Canada falls to Norway in Olympic mixed curling debut

PYEONGCHANG — It wasn’t exactly the start Canada was looking for.

No, the Olympics haven’t begun yet in an official capacity — that happens on Friday night, with the opening ceremony — but this country is officially 0-1 here.

On Thursday morning, the mixed curling duo of Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris dropped their opening game, 6-9, against Norway, after two big misses from Morris, and one in the final end that led to a steal of two. No need to panic, though, with six more games to come for the Canadians in round-robin play.

“Obviously we wanted to start off with a win, but it’s a long week, thankfully, and we’ll come back stronger,” Lawes said. “That game, it was just a couple key misses here and there that really turned the ends around.”

Lawes and Morris aren’t used to misses on this stage. Four years ago, Lawes, 29, from Winnipeg, went undefeated en route to Olympic gold along with Jennifer Jones, the first time any women’s team in history ever accomplished that. Morris went undefeated in 2010 as a member of Kevin Martin’s rink at the Vancouver Games. Thursday marked a first-ever loss at the Olympics for both players.

“I think we had a strong game overall, just there was probably three key shots in the later ends that I didn’t execute,” Morris said. “That was the turning point of that game.”

No, it didn’t go according to plan, but the loss was part of Olympic history. The four Wednesday morning draws marked the first time mixed doubles curling was ever played at the Olympics, this fast-paced, two-player game. (The biggest difference from the curling you’re used to watching is that each end starts with two stones already in place.)

“To be able to slide over the Olympic rings and to feel as though we’re part of something historic is really powerful and special — something I’ll never forget,” Lawes said. “I’m really proud and honoured to be a part of this.”

The Korean fans brought the noise, too. The Canadians were playing a sheet over from the Korean duo of Hyeji Jang and Lijeong Lee, who earned a 9-4 win over Finland, to the delight of a nearly packed house here.

“I think a lot of them it was their first time watching curling, so it was fantastic to hear the roars from the Korean fans, I think that’s unreal,” Morris said. “I hope they do well here because it would be nice to hear those roars this week. It was a great atmosphere.”

The Canadians will spend the afternoon resting and eating and hydrating before Thursday night’s game, against the Americans. Lawes will also spend time with her mom and brother, who are here (her boyfriend should be, but his flight got cancelled — he’s expected to arrive tomorrow).

Yes, Canada is 0-1, but there’s no need to panic just yet.

“Just gonna park that one, relax in the afternoon and make sure we bounce back, come out strong tonight,” Morris said. “I felt we played really well. Like I said, if we didn’t have a couple key misses, we would have won that game. Bottom line is we gotta make playoffs and that’s one win at a time.”

And here in Pyeongchang, Morris and Lawes still have a shot at getting Canada its first.