Welcome back into our lives Olympic Games! It has been just under two years since the world united under the Olympic rings and this week the Olympic spirit will reign supreme once again when the 2018 Winter Olympics hit the global viewership from PyeongChang, South Korea.
The Opening Ceremonies are slated for Friday February 9 at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, a temporary 35,000 seat pentagonal design structure. But while the official start of the games will be when the Olympic flame is lit at Olympic Stadium, the actual competition will begin a day earlier.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will kick-off with the welcoming of a new Olympic discipline added to the roster: Mixed Doubles Curling!
The discipline of mixed doubles curling is really still in its infancy stage in the world of sport. 2018 will mark its true introduction to the eyes of the world when it hits the ice in PyeongChang. But this will not be the first world appearance. Mixed doubles has held a world championship since 2008. It is sort of remarkable that the sport comes off celebrating its 10th World Championship in 2017 only to gear up for its first Olympic invite in 2018.
But before we offer some hack weight takeouts on what to expect in PyeongChang, lets quickly discuss the difference in play/rules of mixed doubles vs team curling. The quick and dirty of the discipline:
- Mixed doubles is for teams of two players, one male and no female, with no alternate players
- The game is played on the same sheet of ice as other curling disciplines
- Teams have only 6 stones each (instead of 8) and one stone from each team is prepositioned on the centre line before each end of play begins. A perfect end is a score of 6!
- Player One delivers first and last stone while Player Two delivers second, third and fourth. The two players may swap positions from Player One to Player Two from one end to the next.
- Sweeping can be done by both players.
- The "skip" or Player One does not need to stand behind the hog line at the scoring end. Teams can select to have a sweeper instead of a "skip".
- Each team receives 22 minutes of thinking time and games are scheduled for 8 ends.
- Team may call a #PowerPlay once per game (but only when the team has hammer), meaning pre-placed stones will be moved out to one of the sides and placed as a corner guard and a stone behind it, with the back of the stone against the tee line.
- The first take-out is allowed with the fourth stone played each end.
- Before fourth stone, teams are not allowed to hit either their opposition or their own stones out of play.
- If an end is blanked, the team that delivered first stone will have decision on pre-determined rock placement the next end.
The theme of mixed doubles really is #NoLeadIsSafe. As mentioned, with many rocks in play and the opportunity to score multiple points and/or steal each end, scores can be high and a team could race out to a quick 5 or 6 point lead early and still suffer the loss by the time the final rock comes to rest in the house. Momentum swings will be key. The timing of calling a #PowerPlay will be key. Do you make the Power Play call when you are done a few points near the end of the game with hammer and hope to generate some offense and get back into the game? We see this quite often with the experience European teams. They will often make the Power Play call in end 5 or 6 looking to generate the big end to gain a lead and momentum coming down the home stretch. Or do you make the Power Play call hoping to play a more defensive end and protect a lead when you have it, say making the call in end 7 or 8. The debate on when and strategy behind the decision rages on and it will be an added element to pay attention to during the Olympic competition.
With no Olympic history to draw upon, how will people know who are the big players in the discipline? Which are the nations expected to challenge for the podium? What is the history here? The only stats we can really draw over the past 10 years are the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship results. Here is a quick summary:
- #HoppSchwiiz - No nation has excelled in this element of the sport like Switzerland. In the 10 year history of the world championship they have claimed gold 6 times, including the most recent championship in 2017. The same 2017 victorious duo will be competing in this Olympic debut.
- Only three nations have claimed the top of the podium in 10 years of world championship results. As mentioned Switzerland leads the way with 6 while Russia and Hungary follow behind with 2 gold medal wins apiece. Russia's most recent title victory came in 2016 while Hungary last won the title in 2015. Russia's 2016 champs will be competing in PyeongChang while Hungary failed to qualify.
- Overall medal table results show, again, Switzerland leading the way with 6 overall medals (all gold of course). Sweden is next with 5 medals (including 4 straight silver medal finishes from 2012-2015). Hungary, Russia and China are next with 3 total medals to round out the Top 5. Canada, often declared the dominant curling nation, has collected 2 medals (including last year's silver medal) and Finand, New Zealand (both silver), Austria, Czech Republic, France, Norway, Spain and USA (all bronze) have found the podium once.
- #growthesport - While the international history of the discipline may be in infancy stage, the growth movement of mixed doubles around the world is taking off at a rapid pace....perhaps faster than a Jason Gunnlaugson take out! When the first world championships took place in 2008 in Finland 24 nations entered the competition. Not a bad start for the first world championship right? By the time 2017 rolled around last year, a record 39 nations sent a delegation to compete for the world title. And sure we see traditional curling powers like Canada, USA, Sweden, Scotland and Switzerland compete but we also saw the inclusion of non-traditional curling nations like Latvia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, Ireland, Israel and Estonia to name a few. We also see some non-traditional winter sport nations competing like Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.
The #growthesport movement is truly the strongest among the mixed doubles discipline in the sport of curling. The movement is not only felt in traditional curling nations where we are seeing some of the top curling athletes play a dual threat role in competing in team and mixed doubles now but also we are seeing more of these non-traditional curling nations pick up the sport and see an increased growth back home. For some this has also led to increase funding from their national sports governing body and/or the build of a dedicated curling facility. For more information on the #growthesport movement in mixed doubles curling, please check out the #TwineTime blog post on the topic HERE, including interviews with some of the top athletes from traditional and non-traditional curling nations.
But enough of the history lesson and backstory on mixed doubles. Lets turn our attention to the main stage of this blog post: The 2018 Winter Olympics!!
Slip on that slider, settle in the hack, take a deep breath.....here we go!
Mixed Doubles Curling
Gangneung Curling Centre
Gangneung, South Korea
Competition Schedule: February 8 - 13, 2018
2014 Champion: New Event
Format: 8 team RR with Top 4 advancing to playoffs with 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 SF matches.
Watch Out For
Final Standings: 1. OAR 2. China 3. Switzerland 4. Norway 5. Canada 6. USA 7. Finland 8. Korea
Qualifiers: OAR, China, Switzerland, Norway
OAR def. Norway
China def. Switzerland
Switzerland def. Norway
#PyeongChang2018 GOLD MEDAL
OAR (Bryzgalova/Krushelnitskiy) def. China (Wang/Ba)
The 2018 Winter Olympics have arrived and are underway....even before the official flame is lit in PyeongChang. Don't forget, there is still time to enter the #TwineTime Winter Olympics 50/50 Pool, raising funds for Canadian Cerebral Palsy Sports Association. Full details and the entry form can be found HERE.
#StayTuned curling AND Olympic fans as more #PyeongChang2018 previews will be sliding into your house throughout the duration of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Of course with the Olympic craze hitting everything from the curling sheet to the snowy slopes to hockey arena to skating oval and everywhere in between, the #TwineTime Poll needed to be updated. For our Olympic-themed poll, the question is "Can one nation sweep the curling podium in PyeongChang?" Canada, Switzerland, USA and Korea will field teams in all 3 curling disciplines. Can any of these nations dominate the field and take home all 3 gold medals? Head over to the #TwineTime Home Page and VOTE NOW!!!
The last #TwineTime poll proved to be a closely contested race. When asked "What is the curling story of 2017?" Team Gushue rolling through their competition and collecting their 1st Brier and World Championship collected 38% of the vote. Homan's similar domination came in second in 27% while the Roar of the Rings Canadian Olympic Curling Trials collected 25%. Team Edin's strong season could not overcome the Canadian pride, collecting 8% of the votes.