When the John Morris rink was eliminated from contention at the Canadian curling trials earlier this month in Ottawa, Tyrel Griffith’s Olympic dream didn’t end there.
The Kelowna curler will be among 36 curlers on 18 teams vying for the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials title early next year in Portage la Prairie, Man.
The champion will represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut.
Griffith will team up with Sherry Just from Prince Albert, SK for the trials which run Jan. 2 to 7.
Griffith, who plays lead for the Morris rink, was initially paired with Emma Miskew but was suddenly without a partner when Miskew won the women’s Olympic berth earlier this month with Rachel Homan’s team.
That’s when Just reached out to Griffith and piqued his interest.
“I wasn’t even sure I was going to play (mixed doubles), I was kind of burned out after the trials, but in talking to Sherry, she kind of re-lit the fire,” said Griffith, 31, a five-time B.C. men’s champ. “It was nice to see someone who was excited, Sherry was really keen to do it, so I’m looking forward to working together with her.”
For Just, the feeling is mutual.
“I had it in my head a few months back that it would be great to play with Tyrel,” said Just, 31. “I needed Homan to win and Morris to lose (at the trials),” she added with a laugh, “and that’s what happened.
Just arrived in the city this week and the two new teammates began practising at the Kelowna Curling Club.
Originally from Winnipeg, Just has gained her share of mixed doubles experience over the last three seasons. She also plays women’s fours with the Mandy Selzer rink in Saskatchewan.
Griffith has played in just two mixed doubles events, including the Wall Grain Classic in November 2016 with Miskew when the two finished second only to Morris and Homan, earning a qualifying spot into the trials.
Despite having limited experience in doubles and the differences in rules and strategies between the two games, Griffith said it is, after all, still curling.
In doubles, only five rocks per team are played per end and the games typically last from 90 to 100 minutes.
“You still have to make the shots like any other game of curling,” Griffith said. “The execution (in doubles) is really crucial, especially early in the end. One or two shots can end up being the game-changer. The game is fast and I think the entertainment value for fans is really high. It’s a whole lot of fun to play, too.”
With the sting of losing out at the men’s trials in Ottawa early this month gradually fading, Griffith is excited to have another chance at fulfilling his Olympic dream.
“It’s been a gruelling season already, it means more work and practising over Christmas, but it’s too good an opportunity to pass up, most people never get a chance like this,” he said. “It’s another good shot at getting to the Olympics, these only come along so often.”
At the trials, the teams will play a single round-robin within their pools, with eight teams moving onto the playoffs.
The final will be played Sunday, Jan. 7 at 11 a.m. Pacific time.