Park/Thomas pick up key first victory at Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Trials

Gold medallists Charley Thomas and Kalynn Park with National Team Coach Jim Waite

Mixed doubles curling might be a relatively new sport, but Kalynn Park and Charley Thomas are among the pioneers of the game. Park and Thomas opened the round robin at the 2018 Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials with an important first win.

Park and Thomas, of Edmonton and Calgary respectively, defeated Nicole Westlund-Stewart and Tyler Stewart (Kitchener, Ont.) 7-4 in Draw 2 at Stride Place in Portage la Prairie, Man.

The Alberta duo opened scoring, courtesy of Park’s runback for two points in the first end, and maintained the lead throughout the game. By the fourth end break Park and Thomas led 4-2 and continued applying pressure in the second half of the game.

Westlund-Stewart/Westlund gave up a steal of two in the fifth end to trail 6-2. They made up a couple of points in the sixth end with a score of two, but Park and Thomas put the game out of reach in the seventh end after scoring one point with the hammer. They secured the victory by running Westlund-Steward/Westlund out of rocks in the final end.

“Always getting off on the right start is important. It helps mentally going into the next game today. We have a big day today so it’s nice to start strong,” Thomas said.

The victory gives Park/Thomas a 1-0 record in the round robin, with games against Laura Crocker/Geoff Walker (1-0) and Dana Ferguson/Brendan Bottcher (1-0) to come later on Tuesday.

Park and Thomas are one of the more experienced mixed doubles teams at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Trials. They won the 2015 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship and finished fourth at that year’s world championship. They were also runners-up at the 2014 national championship against Kim and Wayne Tuck, who are also playing for gold at the Canad Inns Mixed Doubles Trials.

But Park and Thomas have seen the competition amp up since it was announced mixed doubles would make its debut at Pyeongchang, South Korea, with world champions and Olympic champions hoping for the chance to represent Canada at the Olympics.

“When you take a look at both of the pools there’s no free spaces on there,” Thomas said. “Every game is going to be hard and you know that if you have a subpar game, any team can beat you out there. There’s some really tough competition here.”

In other Draw 2 action, steals of two in the fourth and fifth ends gave Crocker/Walker a 7-4 victory against Sherry Middaugh/John Epping. Ferguson/Bottcher came back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Kaitlyn Lawes/John Morris 8-4. Chelsea Carey/Colin Hodgson’s three points in the third end helped them overcome Val Sweeting/Brad Gushue 6-4.

In the 8 a.m. draw Jocelyn Peterman/Brett Gallant defeated Kim and Wayne Tuck 11-4; Jennifer Jones/Mark Nichols bested Shannon Birchard/Jason Gunnlaugson 9-3; Nancy Martin/Catlin Schneider beat Sherry Just/Tyrel Griffith 11-5; and Emilie and Robert Desjardins edged Dawn and Mike McEwen 5-3.

The 2018 Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials continue with draws today at 4:15 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. (all times CST).

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