BOW VALLEY – The Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic came down to the last stone as curling stars John Morris and Rachel Homan watched Jocelyn Peterman’s hammer come close, but short of cleaning house.
Winning 6-5 to claim back-to-back titles in the who’s who of Canadian powerhouses bonspiel in Canmore and Banff from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, Canmore’s Morris said the victory is a huge confidence boost for the upcoming Olympic qualifiers later this year.
“Rachel and I got a good thing going on,” said Morris, a two-time Olympic gold medallist in mixed doubles and men’s. “We seem to really play well together and she’s an exceptional shooter and made some really big shots this weekend to win some games and keep us in some games that we were behind, so I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful partner. It’s a good sign going into the rest of the season.”
The heavyweight duo hadn’t thrown rocks with each other since January 2020 when they last won the Qualico classic due to COVID-19 and Homan’s pregnancy, but that didn’t affect their chemistry and pinpoint accuracy as they went 8-0 in the tournament to claim the grand prize of $8,500.
“Our dynamic is like brother and sister,” said Morris. “There’s no one else I’d rather play with. She’s fantastic and she’s a real competitor.”
Peterman and Gallant earned $6,500 for second place.
“It was 3-0 [for us] after two, but we still knew we needed to have really good ends for the rest of it,” said Peterman, who along with Gallant were the 2019 Canadian mixed doubles champions.
“We had a couple misses that hurt, but it was a close game and we give it a good shot at the last end there.
“We’ve played [Morris and Homan] a few times and we know no lead is safe, especially in mixed doubles.”
The road to the Qualico title for Peterman and Gallant meant going through both former champions of the bonspiel, touted as one of the world's top mixed doubles events.
In the semifinals, the Canadians faced off against the United States’ Korey Dropkin and Sarah Anderson, the inaugural winners of the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic in 2019.
Peterman and Gallant put the hammer to the former champs, defeating them 11-5 in seven ends.
In the other semis game, the 2020 champs took on Barrie, Ont.’s Brent Laing and Jennifer Jones in a heavyweight tilt.
Morris and Homan proved to be too much and cruised to an 8-2 victory in six ends.
In Sunday’s final in Banff, Peterman and Gallant jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two ends against the 2020 champs. But with her last stone in the third end, Homan tied things up and swung momentum. Homan's throwing was on fire all game.
Tied at four in the sixth end, Peterman’s hammer just missed a costly take out that put the defending champs up 5-4. Morris and Homan added one more in the seventh to set up a high-stakes eighth and final end.
As Gallant and Peterman loaded up the house with blue stones, a key take out by Morris sent two blues out of the house. Then with their final throw, Homan came up big again when she floated a yellow stone down and it pushed an opposing rock out of the 4' ring, next to the centre button, leaving Homan's in there with some guard coverage out front. There were two yellows and one blue in the house.
With the final stone of the match, it was a tall task for Peterman to clear out Homan/Morris' rocks while keeping her hammer and the team's stone in the 8' ring within the two inner rings to tie.
However, her throw to hit the guard and rolling take out attempt on Morris/Homan's rocks was only able to garner one point to end the game.
"They got up early on this and a couple of shots here and there and we would have been done," said Morris. "But we hung tight and we’ve played this game long enough to know that you have to finish strong and make sure you don’t let it get out of hand and it was a good character win for us."
In its third year, 36 teams competed at the mixed doubles event at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre and Canmore Golf & Curling Club over four days including locals from Canmore, Becky Moncur and Scott Moncur, and Banff's Shane Coutis and Jennifer Sashkiw.
On top of $30,000 in prize money, the mixed double ‘spiel offered a spot for a team to advance to the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials in Saskatoon, where 16 teams will compete from Dec. 28-Jan. 2.
With both finals teams having already advanced prior, the three teams of Sherry Just/Ryan Deis, Selena Sturmay/Karsten Sturmay and Val Sweeting/Marc Kennedy were unable to qualify.
Morris and former partner Kaitlyn Lawes won the inaugural Canadian mixed doubles trials and went on to capture gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Lawes and teammate and nephew Connor Lawes will compete for a spot to make the trials as well.
“It’s going to be an absolute battle royal at the mixed trials,” said Morris. “That was one of the hardest events I ever had to win at that last mixed doubles event at trials and I know it’s going to be a grind.”