SOLID AS A ROCK

Kait­lyn Lawes and John Mor­ris roll to gold in first mixed curl­ing fi­nal

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - AARON FAVILA/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Win­ning the gold in mixed dou­bles turned out to be no con­test at all for Kait­lyn Lawes and John Mor­ris, who hand­ily de­feated Switzer­land for the new sport’s top prize at the Games. See our Olympic cov­er­age on and on­line at

In the GANGNE­UNG, SOUTH KOREA end, it wasn’t even close. It was never close.

Other than in one game, the very first one Canada played in the in­au­gu­ral mixed dou­bles curl­ing com­pe­ti­tion in the Olympics, no one could hold a can­dle to Kait­lyn Lawes and John Mor­ris. The pair put an em­phatic claim on the gold medal Tues­day with a 10-3 win over Jenny Per­ret and Martin Rios of Switzer­land.

Canada outscored its op­po­nents 70-33 in their nine games, lost just once — to Nor­way on Day 1 — and once again showed the coun­try’s ut­ter dom­i­nance in curl­ing.

“It feels fan­tas­tic,” Mor­ris said af­ter the pair stood on the top of the podium at the Gangne­ung Curl­ing Cen­tre. “You never know how many times you are go­ing to be able to get to an Olympics and it’s just such a priv­i­lege if you can get to one.

“The pres­sure is al­ways on, whether you are a hockey fan or a curl­ing fan, every­body wants you to bring home the gold, so it just feels so great that we were able to do that.”

Both Lawes and Mor­ris have now won two gold medals. Lawes won with Jen­nifer Jones at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, while Mor­ris won with Kevin Martin in 2010 in Van­cou­ver.

“It sounds sur­real and I don’t know if that’s ever go­ing to sink in,” said Lawes, a 29-year-old from Win­nipeg. “The first one hasn’t sunk in yet to be hon­est. To be able to bring home an­other gold medal, with John, is an ab­so­lute hon­our.”

Lawes is the first Cana­dian curler to win medals in back-to-back Olympics, and both play­ers join Kevin Martin as the only Cana­di­ans to win two Olympic curl­ing medals. They are the first two to win two gold medals.

Lawes and Mor­ris won Olympic gold in just their 22nd game as a team. They came to­gether in Jan­uary for the Cana­dian Olympic curl­ing tri­als. Lawes was brought in as a re­place­ment player af­ter Mor­ris’s orig­i­nal part­ner, Rachel Ho­man, had to bow out as she al­ready qual­i­fied for the Olympics in women’s curl­ing.

“I hon­estly didn’t feel like we were the favourites com­ing in,” Lawes said. “I’m just so proud of our ef­forts to be able to com­pete against the top teams in mixed dou­bles.”

The fact that Lawes and Mor­ris had to get through such a tough field to win the Cana­dian curl­ing tri­als and qual­ify for the Olympics made them bat­tle-tested for this event and, though they had far less ex­pe­ri­ence in the mixed dou­bles dis­ci­pline than the other teams, they were able to im­pose their will in eight of nine games.

“We just re­ally wanted to come in and go with our in­stinct here,” said Mor­ris, a 39-year-old fire­fighter from Can­more, Alta. “The game of mixed dou­bles, the strat­egy is of­fence and that’s why I think it’s such a great sport. Un­like team curl­ing, where you can maybe coast and play re­ally de­fen­sive, you’ve got to keep the pres­sure on here.”

Things went so well for Canada that they didn’t need to throw their last rock in the eighth end once in their fi­nal seven games of the tour­na­ment.

In the fi­nal, the Cana­di­ans never gave the Swiss a chance.

They scored two in the first, forced the Swiss to one in the sec­ond and blew the game open with four in the third. With Canada al­ready ly­ing four, Rios at­tempted a raise triple but com­pletely flashed with his last rock. Mor­ris then drew an­other rock into the four­foot to lie five.

Per­ret made a raise double with her last rock, but that left Lawes a chance to make a raise take­out of her own and stick the shooter to score four. She nailed it.

Canada took back the ham­mer in the fifth end and kept up the pres­sure, even­tu­ally scor­ing a deuce to make it 8-3, then stole two more points in the sixth, af­ter which the Swiss play­ers shook hands and the cel­e­bra­tion was on.

Lawes and Mor­ris hugged and cel­e­brated as Cana­dian fans in the stands roared their ap­proval. Lawes then went into the stands to cel­e­brate with her part­ner, Stephan Vigier, be­fore re­turn­ing for the podium cer­e­mony.

It was a win for Canada and even a big­ger win for mixed dou­bles curl­ing.

“It’s a re­ally fun sport and the Olympics re­ally helps ex­pose new and unique sports to the rest of the world,” Mor­ris said. “If that lets other peo­ple try the sport of curl­ing for the first time, I think that’s won­der­ful.”

The man who was tasked with get­ting Canada’s mixed dou­bles Olympic curl­ing pro­gram off the ground was feel­ing an over­whelm­ing sense of pride Tues­day as he watched Lawes and Mor­ris cruise to a gold medal.

“I jumped on Kait­lyn and John’s backs,” said Jeff Stoughton, Curl­ing Canada’s na­tional mixed dou­bles coach. “They played so well all week.”

Un­like team curl­ing, where you can maybe coast and play re­ally de­fen­sive, you’ve got to keep the pres­sure on here.

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Kait­lyn Lawes and John Mor­ris get down to busi­ness in the mixed dou­bles gold-medal game against Switzer­land at the Olympic Win­ter Games in Gangne­ung, South Korea, on Tues­day. The Cana­dian duo dom­i­nated, win­ning 10-3.

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