Joanne Courtney chases another world curling title in mixed doubles

Joanne Courtney curls for Canada again

CALGARY — It was FOMO — or fear of missing out — that has Joanne Courtney representing Canada at a world curling championship for the second time in less than a month.

Courtney’s teammates Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew and Lisa Weagle were playing mixed doubles and Courtney didn’t want to be the only one among them not giving it a go.

“It’s tough to sit at home and feel left out of something,” Courtney said. “It’s nice to be a part of the development of a new discipline in curling. It’s a sport we’re all passionate about.”

Courtney and Reid Carruthers, who skips a Winnipeg men’s team ranked third in the world, will wear the Maple Leaf at the world mixed doubles championship beginning Saturday in Lethbridge, Alta.

Homan, Miskew, Courtney and Weagle won their first women’s world title and Canada’s first since 2008 in Beijing on March 26.

Courtney and Carruthers then beat Homan and John Morris in the national mixed doubles final April 9 in Saskatoon, which sent Courtney to yet another world championship.

“To get to the wear the Maple Leaf one time was the most amazing thing,” the 28-year-old from Edmonton said. “How well we did at worlds was incredible.

“To turn around and get to wear it again right away is a feeling not a lot of people have experienced.”

Canada is a world powerhouse in men’s and women’s curling, but not in mixed doubles. In the 10 years of world championships, one bronze medal in 2009 is the country’s best result.

Russia and Hungary have twice won gold.

This year’s 39-country world championship ultimately determines which seven nations will join host South Korea next year when mixed doubles makes its Olympic debut.

Canada, the defending champion in men’s and women’s curling, is currently ranked fifth in mixed doubles and not guaranteed an Olympic berth yet.

Jeff Stoughton, who manages Curling Canada’s mixed doubles program, says a top-four finish should be enough to punch Canada’s ticket to Pyeongchang.

“Canada has a reputation of being one of the curling powerhouses, but we definitely haven’t been in mixed doubles yet,” Carruthers said. “Going into Lethbridge, we have to earn our spot into the actual Olympics for Canada.

“We have lots of pressure on our backs, but we’re used to that from our men’s and women’s teams, so we kind of relish that.”

Mixed doubles games are eight ends instead of 10 and each team has six stones instead of eight.

The big wrinkle is one stone belonging to each team is positioned before the end — one a centre guard and the other on the back edge of the button — with both eligible to count towards scoring.

One curler delivers the first and last stones and the other throws the second, third and fourth rocks. They can swap positions from one end to the next and sweeping can be done by both or either team member.

Courtney and Carruthers have played a few events together, but are still on a learning curve in mixed doubles. They spent time practising strategy with Stoughton in Calgary this week.

“It forces me to use skills that I’ve never used before,” Courtney said. “It makes you feel really good at curling when you make good shots because there’s so much less help out there.

“If you make a draw to the button for the win, I never get to do that.”

Mixed doubles is running in conjunction with the world senior curling championship at the ATB Centre.

Six-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts winner and former world champion Colleen Jones of Halifax and Ottawa’s Bryan Cochrane will represent the host country in the seniors event.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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