THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s penultimate round robin match in mixed doubles curling was a dizzying start to finish. When the last rock fell in overtime on Sunday, Australia slipped away with a 10-8 victory that put Canada’s medal hopes in question at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
After coming a hair away from heading home hours earlier after getting a COVID test, Australia’s Tahli Gill and compatriot Dean Hewitt stunned Canada with three runs in the first set and three straight steals to create a lead of 7-0.
Faced with this seemingly insurmountable backlog, Rachel Homan and John Morris refused to panic they responded in a big way, scoring four runs in the fifth inning, three in the seventh and they stole in the eighth inning to tie the game and force holding an extension. On Canada’s last pitch, however, Homan’s stone went right through the house, giving the Australians the winning run on a silver platter.
“My last shot had too much force,” Homan said. We thought he was perfect, but the stone was too fast halfway through so we have to take it, learn from it and move on. We did everything we could in the second half to get back into the game. We fought well and we never gave up. »
This loss prevented Canada from possibly securing a place in the semi-finals. Morris and Homan will now have to negotiate with Italy in their last game of the round robin. Canada, Norway and Great Britain are tied at 5-3 behind Italy (8-0) and ahead of Sweden (5-4). Italy, Norway and Great Britain already have their tickets in their pocket for the semi-finals. Canada will have to defeat Italy to reach the semi-finals.
“We always knew we had to beat Italy,” Homan said.
“It puts us in a bit of a tight spot so we have to come out strong tomorrow as our place here depends on it,” added Morris.
Gill and Hewitt, who were mentored by Morris in the months leading up to Australia’s first Olympic appearance, took full advantage of the Canadians’ slow start to the game. Taking control of the house early in the game in response to missed shots by Homan and Morris, the Aussies scored in each of the first four innings.
This poor start prompted Homan and Morris to use their power play in the third inning in a desperate attempt to turn the game around. This strategy obviously did not bear the hoped-for results. A double takeout by Hewitt and a well-placed stone by Gill forced Homan to attempt a somewhat complicated double. This approach did not work and Australia stole a point.
“We knew (the Aussies) would be tough because they’re a much better team than their record this week indicated,” Morris said. We couldn’t do anything in the first four rounds. However, the tide turned in the second half of the match and we played quite a late game… without however being able to win. »
The Australians have spent the last five months training in Canmore, Alberta under Morris’s supervision and showed early in the game that they had learned their lessons well, rarely missing their shots as Homan and Morris struggled to find their landmarks.
The Australians’ first real misses, one each by Hewitt and Gill, opened the door to four runs for Canada in the fifth inning. Three more points in the seventh reversed the pressure on the Australians. On his last pitch in the eighth inning against two Canadian scoring rocks either side deep in the target, Gill tried to go and hit one of the rocks to stay in position to score the run that would confirm an Australian victory, rather than simply place his stone near the house without any obstruction. After making contact, his rock slipped out of the circle, giving Canada a steal that forced overtime.
It was Australia’s second straight win after seven defeats and the result came hours after some emotional moments as they packed up thinking they had to fly home immediately after Gill got a second positive COVID test. The Olympic Medical Committee later determined that his PCR test result met the authorized standards, allowing the team to continue their participation in the Games.
Back on the ice, they beat Switzerland for their first win in Beijing.