The 2018 Winter Olympics will officially kick off tonight with a new sport as mixed doubles curling makes its debut in the Winter Games.
But what is mixed doubles curling and why is it separate from the regular men’s and women’s events? All of your questions will be answered right here.
What is mixed doubles curling?
Mixed doubles is played by teams of two – one man and one woman.
Yep. No alternates are allowed. If one of the players goes down or can’t play, the team has to forfeit the game.
Where did this sport come from?
While mixed doubles has been popular at curling clubs around the world for quite some time, you may not have heard of this type of curling before because this is the first time it will be played in the Winter Games. The IOC approved it in 2015 because they saw how popular curling had become since it became an Olympic sport back in 1998.
How is mixed doubles different from regular curling?
For one thing, it’s much faster paced. There are eight ends per game, and each team throws five stones per end, unlike regular curling where they throw eight and play 10 ends.
One player will throw stones one and five, and the other will throw stones two, three and four. The player who isn’t throwing sweeps.
Also, each end starts with both teams putting one stone in play before they begin throwing.
Yea, why is that?
Well, it adds to the pace. It’s called “positioning.” One stone goes inside of the house near the button, and the other serves as a guard just in front of the house. Both stones are placed on the center line.
The team with the hammer, the final throw of the end, gets to choose where these stones are placed to start. But, if you choose to place your stone as the guard, you lose the hammer and have to shoot first.
And these stones still count?
Yep! Even though these stones are placed before the end begins, they can still score points.
What’s this about a power play?
That is a popular term in another Winter Olympic sport, but in curling it means something different. Essentially, once per game the team who is choosing where the stones are positioned is allowed to move the pre-positioned stones off to the side a bit. But they can only do this once, and not if the game goes into extra ends.
Who are the best teams in PyeongChang?
Just like in men’s and women’s, Canada is expected to compete for a medal, and possibly gold. They’re currently ranked No. 1 in the world.
But Switzerland comes in as the hottest team. Jenny Perret and Martin Rios went undefeated at the 2017 World Championships where they won gold. Both players are making their Olympic debuts, and as a duo they are currently ranked No. 2 in the world.
Canada finished second at Worlds, but neither of the players on this team, Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris, were on that team last year. Lawes joined the team when the other woman, Rachel Homan, made the Canadian women’s team and couldn’t do both in PyeongChang. In fact, prior to coming to PyeongChang, Lawes and Morris hadn’t played together in five years.
But, both have previous Olympic experience, and gold medals in curling. You can never count out Team Canada when it comes to curling.
China and Team OAR (from Russia) are also expected to compete for a spot on the medal stand. China was 3rd at the 2017 Worlds and 2nd in 2016. Russia didn’t medal at World last year, but won in 2016.
What about Team USA?
They may be the most interesting team in the entire competition. Matt and Becca Hamilton are brother and sister, and the only players in PyeongChang who will compete in both mixed doubles and Team USA in the men’s and women’s tournaments.
The Hamiltons finished ninth at Worlds, but don’t let that fool you. They went undefeated in group play, and are no slouch. Pay close attention to them because this duo could surprise people and make a run for the podium.
Awesome! Anything else?
Mixed doubles begins Wednesday night with round robins. Teams will play at 7:05 p.m. and 6:05 a.m. EST for four days until the bronze medal match at 7:05 p.m. on February 12. The gold medal match will take place at 6:05 a.m. on February 13.