a playoff spot due to their record against the other teams with whom they could potentially finish tied in the standings.
There is still much to play for in the final draw of the round robin, especially for Switzerland, Norway and China who remain alive in the chase for the two remaining playoff spots.