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Mixing It Up: Mixed Doubles Curling Adds New Dimension

  • Matthew Geer, of Wilder, middle, and his teammates Dory Psomas, 16, of Hanover, left, and Angela Stockton, of Windsor, right, sweep the ice to help their stone travel farther and direct its path during Upper Valley Curling's ice time at Barwood Arena in White River Junction, Vt., Saturday, December 12, 2016. The club is hoping to increase membership with increased ice time at Barwood, and by offering lessons. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock Curling Club member Peter Hughes, of South Woodstock, watches the path of a stone as a learning curler practices his delivery at Barwood Arena in White River Junction, Vt., Saturday, December 10, 2016. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Peter Labelle, of Cavendish, left, demonstrates the delivery of a stone while teaching curling to newcomers with fellow Woodstock Curling Club member Rich Svec, right, at Barwood Arena in White River Junction, Vt., Saturday, December 12, 2016. Upper Valley Curling is hosting lessons with help from the Woodstock Curling Club during their Saturday evening ice time through December 17, and beginning again on January 7. From left are Karen Afre, of West Lebanon, Mikayla Kravetz, of Lebanon, Renata Baptista, of Lebanon, and Morgan Taylor, of White River Junction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, February 09, 2018

White River Junction — Every four years, Upper Valley Curling sees a spike in interest and participation, piqued naturally by the exposure the sport receives during the Winter Olympic Games.

The introduction of the mixed doubles format — one male and one female on each team instead of same-gender teams of four — could help garner more attention to the sport when it makes its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang. Mixed doubles curling opened the 2018 Games with a match between the U.S. and Russia on Thursday, one day prior to the opening ceremonies.

Longtime UVC athlete Jay Flanders, who helps instruct the club’s introductory learn-to-curl clinics, is intrigued to gauge public reaction to the mixed doubles format during regular and learning sessions this month.

“You’ve got diehards in this sport who may love it, and they may hate it. We won’t really know until they see it,” Flanders, of Sunapee, said. “It’s a challenging version of the game and a change of pace.”

Rather than the traditional 10 ends (think innings in baseball), wherein each team slides a total of eight rocks toward a target (the “house”) at the other end of the ice, mixed doubles entails eight ends consisting of five throws per team.

One player on each team throws the first and last rock, the other throws the middle three and those roles can be switched from one end to the next. Same-gender teams have more defined roles — lead, second, third, skip — that don’t change within a match.

Other than that, rules are virtually identical, with one important wrinkle added to mixed doubles: there are two pre-positioned stones on the ice, one in the house and the other in front of it, representing each team, adding to strategy.

With only two players per team, the dynamics of sweeping — reducing friction on the ice with swift brushing in front of its path — also changes.

“Personally, I think it’s very exciting,” Flanders said “It’s mentally more challenging because there aren’t as many people strategizing. And it would allow couples to play together (at the recreational level), so it could open up a lot of opportunities for people.”

UVC regular Sharron Besso, of Windsor, is looking forward to viewing the new format and expects it to help attract more players to the sport.

“It adds a new layer, and with new layers comes new interest,” she said. “The more interest in generates, the better. It’s always good to have new things to help it grow.”

Steve Noble, of Meriden, can’t wait to see a faster-paced version of the game with mixed doubles.

“It definitely won’t be boring, that’s for sure,” he said. “There will be new stuff to figure out with those (pre-positioned) stones. I think it’s going to be really cool to see.”

Chuck Houle, of Orange, Vt., is a White River Junction VA Medical Center patient who participates in curling from a wheelchair. He hopes more adaptive curlers might catch on as a result of the added exposure of the sport with mixed doubles,

“Having another version of the game out there can only be a good thing, because it shows how diverse the sport can be,” Houle said. “It’s a great sport, whether you’re in a wheelchair or not.”

Flanders noted that Upper Valley Curling regulars have discussed staging mixed doubles games and, while many are receptive to it, demand hasn’t quite been high enough to implement it yet.

“A lot of people like the idea, so we’ll see how having it be part of the Olympics might affect peoples views of it,” he said.

The next learn-to-curl session with Upper Valley Curling is scheduled on Feb. 24 from 5:45-8:15 p.m. at Wendall Barwood Arena behind Hartford High School. Participants are invited to a social gathering with club members afterward.

For more information, visit www.uppervalleycurling.org or send an email to uppervalleycurling@gmail.com.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.