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New team, return to Olympics on mind of curling star John Morris

"I just remember thinking, I don't want to go out like that."

CANMORE – Curling star John Morris has unfinished business at the Winter Olympic Games.

The two-time gold medallist from Canmore and Shannon Birchard, a four-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion, announced they have teamed up in mixed doubles with 2026 Milano Cortina, Italy, in mind.

Following a tough go at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics – the only time Morris hasn’t medalled at the Olympics for the Maple Leaf – the 43-year-old said he’s been motivated for the next chapter of his career since the long flight back from China.

“I have to say, the experience in Beijing was a challenging one,” Morris said. “The COVID restrictions were crazy, we [Rachel Homan and I] didn’t perform how I felt like we expected and didn’t end up on the podium. It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and it was tough to take. I just remember thinking, I don’t want to go out like that.”

After a shaky round-robin where Team Canada didn’t look like themselves, Morris and Homan were eliminated from the Olympic tournament before the four-team playoffs against the eventual gold medallist Italians.

Post-Games, when the inevitable talk came up about what the future held between Morris and Homan, a two-time Olympian, they decided to mutually part ways after six years, leaving things on good terms.

“I really enjoyed playing with Rachel, but like in any sport and like with any team, sometimes they just come to an end,” said Morris.

Morris has always been one-half of Canada's mixed doubles duos at the Games. He added he’s been spoiled with his high-calibre partners in Homan and Kaitlyn Lawes, who he won gold with at the sport’s Olympic debut in 2018 PyeongChang.

Following Beijing, Morris hinted it might be his last Games as an athlete. He had just retired from men’s curling and wasn’t sure if he would continue with mixed doubles.

“It might have been different if we won gold, but it didn’t happen,” said Morris. “I know as an athlete you have to be motivated because you need to work hard and have something that’s really lighting a fire under you so you can continue to train at that top level. That’s what I’m using as fuel.”

There were a couple partners out there that he felt, should he team up with, could be very successful together.

Birchard was one of them.

At 28 years old, Winnipeg-native Birchard has been a part of Team Kerri Einarson’s three-year reign as Canada’s best women’s team at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. She also won the top prize with Team Jennifer Jones in 2018.

Morris spoke highly of his new partner, whom he has great chemistry with after getting to know her and former mixed doubles partner Catlin Schneider at tournaments. The two discussed the possibility of teaming up following the Olympics at a Grand Slam of Curling event.

“I am thrilled to be joining up with John,” Birchard said in a statement. “He is such a talented and smart player. He has so much experience in this discipline and I can’t wait to learn from him and to compete with him.”

Morris said that Birchard reminds him of himself 10 or 15 years ago.

“She’s young and motivated and eager to play lots of curling,” said Morris. “One important factor with Shannon is she’s a really strong sweeper. ... I found that a partner that can sweep on both sides and can be a really productive sweeper can help balance out the team better and allow both players to have a really good role together.”

The Canmore curling star added a lot can change in four years and the pair will re-evaluate after every season how things are progressing. However, 2026 is definitely on the competitor's radar.

“I would love another opportunity to win fair and square to represent Canada in mixed doubles,” said Morris. “I think I got a fantastic partner to do that with and nothing would mean more to go to Italy.”

Local and online crowds can get a glimpse of the new duo this fall at the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic, taking place in Banff and Canmore from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2.

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Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

Jordan Small joined the Outlook in 2014 and covers the vast world of sports in the Bow Valley. A Barrie, Ont. native, he also wrote for RMO's Mountain Guide section and the MD of Bighorn beat.
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