Curling mixes it up with great success in Lillehammer
The two curling competitions at Lillehammer 2016 were both mixed events, with Canada coming out on top in the mixed team tournament and a Swiss and a Japanese curler coming together to win the mixed doubles, which will feature on the Olympic Winter Games programme at Pyeongchang 2018.
Unique to the Youth Olympic Games, the mixed team competition featured teams of two male and two female curlers from the same NOC, while the mixed doubles, which will be included on the Olympic Winter Games programme at Pyeongchang 2018, comprised pairs made up of a male and female curler from different NOCs.
Unbeaten in the group phase of the mixed team competition, the Canada team formed by skip Mary Fay, Tyler Tardi, Karlee Burgess and Sterling Middleton overpowered Turkey 10-2 in the quarter-finals before edging Switzerland 7-5 in the semis.
Waiting for them in the final was a USA team comprising skip Luc Violette Cora Farrell, Ben Richardson and Cait Flannery, who suffered a solitary defeat to Russia in their group before kicking on to beat Norway 7-5 in the last eight and then get their own back on the Russians with an 8-6 victory in the semis.
©Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC
Canada began the final in emphatic fashion, scoring five on the very first end. They continued to heap the pressure on Luc and his team-mates with doubles on the third and fifth ends, and though the USA quartet closed the gap, they were unable to prevent their northern neighbours from recording a comfortable 10-4 win.
The bronze medal went to the Swiss quartet of skip Selina Witschonke, Henwy Lochmann, Laura Engler and Philipp Hoesli, the youngest player in the competition at 14 years of age, who eased to an 11-3 win over Russia after also making an impressive start.
© Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC
“It’s just hard to believe,” said Canadian skip Mary. “It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that you brought the gold medal home for your country.” Delighted with her team’s efforts, Canada coach Helen Radford added: “The level of maturity that all four have is pretty incredible.”
The perfect combination
The mixed doubles competition took place on the final day of the YOG, just a few hours before the Closing Ceremony, with players from different cultures coming together, urging each other on and forging new friendships in a wonderful atmosphere.
The pairings were decided according to the position the players occupied in their teams in the mixed team competition and the final ranking of their teams, a system that ensured the mixed-NOC duos were evenly matched.
The tandem formed by Hoesli and 16-year-old Yako Matsuzawa of Japan quickly found their stride to ease through the early rounds, though they were taken all the way by China’s Riuyi Zhao and Norway’s Andreas Haarstad in the semis, the Swiss/Japanese pairing squeezing through to the final by a 7-6 scoreline.
Yako Matsuzawa JPN and Philipp Hoesli SUI © Jon Buckle for YIS/IOC
Waiting for them there were China’s Yu Han and Great Britain’s Ross Whyte, with Phillip and Yako scoring a crucial four in the fourth end and establishing a 6-3 lead at the halfway stage. A decisive five in the sixth end gave them a commanding lead and though Yu and Ross trimmed the deficit, Phillip and Yako eased home to record an 11-5 win. The bronze went to Zhao and Haarstad.
© Jon Buckle for YIS/IOC
“It’s incredible to win gold,” said Hoesli. “I’m so happy, I can’t believe it. It’s just fantastic. I don’t think the final score is a fair reflection of the match. It was much closer than that. The two rinks played some great shots; it was so tense! I knew that I was the youngest player in the curling tournament, but that’s nothing unusual for me. It’s always like that. And I knew I was the youngest member of the Swiss delegation here. Right now I’m really tired. I’d just like to go to sleep right now!”
“The unique part of it was the mixed doubles and mixed curling,” said USA skip Luc. “Originally going into this a few years ago, I was kind of sceptical about the whole thing. I found it gave me some new perspectives in the game and I am glad it happened. I am more than glad I did this.”
Luc Violette USA © Thomas Lovelock for YIS/IOC