Mixed curling has global appeal

SEAN GRASSIE, FOR SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

CORTINA, Italy -- Canada versus Bulgaria is not a matchup you'll often see at an international curling event.

But it played out yesterday as we improved to 5-0 at the world mixed doubles championship in Cortina, Italy, after beating the Bulgarians 10-3.

There is only one curling sheet in Bulgaria, but just one male and one female curler is needed to assemble a mixed doubles team. This makes it easier for Bulgaria and countries like Spain, Hungary and Estonia -- all who have never competed at a men's or women's world curling championship -- to be part of the 27-team field here this week.

And this global appeal of mixed doubles curling could land the sport a place in the Olympics as early as 2014. According to Keith Wendorf, the director of competitions for the World Curling Federation, the WCF's bid to have mixed doubles in the Vancouver Games was denied because the sport wasn't established enough yet.

But Wendorf says he is hopeful that the success of this event in Cortina -- where 27 of the 45 WCF member nations are represented -- will help convince Olympic officials that mixed doubles belongs in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. The WCF will submit their bid by September and will know the decision about six months later.

In fact, Wendorf says the intent of introducing mixed doubles to curling was to add more medals for the sport at the Olympics. It was chosen over the four-person mixed, he says, because it is easier for many countries to field teams, it's a game that could spark some life into curling clubs, and it means less traffic in an already crowded Olympic Village with just two players on a team.

Already, mixed doubles curling has been included in the newly formed Youth Olympic Games. In Innsbruck, Austria in 2012, 16 countries will send two male and two female curlers between the ages of 14 and 18. When the curlers arrive, they will be randomly mixed with other nations to create 32 mixed doubles teams.

One of the nations in Innsbruck will be Brazil. So if Canada versus Bulgaria seems odd, just image a scenario where a Canadian curler wins an Olympic medal with a Brazilian teammate.

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Sean Grassie is with Team Canada at the world mixed doubles curling championship


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