EDMONTON - It sounds like something which more likely might involve Scotch, not Scots — swizzle sticks, not brooms.
Mixed doubles sounds like an event meant more for the Brier Patch than on a televised international curling competition.
At your correspondent’s first live look at the alleged third Olympic curling event for the future at the Continental Cup in St. Albert Thursday, the first impression was that it’s goofy.
Kevin Martin and Thomas Ulsrud, the two skips from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic men’s gold medal game, sat in the hack as they would normally do. They threw the rocks the same way as always.
But then ...
They got up and went chasing after them!
Finally catching up to the granite, they swept it to the house where the female member of each tandem was urging them to hurry hard.
Seeing Kevin Martin sweep is, indeed, worth the price of admission. And, for the most part, the curlers are out there with giant grins on their faces, quite clearly enjoying the heck out of the five-rocks-to-an-end, all-sorts-of-rocks-in-the-house, eight-end, two-hour hoot which Carter Rycroft declared to be “the most fun you can have with your curling shoes on.”
Mixed doubles is part of the concoction of different events which make up the Continental Cup. It will be featured again on the Friday afternoon draw.
But the review of mixed doubles is, well, mixed.
“It’s just not curling,” said Susan O’Connor of Calgary, Canada’s Olympic silver medal-winning third, who represented the nation with Dean Ross at the first world mixed doubles championship in Vierumaki, Finland in 2008, where they finished fifth.
“I don’t think it’s curling. It doesn’t have any kind of team aspect where you have the communication thing. I mean, you try your best but … it’s a fun gimmick.
“I feel the same way today that I felt at the first world championships in Finland.
“I wouldn’t prefer singles to mixed doubles,” she said of the one-person game which is on the Saturday afternoon draw. “I wouldn’t prefer either one at the Olympics.”
That’s where the World Curling Federation wants it to end up, to try to develop the game in all 48 member nations such as Andorra, Armenia, Brazil, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg where putting together a competitive four-person team is highly unlikely. Russia beating New Zealand in last year’s world championship gold medal game illustrates the potential, they say.
“At our meeting in December, the member associations agreed that they were keen to pursue getting mixed doubles accepted as an additional discipline in the Olympic Winter Games,” said WCF new president Kate Caithness Thursday, confirming it is definitely being targeted for the five-ring circus.
“The associations agreed that they are going to build to ensure that it becomes a highly competitive and widespread sport in order to fully meet the criteria to become an Olympic winter sport in the future,” added Caithness.
“I was kind of tired at the end of the game, after sweeping all those rocks, but it was kind of fun.” said Ulsrud. “It’s a good thing for an event like this. But the Olympics? That might be a stretch. I’m not to sure.”
Rycroft, the second from Kevin Koe’s world championship team, said it would go great at the Olympics.
“I love it. It’s totally fun. And it’s great to watch. Lots of other sports have different kinds of events at the Olympics. Why not curling?”
The last word, as it usually does in this sport, belongs to Kevin Martin.
“People might not believe me when I say this but there’s a lot more strategy to it than our normal four-player game. I mean, you are never safe. We were up 6-0 in our game and if I don’t make that in-off on the last end, we lose. And we were up 6-0!
“I think it would go great in the Olympics. It’s so exciting!”