There are berths for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games on the line at an early January curling competition in Portage la Prairie, Man., and Brad Gushue and members of his Canadian and world champion team are among those who have earned berths.
Truth be told, however, they might be hoping they will be deemed ineligible to take part.
The event is the Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials, which will determine this country’s first Olympic mixed doubles curling entry. Mixed doubles
Eighteen doubles teams — including the pairing of Gushue and Alberta skip Val Sweeting, a two-time runner-up at the Scotties Canadian women’s championship —have qualified for Portage la Prairie by virtue of results from the last two Canadian mixed doubles championships as well as standing on the national mixed doubles rankings.
So have teams involving Gushue’s second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker. As is the case for their skip, their mixed doubles partners are from Alberta; Gallant is with Jocelyn Peterman, normally the second for the Calgary rink skipped Chelsea Carey which won the 2016 Scotties, while Walker is teamed with his fiancée Laura Crocker, the third for Kelsey Rocque’s Edmonton foursome.
The Peterman-Gallant and Crocker-Walker teams finished 1-2 at the 2016 Canadian mixed doubles championship.
But here’s the rub: the Portage la Prairie event follows the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials early next month in Ottawa, where Canada’s four-player men’s and women’s teams for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea will be decided.
The Gushue rink, which also includes third Mark Nichols, is top-ranked for the Dec. 2-10 Olympic chase in Ottawa.
It has already been ruled that players on the teams that emerge as the victors of the Ottawa Trials won’t be eligible to compete in the mixed doubles Trials because of what has been described as the rigours of the Olympic curling schedule. So if they come away with the Olympic men’s berths they so badly want, Gushue, Gallant and Walker won’t participate in Portage la Prairie, leaving their doubles partners to look for replacements.
Then again, one of them might be ruled ineligible because she too will have secured a place for Pyeongchang. Sweeting’s and Peterman’s teams have berths at the Ottawa trials, while Crocker, Rocque and their rinkmates are playing in the pre-Trials taking this week in Summerside, P.E.I., where the final two men’s and women’s berths for Ottawa are being determined.
Teams eligible for the mixed doubles trials
Teams invited to the Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials at Portage la Prairie, Man., Jan. 2-7 (in order of their current standing on the Canadian Mixed Doubles Rankings):
• Rachel Homan (Ottawa)/John Morris (Canmore, Alta.)
• Joanne Courtney (Edmonton)/Reid Carruthers (Winnipeg)
• Jennifer Jones/Brent Laing (both Shanty Bay, Ont.)
• Jocelyn Peterman (Calgary)/Brett Gallant (St. John’s)
• Chelsea Carey (Calgary)/Colin Hodgson (Winnipeg)
• Kalynn Park (Edmonton)/Charley Thomas (Calgary)
• Dawn McEwen/Mike McEwen (both Winnipeg)
• Emma Miskew (Ottawa)/Tyrel Griffith (Kelowna, B.C.)
• Lisa Weagle (Ottawa)/John Epping (Toronto)
• Laura Crocker (Edmonton)/Geoff Walker (St. John’s)
• Nancy Martin (Saskatoon)/Catlin Schneider (Regina)
• Marliese Kasner (Shellbrook, Sask.)/Dustin Kalthoff (Saskatoon)
• Val Sweeting (Edmonton)/Brad Gushue (St. John’s)
• Kim Tuck/Wayne Tuck (both Strathroy, Ont.)
• Emilie Desjardins/Robert Desjardins (both Chicoutimi, Que.)
• Nicole Westlund-Stewart/Tyler Stewart (both Kitchener, Ont.)
• Dana Ferguson (Edmonton)/Brendan Bottcher (Sherwood Park, Alta.)
• Shannon Birchard/Jason Gunnlaugson (both Winnipeg)