Portage la Prarie Mb.January 6, 2018.Canad Inn Mixed Doubles Curling Trials.Page Playoff 1 vs 2 ,Kaitlyn Lawes,John Morris,Curling Canada/ michael burns photo

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang are underway. Yes, the opening ceremonies will not be until Friday, but just like the last few Olympic Games, events begin before the Olympic Winter Games officially get underway. This year, mixed doubles curling and figure skating will be into full swing, while there will also be qualifications in moguls and ski jumping.

In mixed doubles curling, Canada is represented by two Olympic gold medalists in Kaitlyn Lawes of Winnipeg, Manitoba and John Morris, who one could argue represents the entire country of Canada (more on him later). In their first game on Wednesday, Lawes and Morris were upset 9-6 to Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten of Norway.

Lawes and Morris got off to a great start as they had a 6-4 lead after five ends, but struggled mightily in the final three ends and lost by three points. In other draw one action, the United States routed the Olympic Athletes from Russia 9-3, South Korea trounced Finland 9-4 and Switzerland beat China 7-5.

Things went much better for Lawes and Morris against the United States in draw two. In a 6-4 win over the sister-brother duo of Rebecca and Matt Hamilton, the turning point came in the fifth end, when Matt Hamilton accidentally took out one of the American stones on a long run back. The error allowed Canada to steal three points, take the 5-2 lead and command of the contest.

Canada is now in a six-way tie for second with the United States, China, Norway, the Olympic Athletes from Russia and South Korea. The game between China and South Korea was extremely interesting because China had a 6-1 lead only to see South Korea come back to tie the game at 7 and force an extra end.

In mixed doubles curling, if a team blanks an end, they lose the hammer, as is what happened here with China, who could not hit and stay with their final stone for the win in the eighth end. China put pressure on South Korea early in the extra end however and stole a point for the victory.

The Koreans and Chinese also have a Canadian connection. China is coached by former Randy Ferbey lead Marcel Rocque and South Korea is coached by Jim Cotter, who plays third for Morris in British Columbia. Morris has connections to many provinces. He lives in Canmore, has represented Alberta-based teams at the Brier seven occasions, currently curls on a team based in Vernon, B.C., was born in Winnipeg, and while attending Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, skipped Alberta at the 2002 Brier, where interestingly he lost in the final to Rocque and Ferbey.