GANGNEUNG — As I was riding the bus to the Olympic curling venue for the seventh morning in a row on Wednesday, I was wondering just how much of an effect the just-completed mixed doubles event would have on my perception of the traditional game.
The debut of mixed doubles introduced a large part of the world to a much faster, shorter, higher-scoring, more athletic version of curling.
Look away at your own peril — mixed doubles is not the sometimes plodding, three-hour long, methodical chess match of a game that is traditional curling. Mixed doubles has action and games can change in a heartbeat.
How would the traditional games seem by comparison? Well, to be blunt, they seem much slower, longer and more methodical, as expected. This is nothing against the traditional game. I have been a fan of the strategy, shot-making and under-appreciated athleticism for decades, but it can always be better.
I say this to draw attention to the fact that mixed doubles curling could help revolutionize the entire sport. How long will it be before traditional curling adopts some of the rules that make mixed doubles more exciting — things like eight-end games, no hitting the first four or five rocks of an end and giving up the hammer on blank ends.
Guaranteed, those changes would increase scoring and excitement in traditional curling. Don’t be surprised to see it happen before the next Olympic Winter Games in Beijing in 2022.
And don’t be surprised to see mixed doubles explode over the next quadrennial, especially in Canada after Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in the discipline on Tuesday night.
Hey, Mr. T likes it. He couldn’t stop tweeting about it during the mixed doubles competition.
Surely the game gained plenty of new fans across the world as well.
My Postmedia colleague, Steve Simmons, was not one of them.
Simmons said in his column that mixed doubles curling is a sham and doesn’t belong on the big stage.
The thinking was that Canada won a gold medal despite the fact that the team of Lawes and Morris was newly formed and rarely even practised together before embarking on their quest at the Canadian Olympic mixed doubles curling trials in Portage La Prairie last month.
“This is a made-up Olympic event, added basically because curling draws television numbers and this gives TV another sport that fills plenty of hours for broadcasters around the world,” Simmons wrote.
He’s not wrong on that front, but does that make the accomplishment of Lawes and Morris any less meaningful? Absolutely not.
Does it change the fact that mixed doubles is a great game?
So what if it’s contrived? So what if it’s messing with all the rules? It’s good and it’s fun and Canadians are damn good at it.
To be fair, Simmons also wrote that the gold medal won by Canada in team figure skating — a first-ever gold for longtime …read more