Mixed Doubles may not be coming to Sudbury (at least not just yet), but that doesn’t mean that Sudbury can’t go to Mixed Doubles.
As most have likely heard, the 2022 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship, originally slated to take place at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex this March has been postponed until 2023.
In the meantime, however, those who dabble in this variation of the sport, which covers a large swath of the competitive curlers in the area, have made their way to the Horne Granite Curling Club in New Liskeard, site of the NOCA playdowns this weekend.
The field of nine teams includes three Curl Sudbury entries: the father/daughter tandems of Luc and Valérie Ouimet and Lee and Mia Toner, as well as the Laurentian University pairing of Olivier Bonin-Ducharme and Mya Smith, both of whom are also doing double duty this month as members of their respective Voyageurs’ varsity teams.
Competing in bonspiels on both fronts in a span of just a few weeks does require the curlers to reset their approach to the sport, just a tad, with the mixed doubles version of curling standing somewhat apart from the more traditional men’s, women’s and mixed games.
“The curling is a lot more fast-paced than your traditional four person curling team,” said Bonin-Ducharme, who is in his third year of competing alongside Smith, with the locals kicking off provincials with a 10-5 win Thursday evening over the North Bay duo of Jeff Brown and Joanne Comé-Forget.
“The ends are shorter, you have less thinking time and the rocks usually end up closer together, so that makes for a faster, more exciting game. I find the communication bit so much simpler for doubles since you only have to talk to one person. It’s a little bit of an adjustment to sweep your own rock, but once you’re used to it, it’s kind of nice to have control on your own rock.”
And for as much as the game itself is different, there is a uniqueness to the 2022 edition of this tournament that should make for an environment in the Tri-Towns that emphasizes a sheer love of curling in the next few days.
“A lot of people are just happy to be out and playing,” said Bonin-Ducharme. “With nationals cancelled this year, there’s no huge end goal for this season, so I think a lot of the teams are just there to have fun and to get on the competitive ice again.”
That’s certainly the case for he and Smith, who seem to enjoy a very strong connection when it comes to their sport of passion. “I think we’ve always had similar goals when it came to curling; even playing outside of mixed doubles, we often share the same opinions,” stated Bonin-Ducharme.
“We always seem to think alike out on the ice and when we don’t, we don’t take anything personally. We put our feelings aside and get things done nice and efficiently.”
For as much as their curling bond is a strong one, it is understandably taken to a whole other level when you are dealing with father-son/daughter combinations. “I can’t wait to make lots of shots with his super sweeper skills,” exclaimed Valérie Ouimet. “This is something new for both of us, but if there’s one person I trust blindly, it is my dad.”
“I think we will have a very fun weekend together playing the sport that we both love.”
Truth be told, the Ouimet-Toner mix is somewhat omnipresent, with Lee and Luc members of the Sandy MacEwan team that fell in the Northern Ontario men’s final last week to Brad Jacobs, while Valérie and Mia form the back-end of a very strong U18 entry that should qualify for nationals in a handful of the next few years.
“It means the world to me to be able to curl in an event with my dad; I have so much respect for him as a person and a curler,” noted Mia Toner. “There aren’t that many sports that allow you to compete at a provincial level with your dad. I’m very excited to hit the ice with him and very grateful to share this experience.”
The double-knockout event saw the Toner tandem facing Kyle Sherlock and Michelle MacLeod (Community First CC - Sault Ste Marie) earlier today while the Ouimet pairing met up with NOCA Executive Director Bobby Ray and partner Mackenzie Daley (North Bay Granite Club), also in draw two.
The winner of the Toner vs Sherlock/MacLeod match will face Smith and Bonin-Ducharme in one of two “A” qualifier semi-finals later in the day.
As noted earlier, February is a busy month for both Olivier Bonin-Ducharme and Mya Smith, the former representing LU with a team of Derek Leung, Mark D'Arcangelo, Patrik Labrosse and Sebastien Whissell, while the latter does the same on the women's side, joining forces with Abby Deschene, Keira McLaughlin and Julia Deklein.
Meanwhile, the first step in the climb towards the Everest Curling Club Championships (November of 2022 - site still to be determined) begins on the weekend of February 24th to the 27th. The Coniston Curling Club and Espanola Curling Club are just two of the six sites being used over the four day stretch as the NOCA assembles their field for the provincials of this bracket, set to take place from March 24th to the 27th at the McIntyre Curling Club in Timmins.
Finally, congratulations go out to Team McCarville second Ashley Sippala who was named to the second all-star team of the recent Scotties Tournament of Hearts held in her hometown of Thunder Bay. Sippala and her team of Krista McCarville (skip), Sudbury native Kendra Lilly (vice) and Sarah Potts (lead) advanced right through to the final before falling to the Kerri Einarson rink which impressively three-peated at Canadians.