GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Canada's Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris improve to 5-1 in the Olympic Mixed Doubles Curling competition after a 7-2 win over Switzerland's Jenny Perret and Martin Rios in the morning draw and an 8-3 win over Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitckii of the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the evening draw. The wins put Canada alone in first place and clinch a playoff spot into the medal round. Norway's Kristen Skaslien and Markus Nedregotten join the Swiss and Russians in a 3-way tie for 2nd place at 4-2.
After a first end steal by the Swiss in the morning draw, the second end four-score got Lawes/Morris off to a great start against the reigning World Champions. "It was a great end for us, John swept my rock perfectly. Hung on just enough and gave us a little momentum for the rest of the game," said Lawes speaking to CBC's Colleen Jones post-game.
Perret struggled with her first stone of the end giving Canada opportunities to position stones and take advantage of their skilled shotmaking until the fifth end when Switzerland was poised to post a big score of their own when Lawes made another great draw to snuff out the chance and set up a steal.
"That was a huge draw for us, to be able to not remove some of the backing. And it didn't leave them a shot," added Lawes.
Lawes/Morris came into the tournament as the most inexperienced team into a group of dedicated entries into the Mixed Doubles discipline who play the competition full time on the ISS World Mixed Doubles Curling Tour. For the Canadians, their only tournament played together was the Canad Inns Olympic Mixed Doubles Trials where Lawes/Morris went 9-4 to win the right to represent Canada here in South Korea.
The Chinese pair of Rui Wang and Dexin Ba played 60 games on the Mixed Doubles Tour coming into the Olympics, with the Russian pair of Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitsky and the Swiss' Perret/Rios having played 54 games each to Canada's 13 total games.
The lack of experience certainly appeared to leave the Canadians on the outside-looking-in when it came to a potential podium finish. The bet by Jeff Stoughton and the Canadian organization on skill over experience though seems to be paying off though with the great start by Lawes and Morris.
The experience in the mixed doubles game is important but for Lawes and Morris, they've been able to overcome that lack of gameplay with timely shot-making and past Olympic appearances. The overlooked experience for Lawes and Morris is that they've been to the Olympics, with only Dexin Ba of China having been to the Olympics previously out of all the Mixed Doubles competitors. These previous appearances and success have seemingly helped the Canadians become comfortable early in the competition and get off to a strong start.
Time will tell if the Canadians can continue to overcome the experience gap in Mixed Doubles play as they face the game's top teams in pressure-packed playoffs game but with two round-robin draws left they're well positioned to play for a medal here in South Korea.