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As competitor or coach, Canmore curler John Morris planned for Beijing appearance

“The bottom line is when the bell tolls to represent your country and wear that red and white, it’s a no brainer and I’m really looking forward to that opportunity.”

CANMORE – You know it was a good week for Canmore curler John Morris when qualifying for the Brier took a backseat to bigger news.

Morris and mixed curling partner Rachel Homan will fight for gold in Beijing next month after Curling Canada announced them as the country’s representatives on Jan. 13. However, two of Morris' pupils might stand in the way of the Olympic champion's dreams of a third gold medal.

“It has been a whirlwind [of a week],” said Morris, also qualifying on Jan. 9 for the Brier with Team Kevin Koe. “The bottom line is when the bell tolls to represent your country and wear that red and white it’s a no-brainer and I’m really looking forward to that opportunity.”

Beijing’s mixed doubles schedule is from Feb. 2-8 with Morris, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, and Homan, a three-time Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion, playing their first game Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. MST against Great Britain.

From Feb. 2-6, Canada plays nine round robin games: Feb. 3 at 5:05 a.m. vs. Norway; Feb. 3 at 5:35 p.m. vs. Switzerland; Feb. 3 at 10:35 p.m. vs. China; Feb. 4 at 11 p.m. vs. Sweden; Feb. 5 at 5:05 a.m. vs. U.S.; Feb. 5 at 11:05 p.m. vs. Czech Republic; Feb. 6 at 5:05 a.m. vs. Australia; and Feb. 6 at 6:05 p.m. vs. Italy.

The semifinals take place Feb. 7 at 5 a.m. The bronze medal game is Feb. 7 at 11 p.m. and the gold medal game is Feb. 8 at 5 a.m.

The Canada/Australia showdown will be worth watching as the decorated curler from Canmore has been coaching the history-making team from Down Under for the past two years.

Australia’s Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt earned Australia's first-ever curling berth at the Olympics last December after defeating South Korea at the Olympic qualification tournament in Leeuwaden, The Netherlands. They've been stationed in Canmore for the past four months training out of the Canmore Golf and Curling Club alongside mentor Johnny Mo.

"We’ve been working with John Morris for about two years now and because he lives in Canmore ... he suggested being based in Canmore," said Gill. "The Canmore Golf and Curling Club has really looked after us so well and they’ve been treating us like pretty much family and taking care of us so it’s definitely a place we’ll be based out of a lot in the future."

The duo from Oz is also practicing with Morris and Homan in Canmore during a pre-camp prior to travelling to China.

Morris said he would have gone to Beijing whether he was nominated by Curling Canada for mixed doubles or not.

“I was going with that team regardless, but, you know, at the end of the day I don’t have a ton of years competing left,” said Morris, 43. “When you get the opportunity to compete you can’t turn that down because there’s lots of years to coach when you’re retired from the sport.”

Due to COVID-19, Canada's mixed doubles trials were cancelled in December, which was set to wrap up early January and determine which duo would go to Beijing. Curling Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium made the decision on the representative.

Morris said Curling Canada was tight-lipped on the decision.

“I had no idea and I didn’t fret about it either,” he said. “I have a family and I wasn’t losing too much sleep, but it definitely feels good to get the nod and it would have been nice to play and compete at trials and I empathize with a lot of those players because some are my friends and they put a lot of time and work into it, so I do kind of feel bad about how the process ended finishing, but I guess it’s just a sign of the times we live in these days.”

This is Morris' third time representing Canada at the Olympics, where he'll try to make it three-for-three with gold medals.

In 2018, Morris won gold with Kaitlyn Lawes during mixed doubles debut in PyeongChang. In 2010, Morris won gold in men's curling.

Team Homan was selected to represent Ontario in the 2022 Canadian Scotties Tournament of Hearts starting Jan. 28 to Feb. 6 in Thunder Bay, Ont., following the cancellation of the Scotties trials. However, with Homan being selected to Beijing, Team Duncan will replace Team Homan at the Scotties.

A few days prior to the Olympics decision, Team Kevin Koe, which Morris plays second for, won the 2022 Alberta Boston Pizza Cup and will represent the province at the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier from March 4-13 in Lethbridge.

Defeating Team Ted Appelman 8-4 in the final on Jan. 9, Morris said he didn't have his best performance with everything going on.

“Being in limbo with mixed doubles and who would represent Canada and then still trying to stay focused at men's curling at the provincials. My team was great. It wasn’t my best event individually, so they really kind of pulled us through,” said Morris.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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