Mor­ris hooked on mixed dou­bles

The Sault Star - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER

John Mor­ris is all in on mixed dou­bles curl­ing. Win­ning the first Olympic gold medal in it will do that to you.

He hasn’t com­pletely shut the door on a re­turn to a men’s team in the fu­ture, but Mor­ris cur­rently feels more pas­sion­ate about curl­ing’s new­est dis­ci­pline.

The 39-year-old from Ot­tawa is play­ing mixed dou­bles ex­clu­sively. Mor­ris re­cruits dif­fer­ent fe­male part­ners when Olympic team­mate Kait­lyn Lawes isn’t avail­able.

Not only did he and Lawes be­come the first Olympic mixed dou­bles champs in Fe­bru­ary, they also are the first curlers in the world to win Olympic gold in both it and team curl­ing.

Lawes plays vice on the Jen­nifer Jones team that won the Olympic women’s ti­tle in 2014. Mor­ris was Kevin Martin’s third in 2010 when they claimed men’s gold.

Few na­tional men’s cham­pi­onships haven’t fea­tured Mor­ris at skip or vice as he’s rep­re­sented On­tario, Al­berta and B.C. at the Brier dur­ing his ca­reer.

Now liv­ing in Can­more, Alta., Mor­ris isn’t feel­ing any pangs to re­turn to a men’s four­some.

“There’s prob­a­bly only a small hand­ful of guys I would ever con­sider play­ing with again,” Mor­ris told The Cana­dian Press. “I would not be play­ing men’s team this year even if Brad Gushue called me.

“It’s mixed dou­bles now and if the right op­por­tu­nity presents it­self in the next year or two, it’ll be some­thing I’ll think about. I’m re­ally en­joy­ing play­ing mixed dou­bles and that’s what’s on my radar right now.”

Mor­ris will rep­re­sent Canada in the sec­ond leg of the World Cup of Curl­ing start­ing Wed­nes­day in Omaha, Neb., with Ed­mon­ton’s Ka­lynn Park as his dou­bles part­ner.

Lawes is oth­er­wise oc­cu­pied with Jones at the Canada Cup of Curl­ing that also opens Wed­nes­day in Este­van, Sask.

Tay­lor McDon­ald was ini­tially go­ing to curl with Mor­ris in Omaha, but the Canada Cup claimed her too when Al­li­son Flaxey’s team qual­i­fied for Este­van.

In a crowded curl­ing cal­en­dar, Mor­ris ac­cepts he’ll likely have a ro­ta­tion of part­ners in mixed dou­bles.

“I feel like I have a lot of friends in the curl­ing world,” he said. “It’s a good chal­lenge if I have a dif­fer­ent part­ner at an event.”

But Mor­ris and 29-year-old Lawes from Win­nipeg have com­mit­ted to be mixed dou­bles team­mates for at least two sea­sons. They won last month’s Canad Inns Mixed Dou­bles Cham­pi­onship in Portage, Man.

“She’d be my first choice be­cause we’ve had a great track record,” Mor­ris said. “I fully re­spect her com­mit­ment to her women’s team with Jen­nifer Jones.

“She’s play­ing on one of the best women’s teams in the world and she’s got a great thing go­ing there.”

Mixed dou­bles fits Mor­ris’s life right now. The fire­fighter’s wife Mag­gie gave birth to Jack a month af­ter the Win­ter Games.

“These mixed dou­bles events are three or four days. They’re def­i­nitely a lit­tle shorter and a lit­tle less main­te­nance be­cause you’re not deal­ing with four or five per­son­al­i­ties,” Mor­ris ex­plained.

“It’s a bit more flex­i­ble and adapt­able, the game of mixed dou­bles, and right now with hav­ing a young fam­ily and not want­ing to be away over 100 days a year in a ho­tel, it’s kind of nice to have more flex­i­bil­ity.”

Mor­ris is so bullish on mixed dou­bles that he’s or­ga­nized the in­au­gu­ral Qual­ico Mixed Dou­bles Clas­sic in Can­more and Banff, Alta., Jan. 3-6.

“We want to cre­ate a bit of a curl­ing cul­ture be­cause it’s so driven by alpine and nordic skiing,” Mor­ris ex­plained. “It’s filled up. There’s a wait­ing list for it.”

In Omaha, Mor­ris and Park are in a group with Switzer­land’s Jenny Per­ret and Martin Rios, whom Mor­ris and Lawes beat for Olympic gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“I think they’ve won al­most ev­ery event they’ve been in,” Mor­ris said. “They’re def­i­nitely tal­ented mixed­dou­bles spe­cial­ists. That will be a very good test.”

Teams skipped by Win­nipeg’s Ja­son Gunnlaug­son and Tracy Fleury will join Mor­ris rep­re­sent­ing Canada in Omaha.

Canada swept the first leg of the in­au­gu­ral World Cup in Suzhou, China, in Septem­ber. Kevin Koe and Rachel Ho­man won the team events, while Kirk Muyres and Laura Walker took mixed dou­bles. The World Cup’s third stop is Jan. 30-Feb. 3 in Jonkop­ing, Swe­den. The grand fi­nal May 8-12 in Beijing fea­tures win­ning teams from the pre­vi­ous three stops.

The World Cup, spon­sored by a Chi­nese com­pany, of­fers a to­tal of US$775,000, or just over CDN$1 mil­lion, in prize money.

Ice Chips

The 15-team, $140,000 Home Hard­ware Canada Cup of Curl­ing gets un­der­way Wed­nes­day in Este­van, Sask.

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Jen­nifer Jones and Reid Car­ruthers have teams in the field as do Brad Gushue, Rachel Ho­man, Kerri Ei­nar­son, Brad Ja­cobs and Kevin Koe.

A vir­tual tie in the 2017-18 Or­der of Merit stand­ings for the fi­nal women’s berth added an eighth team to the tour­na­ment.

The win­ners earn a berth in the 2021 pre-Olympic tri­als and will rep­re­sent Canada at a World Cup event dur­ing the 2019-20 sea­son.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Cana­di­ans Kait­lyn Lawes and John Mor­ris re­act af­ter defeating Switzer­land to win gold dur­ing mixed dou­bles curl­ing ac­tion at the 2018 Olympic Win­ter Games. Mor­ris is all in on mixed dou­bles curl­ing. Win­ning the first Olympic gold medal in it will do that to you. He hasn’t com­pletely shut the door on a re­turn to a men’s team in the fu­ture, but Mor­ris cur­rently feels more pas­sion­ate about curl­ing’s new­est dis­ci­pline.

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