New Canadian Mixed Doubles curling championship

JIM BENDER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:36 AM ET

Canadian curling's newest venture has already spiked curiousity, even if the Canucks have been a little late to join the party.

As the Winnipeg Sun has been telling its readers it was coming, the Canadian Curling Association confirmed Monday that it has created a new Canadian Mixed Doubles championship of sorts that it is calling the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials, to be held every March.

The inaugural championship will be held in Leduc, Alta., March 14-17, 2013, with the winner to represent Canada at the 2013 World Mixed Doubles in Fredericton, N.B., April 13-20. The unorthodox discipline could be added to the Olympics as soon as 2018.

"I think it's great, especially since they are trying to make it an Olympic sport," said Kaitlyn Lawes, third for reigning Manitoba women's champion Jennifer Jones. "I've never actually played it, but I did practise it (before the 2011 Continental Cup), and it was fun.

"It's a totally different game and it goes by very fast. It will be different for the spectators to watch."

While this will be the first Canadian mixed doubles event, the discipline has taken off in Europe where each country has held its own championship since 2008.

"They even have a Tour over there where you can play (mixed doubles) almost any weekend," Lawes said.

The national event will consist of 32 teams (one male, one female). Each of the 14 provincial/territorial associations will select one team, which means that Manitoba will hold a mixed doubles championship sometime after Christmas.

"We're still working on the details, but it will be an open competition with no qualifiers," said CurlManitoba executive director Shane Ray. "And there will be no age restrictions."

Participants will not need to buy a competitor's card but will have to pay an entry fee. And yes, that means even I can enter — if I could find someone huggable enough to put up with me.

Two teams will be comprised out of next month's winner of the traditional Canadian Mixed Championship in Montreal.

The remaining 16 teams for the mixed doubles trials will be composed of open invitations but, should more than the required number of entries be submitted, then each team’s participating status will be decided by the Order of Merit — based on the CCA's Canadian Team Ranking System as of Dec. 31, 2012. Those teams could be made of two curlers from different provinces and Lawes is seriously considering entering such a team if it does not conflict with her women's team's schedule.

"It's a good idea because it allows people to practise the rules of that event all year long," Ray said. "And if it became (an Olympic event), it would take on a new importance for our athletes."

Manitoba's Sean Grassie, who skipped the only Canadian team to ever medal at the World Mixed Doubles (2009 bronze with Allison Nimik) is not so sure he likes all aspects of the new trials.

"I like the idea of having a separate provincial championship, but I think I'd leave it at that," he said. "I don't know why they'd go beyond that, especially if it's based on the Order of Merit. All of the top players may not be as good in mixed doubles. It's a different game. So, you still can't call it a national event. So, I don't know what their thinking is there."

CurlManitoba is expected to announce more details of the provincial championship on Thursday.

"Hopefully, this sparks a lot of interest at the club level down the road," Grassie said.

Actually, CurlManitoba is offering a Mixed Doubles Learning League at the Wildewood Curling Club this year.

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What: The 2013 Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials

Where: Leduc, Alberta

When: March 14-17, 2013.

Who: 32 teams (each team consists of one male curler and one female curler).

Winner: will represent Canada at the World Curling Federation’s 2013 World Mixed Doubles Championship in Fredericton, N.B., April 13-20 where 30 teams from around the world are expected to compete. It will be held in conjunction with the World Seniors.

Qualifiers: 1. Each of the 14 provincial/territorial curling associations will select one team; 2. The winning team at the Canadian Mixed Championship in Montreal, Nov. 15-24, will receive two entries; 3. The other 16 teams will be composed of open invitations but, should more than the required number entries be submitted, then each team’s participating status will be decided by the Order of Merit as of Dec. 31, 2012. The Order of Merit is based exclusively on the CCA’s Canadian Team Ranking System.

Rules: eight ends. Each team has six stones and one rock from each team is prepositioned on the centre line before every end of play. One player delivers the first and last stones of the end while the other player throws the second, third and fourth stones. The two players may swap positions from one end to the next. Both players are allowed to sweep.

Quote:

“This new event was felt to be critical to enable Canada to ensure it sends its best curlers to represent us at the World Mixed Doubles Championship. Other nations are qualifying using a mixed doubles championship, so it makes sense to provide Canada with the same opportunity to capture consistent podium results in this discipline, especially with the World Mixed Doubles being held in Fredericton next April and a strong chance of Mixed Doubles being granted Olympic inclusion as early as 2018.” — CCA CEO Greg Stremlaw

jim.bender@sunmedia.ca

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