Mixed doubles in 2018 Olympics? Bet on it
Canada skip Pat Simmons delivers a rock against the Czech Republic during the sixth draw of the World Men's Curling Championship in Halifax March 30, 2015. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
Curling mixed doubles?
In the Olympics?
Bet on it.
One week ago, after departing Sapporo, Japan prior to the playoffs of the women’s world championship, Kate Caithness was in Lausanne, Switzerland, to make the presentation.
If something went wrong, and there’s no evidence in her mood and attitude since arriving here to suggest anything but the opposite, then sometime in early June Canadians should expect to be shocked to discover that mixed doubles will be announced as a part of the next Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea.
Much ignored in traditional game nations, especially in Canada where it was invented only a dozen years ago, the event has been a hit in smaller nations where it’s difficult to put together four-player teams.
It wasn’t anything Caithness said specifically in an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, it was the overall impression left by the Scottish lady that she is beyond hopeful that it will happen.
Caithness, you should understand, is uniquely positioned.
The first female president of the World Curling Federation was appointed to the International Olympic Committee’s program commission, responsible for reviewing and analyzing the sports, disciplines and events.
“The reason the WCF has gone for mixed doubles is that they are completely different,” she said.
The games, which require just two people per team, take just one hour, 40 minutes to play.
“It’s three sessions easily a day,” she said of adding it between the three events per day in the men’s and women’s traditional four-player program at the Olympics.
There have been mixed doubles world championships since 2008. Hungary and Russia have won gold medals. Spain, New Zealand, Austria, France and the Czech Republic have also won medals.
“The countries which have won medals are not the top curling countries,” she said. “Spain on the podium — when would that have ever happened as a four-man team?
“Our proposal was for 16 countries. That would allow a lot of smaller countries in the event. And if they get into the Olympics, they get Olympic funding. We’ve asked for 16. We’ll see.”
Television is a huge factor.
“NBC is very supportive of our proposal going forward. The TV figures from curling are great. And we don’t have to rely on weather conditions. Our broadcasters see we have two days set aside for training and say this is crazy, they are two days we could use for broadcasts,” she adds.
When curling first became a full-medal sport in the Olympics in Nagano 1998, there was no such thing as mixed doubles.
Getting mixed doubles into the Olympics would be a great going-away present for the retiring director of event operations of Curling Canada, Warren Hansen, for the part he played in getting curling into the Olympics and bringing the game to where it is today.
The former Edmonton curler and 1974 Brier winner, with Hec Gervais, invented it.
“It was part of the first Continental Cup, an event the WCF requested us to do because they were being pressured by the IOC to have a world competition of some sort other than the world championships because they were a sport which didn’t have a World Cup.
“It was tossed to me,” he said of the Ryder Cup-type event that was a huge hit in Las Vegas in 2014 and will return there next year.
Hansen bounced ideas off associate Neil Houston during the process, then they test-drove it with curlers in Calgary in 2001 with TSN commentators and producers.
“To my amazement it’s caught on very well in most of the countries around the world except Canada,” he said. “I thought Canadian curling clubs would just grab this because I thought it was something that would only take half the time and you only needed two people. Mixed was also the perfect formula for it. And it really hasn’t managed to get very far in Canada.”
It’s like it has to get into the Olympics for Canada to take it seriously.
“Probably,” said Hansen.
Get ready for that to happen.