World Curling President anticipates mixed doubles Olympic debut

  • Korea are set to finish amongst the top eight teams in Lethbridge Photo: © WCF / Céline Stucki

The curling spotlight is now shining a light on a new discipline of the game – mixed doubles.

The game which features teams made up of one male and one female competitor, along with unique rules from the typical four-man team is making its debut in the upcoming 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea (8-25 February 2018).

Since announcing mixed doubles curling will be an Olympic medal discipline in 2015, the buzz saw 39 nations at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship 2017 in Lethbridge, Canada vying for the world title and the Olympic points that were on offer.

This final championship before the games, is now into its last day - where the seven National Olympic Committees to join hosts Korea at the Games for the mixed doubles event will be determined. Canada, China and Russia secured their berths on Friday (28 April).

President of the World Curling Federation (WCF), Kate Caithness is optimistic that having the world’s eyes on mixed doubles curling during the Olympics will result in continuous growth in the discipline, due to the various dynamic elements the game brings.

Kicking off with 24 Member Associations in the first ever World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship in 2008, to a record number of 42 nations in 2016, it’s not difficult to see the steady expansion of mixed doubles competition on the ice.

“We’ve increased the numbers of participating countries and particularly, since it became an Olympic sport the standard of play has just gone from strength to strength,” said Caithness.

Existing curling fans have only been exposed to one type of curling since it was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1924. Shaping the minds of the curling fans world-wide to embrace the new format of the game doesn’t happen overnight.

“It’s a totally different discipline and I think trying to educate long-time curlers that this is a great discipline and they must try it. But, the disciple to be fair is really attracting the young. The game is much quicker,” Caithness continued.

With athletes competing in the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship ranging from 12 years old to 60, the game welcomes an array of skill-sets between both newcomers and world champions. Also, for the Olympic Movement its an attractive discipline, with its equality of both male and female athletes competing on the ice.

“We have total gender equality in curling, and so of course this was even better – one man and one woman on the field of play,” said Caithness.

Member Associations who aren’t traditionally as strong on the world curling stage have been turning heads too in the mixed doubles competitions over the years. Nations such as Latvia and Czech Republic are en-route to earning possible Olympic Qualification Points for their nation. The likes of Hungary, Spain and New Zealand have also won medals in past world championships.

“I just hope that the Olympics can encourage more and more people to participate in our sport, especially young people. For the smaller countries it’s much easier to find one male and one female player than to find five male and five female players to be able to commit. So, I think this is where the smaller associations will come aboard,” said Caithness.

“Sadly, we’ve only got seven places plus the host nation which is a big challenge for us this time. So, hopefully next time around we’ll have more countries competing [at the Olympics].”

The future of mixed doubles will transform after its introduction to the Olympic Winter Games in 2018. Caithness believes the new discipline will only create more opportunity to fill vacant ice sheets across the world.

“At the end of our time in Gangneung, [I hope] that everybody has fallen in love with mixed doubles and then we can go forward with a request to the International Olympic Committee, that we increase the number of participating teams for 2022.”

To keep up-to-date with all the action from the WMDCC 2017, and the teams’ journey to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, follow us on Twitter, Instagram (@worldcurling) and Facebook (/WorldCurlingFederation) and use the hashtags: #WMDCC2017 #Roadto2018 #curling

by Emily Dwyer, feature writer