Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, let's talk about the specific discipline of mixed doubles curling. Many may not be familiar with the change in rules and format for the sport. Here is a brief overview of what you will see when watching mixed doubles curling:
- Mixed doubles is contested between teams of two, one male and one female. Each team will be given 5 rocks to throw per end. The end does start with 2 pre-positioned stones resulting in 6 total stones per color in play per end.
- One player will throw stones 1 and 5 while the other will throw stones 2, 3 and 4. Players can switch positions in between ends and both players are allowed to sweep at anytime. Some teams may employ a strategy of having one player hold the broom in the house, effectively resulting in the throwing player to also sweep their own stone.
- For the pre-positioned stones, the team with hammer will have their stone placed at the back of the four foot (red in image). The team without hammer will have a rock positioned as a centre guard (yellow).
- Teams are not allowed to hit and remove any stones, whether their own or opposition, until the 4th rock of the end.
- Each game is 8 ends in length, with extra ends required to ensure no ties. Both teams are provided a total thinking time of 22 minutes per game (meaning the clock stops once the thrown rock is released).
- New for 2016 is the addition of a #PowerPlay (see side picture). If used, the Power Play moves the pre-positioned stones out to one of the sides resulting in a corner guard and the rock in house buried behind above the tee line. Each team is allowed one Power Play per game and can only be used when they have hammer. The Power Play cannot be used in extra ends however.
Ok, got all that down? Mixed doubles is a fast paced machine of a game usually with lots of offense and scoring. It is not uncommon to see teams score 3 or 4 points an end. It is also not uncommon to see teams take early 4-0 or 5-0 leads in a game and still end up losing. If you enjoy lots of rocks in play, high scoring and #noleadissafe, mixed doubles curling is right for you!
So now that you have some understanding of the rules, let's take a quick look at what to expect at #wmdcc2016:
- This year will be the first opportunity for nations to collect Olympic qualification points. At the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, 8 nations will compete for gold. As South Korea is the Olympic host nation, they receive an automatic spot, meaning 7 spots are left up for grabs.
- Nations will only have this year's world championship and next year's world championship (held in Lethbridge, AB, Canada) to collect enough points to qualify. Unlike men's and women's curling for the Olympics, there will be no last chance Olympic qualifying events. At the end of next year's world championship, the 7 nations with the highest combined points (removing South Korea from the standings) will be Olympic bound. Only teams that finish in the Top 12 will receive qualification points (i.e. Gold - 14 points, Silver - 12 points, Bronze - 10 points, 4 through 12 - 9 points to 1 point).
- 2016 will feature a record number of nations competing: 42! Can you think of any other sport where 42 nations are competing for Olympic points and a world title at the same time...in the same week? The amount of nations entered proves the addition of mixed doubles in the Olympics will only help #growthesport in countries around the world. This year's event will welcome 1st time competitors from Israel, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Serbia and Qatar!
- 2016 will mark the 9th year the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships have been contested. The top of the podium has been dominated by 1 nation: Switzerland. In the past 8 years, Switzerland has won 5 championships. However, they are being challenged by relative competitive newcomer Hungary, who come to Sweden as the defending champions. In fact Hungary has won 2 titles in the past 3 years (2013, 2015). The only other nation to win a world title is Russia (2010).
- Don't discount host nation Sweden though. Sweden enters the championships ranked #1 in the world...and for good reason. Sure Sweden has never won a world title but they have played in the world final in 4 straight years (2012-2015). As the host nation, will this finally be the year Sweden lands on top of the podium and not as runner-up?
- To further support the #growthesport mentality, look at a few of the other nations that have found the podium within the past 8 years: Finland (Silver, 2008), New Zealand (Silver, 2010), Austria (Bronze, 2012), Spain (Bronze, 2014). Not exactly nations considered curling super-powers right? But this discipline is allowing more nations to excel in the sport!
- Notice anyone missing from the list above? Where is Canada? The USA? Norway? Scotland? China? Japan? The nations we are used to seeing in the playoffs and on the podiums at men's and women's world championships. The 6 nations I just listed have a combined 3 bronze medals (Canada 2009, China 2010, Norway 2015). These results show, right now, anyone and everyone has an equal shot at making the Olympics!
- Sweden is the #1 ranked team in the world entering this event. But who is right behind them and who are the nations ready to take over top spot? Here is the list of ranked nations #2 - #10: Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Canada, Czech Republic, USA, Spain, Austria. To see the full ranking of nations, click HERE. Where does your country land?