Not much news was expected to be made at the 2018 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship in Leduc, Alberta last March. It was the end of an Olympic season, most elite players were focused on their plans for the start of the new Olympic cycle and, to be honest, the eyes of the curling world were on the World Men’s Curling Championship that was about to start in Las Vegas. As playoff weekend approached in Leduc there was an unexpected increase in texting and direct messaging activity among curling media types and the question on everyone’s mind was; “…who in the hell is Kadriana Sahaidak”.
In the sport of curling, it is rare for a player to “come out of nowhere” to achieve success at the national and/or international levels. To the casual curling fan, players such as Anna Hasselborg, Shannon Birchard and Darren Moulding may seem to have “come out of nowhere” but those that follow curling more closely know better. Hasselborg won a World Junior championship defeating Rachel Homan in the final, Birchard played in two Canadian Junior finals long before stepping in for Kaitlyn Lawes on Team Jones at last year’s Scotties and Moulding skipped a team to a Canadian Junior final long before he joined Brendan Bottcher’s team. Yet, here we were trying to figure who the young lady was that made several pressure shots on the way to an undefeated round-robin record of 7-0 alongside her partner, Colton Lott.
Sahaidak is clearly an exception to the rule; a young curler who moved from a rather uneventful junior “career” to become one of the better mixed doubles players on the planet in a little over a year. Sahaidak started curling at the Gimli Curling Club in Manitoba at the age of 8, the same year that Jennifer Jones won her first World Championship. Her first competitive event as a curler was when she and her boyfriend, Colton Lott, entered the 2018 Manitoba Mixed Doubles Championship “for fun” and the rest, well, is now Canadian mixed doubles history.
Not only did Sahaidak and Lott reach the final of the 2018 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship, losing to Laura Crocker and Kirk Muyres in the final but, they have since won a Curling World Cup event in Sweden and will be one of eight mixed doubles teams competing at the season-ending Curling World Cup Grand Final in Beijing, China in early May.
Sahaidak is an oddity in that she has reached the highest levels of mixed doubles play while never having played for a women’s team on the World Curling Tour. She currently plays in a Wednesday night women’s league at her club in Gimli and plays every other week with Lott in a mixed doubles league at a club in Winnipeg Beach. She has no Scotties appearances, women’s provincials, Grand Slams or Autumn Golds on her resumé, yet she throws last rock for the top-ranked mixed doubles team in Canada.
For 2014 Canadian mixed doubles champion Kim Tuck, Sahaidak’ success, despite her seeming lack of curling experience, can be explained as follows.
“We are seeing Kadriana ‘grow up’ in this discipline, with every game she plays she is getting more familiar with the nuances of mixed doubles without her mind being clouded by how a similar shot might be executed in a women’s game where she could depend on two sweepers. Mixed doubles is her ‘normal’ and that’s where I’m hoping this discipline is headed.”
It is one thing for mixed doubles to be Sahaidak’s “normal”, but she has shown an incredible ability to remain calm in high-pressure situations and offer peak performances at key moments. Kirk Muyres, who faced Sahaidak and Lott in the final of the 2018 Canadian Mixed Doubles final, told From the Hack:
“I think it comes down to Kadriana being good under pressure” Muyres said, “…in fact, Kadriana seems to have the ability to perform better under pressure, not all people have that ability, but she does, and it allows her to make the shots when she needs to and she executes them well.”
To be fair, it certainly does not hurt that Sahaidak plays with Colton Lott who is a two-time Canadian Junior champion, a World Junior champion and currently plays 3rd for the 28th ranked men’s team in the world. According to Tuck, Lott smartly puts Sahaidak in situations where she can succeed:
“Colton is a strong player” Tuck said, “…he knows the angles and he is always careful to make sure Kadriana is comfortable and confident in the shots she has to play”.
Sahaidak’s play, and her success, has certainly not gone unnoticed by curling “insiders”. Jeff Stoughton who heads the mixed doubles program at Curling Canada has been impressed by his fellow Manitoban:
“What is impressive about Kadriana is that she and Colton lost two big finals in less than a year and she was able to learn from those losses and make adjustments that helped the team win the World Cup event in Sweden. That’s pretty impressive for such a young player” Stoughton recently told From the Hack. “When you’re that young you have no fear and you have no doubts yet. She doesn’t fear any of these players and it allows her to play freely and she executes very well.”
For her part, Sahaidak feels that the key to the success she and Lott have had against some of the biggest names in the sport comes down to communication:
“I think we try not to think about who we’re actually playing. Just going out there as always as if it was any regular game and giving it our all. Communication helps a lot and we’re always trying to stay positive and support each other if one of us is not making the shots and feeling down.”
When it comes to communicating, Sahaidak believes that the fact she is in a relationship with Lott has helped them on the ice:
“Colton and I have a strong understanding and know that we aren’t ever criticizing the other. We are only trying to help one another. We always discuss things if we aren’t seeing eye to eye on something. We bring that to curling also. I honestly feel that it’s better playing with your boyfriend/girlfriend as there are things you may feel more comfortable saying to them than if they weren’t your boyfriend/girlfriend”.
Only time will tell if Kadriana Sahaidak’s mixed doubles career will continue to flourish, especially now that she will apparently be making her first foray into women’s play on the World Curling Tour next season. That said, her mixed doubles career is certainly off to a solid start and her team’s results over the past year have certainly positioned her as Canada’s unknown curling star.
Sahaidak and Lott are one of 32 teams that will compete in the 2019 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship from March 19th to the 24th in Fredericton, NB.