BOW VALLEY – Locals dedicated to growing the sport of curling are bringing a new all-inclusive World Curling Tour event to the Bow Valley.
Olympic and amateur curlers are getting rocks and brooms ready for the inaugural Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic that will be jointly hosted by the Banff and Canmore curling clubs, Jan. 3-6.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist curler and Canmorite John Morris and the newly created Rocky Mountain Curling Association (RMCA) have been major drivers behind the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic coming in early 2019.
Morris, who’s taken on an ambassador role for mixed doubles, said he hopes the projected annual event develops curling and drives it into the Bow Valley athletic culture alongside alpine and Nordic sports.
“What we want to do is really increase the exposure of the sport and the accessibility of curling to the locals,” Morris said. “Besides the (TSN) Skins Game in Banff that’s happened for the last decade, there’s never been a big draw for a championship here and we want to create that.”
So far, 32 teams have entered the tournament, including curling’s elite such as Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes, Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing, Rachel Homan and Mark Kennedy, Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant, and the PyeongChang Olympic silver and bronze medallists mixed doubles teams from Switzerland and Norway.
The games will be held at the Canmore Golf & Curling Club and at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre.
What makes the Qualico Mixed Doubles Classic standout from other events of its nature is it encourages local curling duos to enter and rub shoulders with the best in the world.
RMCA wanted to create a mix of competitiveness and also honour the social aspect.
“We have had good local entrees from here (Canmore), Banff and Cochrane even,” Morris said.
“Curling, especially competitive curling, is moving towards a competitive sport where we’re kind of losing the social aspect and I think I’ve been lucky enough to grow up and see both sides, both generations of curling, and we’re trying to keep two really great backgrounds here.”
Proceeds from the event will go towards the RMCA, which has a goal to promote curling in the Bow Valley and to boost the growth of wheelchair, junior and senior curling.
RMCA organizers expect the mixed doubles event to become an annual staple in the Bow Valley.
“This is the start of some really good things to come for curling in the Bow Valley and it’s just been so great working with committee here,” said Morris. “At this stage of my career, I want to see the sport grow. I have a family here now in Canmore and the Bow Valley and we’re calling it home, so if we can help the curling community in any way, we will.”