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Curlers right the ship, figure skaters struggle as Canada seeks to defend gold medals

BEIJING — Canada's defence of its Olympic mixed doubles curling gold medal is looking a lot more promising. The path to repeating as figure skating team champions, however, is on perilously thin ice.

BEIJING — Canada's defence of its Olympic mixed doubles curling gold medal is looking a lot more promising.

The path to repeating as figure skating team champions, however, is on perilously thin ice.

After splitting its opening two mixed doubles matches Thursday, Canada's tandem of John Morris and Rachel Homan picked up a pair of wins Friday to move into a tie with Britain for second place in the round-robin standings at 3-1.

Morris, from Canmore, Alta., and Ottawa's Homan opened with a 7-5 win over Switzerland. The Canadians scored three points in the first end, and had an answer any time the Swiss duo of Jenny Perret and Martin Rios looked to close the gap.

The Canadians followed with an 8-6 win over host China. Homan and Morris had a 4-1 lead after a steal of two in the third end, and held a commanding 8-4 lead entering the eighth and final end.

In team figure skating, Canada sat sixth after the opening three events and faced an early elimination from a competition it won at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

A squad already short on depth was missing Keegan Messing, who remains in Canada awaiting two more negative COVID-19 tests.

Roman Sadovsky, a 22-year-old from Toronto, stepped in for Messing in the men's short program but had a shaky skate and finished eighth out of nine skaters.

Sadovsky underrotated and two-footed the landing on his quadruple Salchow to finish with 71.06 points.

"Kind of disappointing honestly," Sadovsky said. "Only because those are mistakes that I don’t usually make. The quad Salchow is a comfort jump for me. It was very successful this season. There was just a slight mishap on the takeoff that didn’t allow me to pull in."

Friday's events featured a few practices and preliminary competitions leading up to the opening ceremony to officially kick off the Beijing Games. The first medals are handed out Saturday, including in men's moguls, where defending champion Mikaël Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que., is a favourite to repeat.

Canada's men's hockey team had its practice cancelled Friday. Hockey Canada said the late-afternoon session would have made it difficult for players to attend the opening ceremony. The team is expected to hold its first practice Saturday as it gears up for its game Thursday against Germany.

Morris opted against joining his fellow Olympians at the ceremony.

“To be honest with you, I would much prefer to watch on TV, drink a beer, and play some cards," he said. "So that's what I'm doing today.” 

On Saturday, Morris and Homan will look to build on their momentum in matches against Sweden and the United States. Canada has won three straight matches after opening with a 6-4 loss to Britain on Thursday.

Morris noted that the mixed doubles format appeals to a wider international talent pool. Case in point — Italy, hardly a traditional curling powerhouse, led the table after the opening two days of competition at 4-0.

“I think it's just a bit more suited for this day and age," said Morris, who teamed with Kaitlyn Lawes to win gold when mixed doubles made its debut in Pyeongchang. "It’s a nice fast-paced game that's aggressive, and it's so popular around the world. There are more countries that play mixed doubles than play traditional."

In team figure skating, Canada moved up from eighth to sixth by the day's end thanks to a fourth-place result in ice dance from Piper Gilles of Toronto and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., followed by fifth place in pairs for Kirsten Moore-Towers of St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont.

However, only the top five teams advance past the short programs, and Canada could be on the outside if Madeline Schizas can't bump her team up a place when she makes her Olympic debut in Sunday's women's short program.

In alpine skiing, Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., had a strong performance in the second men's downhill training run. He finished third, 0.20 seconds behind leader Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway.

Thompson's teammate, Brodie Seger of North Vancouver, B.C., had a much tougher run when he crashed on a turn. Seger spun around and slid down the slope, grazing the safety nets, but avoided serious injury.

“I’m feeling lucky. My thumb is a little bit sore but that’s it. I can ski with that,” Seger said.

A third training run is scheduled for Saturday, with the medal event going Sunday.

And in luge, Reid Watts of Whistler, B.C., finished 18th in both the fifth and sixth men's singles training runs. The first two competitive runs are on Saturday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2022.

The Canadian Press