In their second year trying out Canadian mixed doubles, Wilfrid Laurier curling alumna Kerilynn Mathers and fifth-year lead Fraser Reid were the first team on the waiting list.
The pair played together during the Ontario Curling Association Mixed Doubles Challenge, where they made it to the quarter-finals in the event. By doing so, and with all of their other points they accumulated this year, the team placed 33rd in the country. With the top 32 teams getting an invite to the 2016 Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from Mar. 31 to Apr. 3, Mathers and Reid are the first team on the waiting list.
And they are just getting started.
After taking a one-year hiatus from the sport, Reid and Mathers decided to take the alternative to the traditional curling game more seriously this year. Reid said it’s a nice change from constantly playing curling with four players.
“It was fun, it’s definitely a different sport, definitely a totally different dynamic in the sport,” he said. “It’s definitely more fun and it’s a nice change when you curl faithfully over 100 games a year in four-person curling.”
Mixed doubles is an addition to the game of curling, but with some minor changes to the traditional four-person game. Instead of each team throwing eight rocks, only five rocks are thrown and two rocks are already in play. The team who has hammer has a rock in the house whereas the team without hammer starts with a guard. There aren’t any hits until halfway through the game either — each team must throw five rocks before any rocks can leave play.
And of course, the teams are only pairs.
Mathers said that now that curling is transitioning from more of a social environment to an Olympic sport, teams are putting a lot more emphasis on the game and trying to figure it out to gain an advantage.
“A lot of friends and couples were in it at the beginning learning it and having a great time game and really making it a learning experience with doing it together,” she said. “But now with that emphasis with Team Canada and having the chance to go to the winter Olympics, a lot of teams are putting a lot more work into it and trying to figure out how the game works.”
This was also an opportunity for the partners to curl together.
Reid and Mathers played together two years ago when mixed doubles was first introduced, but they only played for fun and used the time to try and learn the new sport. Last year, they took a break from it because their schedules didn’t sync up.
“It’s fun. We get along really well on the ice. So it works out well for us. She may have said differently, I don’t know, but I like it,” Reid said. “It’s a different dynamic than obviously playing with guys like we do throughout the year. It’s always nice, it’s fun to play, get a chance to play a different setting, as well being able to play with her is nice.”
Mathers said one of the difficulties of mixed doubles is how much more mental preparation goes into it. She said that when she misses a shot, she has three teammates that could pick her up. But mixed doubles are a little different. When she’s in the hack by herself, she has to be able to rebound as quickly as possible without that support of teammates right away.
During the mixed doubles event, the duo discovered some things about each other that wasn’t as prevalent before — like Mathers’ competitive spirit.
“Fraser said to me when we were going into it that, ‘Let’s enjoy ourselves,’ ” she said. “We’re both very competitive. I think it really was [during] the weekend that we discovered how competitive I really was, and there’s a few times where he looked at me and he said ‘We’re playing for fun. Enjoy it.’ ”
“I have a really competitive personality so, I had to put that aside a little,” she continued.
Mathers continued that there were a lot of times that Reid had to save her during an end, but they found what works for them with Reid having a background in playing lead and skip and Mathers having a background in playing second and vice.
“I like to say I was, but there was a lot of times where he had to save me, so no, especially because one player throws the first and fifth stone and one player throws the middle three, we found what works best for us in Fraser throwing one and five and me throwing two, three and four,” she said.
So out of the two, who shoots better? Reid puts it this way — he understands the strategy better, but Mathers throws harder.
“She’s a very good curler. I want to say me, but, I feel like I’d get in trouble for that,” he joked. “No, she’s a very good curler. She probably throws it harder than me though, so that’s one thing.”