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Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter

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John Morris and Rachel Homan are off to the Beijing Olympics and they’re doing it without having thrown a mixed doubles rock for months.

The two veteran curlers were selected to represent Canada by a consortium of Curling Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium after the Canadian Mixed Doubles Trials were cancelled to the pandemic.

“Just a really strange time,” said Morris. “I'm sure this was not the way any of us that were participating in the trials wanted to go, but under the circumstances, we’re pretty ecstatic and looking forward to wearing that Maple Leaf on our backs.”

“It's just pretty fresh and early,” added Homan, who got the news earlier this week. “So, we've mostly been focused on trying to get ready here. It's been kind of a crazy time.”

Crazy indeed. The duo’s first game at the Olympics is in 21 days, meaning they’ve had to put their preparations, both on-ice and off, into high gear.

Working in their favour is that both have been through the Olympic experience before. Morris will be making his third trip to the Games, Homan her second.

The two, who have partnered in mixed doubles since 2015, might have played together at the last Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018, except Homan skipped her women’s team to a berth in that discipline. Morris then substituted in Kaitlyn Lawes and the two went on to win gold.

Curling Canada has a rule that prevents any player from competing in both disciplines.

“I think that what's going to help us in this process,” Morris stated of their past experience. “We have a great plan moving forward. It's definitely a shorter plan because it's kind of what we've been given.

“You get good as a curler to put these kinds of condensed and concentrated training camps on that can really get you ready for a major event. So, I think that we're going to draw from that experience and buckle down here for at least 10 solid days before we leave for Beijing, and I have no doubt that we're going to be 100-per-cent ready when we when we step on that ice.”

“John, and I have obviously played a little bit together and we've played in a lot of big fields together and at the nationals,” Homan said, “and we have so many good mixed doubles teams in Canada that we've got that experience and playing in high-pressure situations and games and moments. That has been really good and so we can kind of draw on those, see what worked, what didn't work, and just kind of fine tune in this training camp, really prepare ourselves as best we can.”

Morris will be trying to join a select group of Canadian athletes who have won three gold medals in three different Games. Along with his mixed-doubles gold from 2018, he was on the top step of the podium at the 2010 Games in the men’s event on the squad skipped by Kevin Martin.

Homan’s team finished out of the medals in 2018, a testament to the high calibre of international talent that now pervades the sport that Canada once dominated. There is no longer an easy path to the podium for Canadian curlers.

That will be the case for Morris and Homan in Beijing. Many of the teams the Canadians will face are mixed doubles specialists and have the advantage of knowing they were going to the Olympics for some time.

“I haven’t and I don’t think I really want to look at the opposition,” Homan stated. “We know that we can go out there and win every game, so we’re just going to prepare and focus on ourselves.”

The one thing all competitors will face is COVID-19 and the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Trying to avoid catching it in the lead-up to the Games is front and centre for Morris and Homan, no matter what they happen to be doing.

“I almost went to the dog park today,” said Homan, “and then I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe my dog could give it to me,’ so I scrapped that. It's always on your mind and you come up with crazy scenarios that maybe even your dog might give it to you. So that's where we're at right now. We're trying to lock down and make sure that we're doing everything we can for Canada.”

The Morris-Homan team completes Canada’s curling entries at the Olympics. Jennifer Jones and her rink and the Brad Gushue team will represent Canada in the four-person competitions.