CALGARY — Developing chemistry on the fly plus brilliant shots propelled Kerri Einarson and Brad Gushue to their first Canadian mixed doubles curling championship.
Einarson of Gimli, Man., and Gushue of St. John's, N.L. defeated Colton Lott and Kadriana Sahaidak 9-6 in Thursday's final in Calgary.
Einarson and Gushue claimed $50,000 in prize money and will represent Canada in the world mixed doubles championship May 17-23 in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Einarson won her second curling title of 2021 after defending her national women's crown at last month's Scotties Tournament of Hearts.
So the 33-year-old will skip Canada at the women's world curling championship April 30 to May 6 in Calgary before heading to Scotland with Gushue to pursue another world championship in the same month.
Einarson played mixed doubles for the first time in Calgary.
"It's crazy," Einarson said. "I never thought I would win a mixed doubles title as well in the same year.
"Coming into this, I didn't expect this, my first time ever playing mixed doubles. It feels absolutely amazing."
Mixed doubles was the third Curling Canada event held in Calgary's bubble following the national women's and men's championship.
There are no spectators. Participants are confined to hotel and arena to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The men's world championship April 2-11 follows the three domestic events at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre.
In mixed doubles, one player throws the first and fifth stones and the other second through fourth in an eight-end game.
The team with last-rock advantage starts each end with a counter in the house behind an opposing team's guard.
Gushue and Einarson devote the majority of their curling time to skipping their respective four-player teams.
Gushue is a three-time winner of the Tim Hortons Brier and won a world title in 2017. His foursome finished outside the playoffs in Calgary earlier this month.
What Einarson and Gushue have in common is both won Canadian titles in 2020, but couldn't compete in world championships cancelled because of the global pandemic.
"To come here and have a disappointing performance at the Brier and then follow it up with a good performance here, it kind of makes up for a lot of the crappy stuff that's happened over the last year," Gushue said.
"I really enjoyed playing with Kerri. Even off the ice, telling stories, laughing and teasing each other, it's been a ton of fun. Definitely picked up my spirits."
Lott, 25, and Sahaidak, 21, are a couple who have curled mixed doubles together for several years. The duo from Selkirk, Man., finished second at the 2018 national championship and third the following year.
The Home Hardware Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship featured 35 pairs, including several athletes who also played in the Hearts and Brier.
Pressure shots Gushue and Einarson execute to win big games for their teams carried over to mixed doubles.
The pair raced to 9-2 lead after six ends Thursday before giving up four in the seventh.
Einarson didn't throw her final stone of the eighth when Gushue made a double takeout.
"At this level, you can't afford to come out flat," Lott said. "If you come out flat you're not going to win.
"The teams we had to beat to even get to this point, it's huge. It shows we can compete and we're there with the best of them."
Einarson and Gushue had the advantage of game reps with their respective teams before mixed doubles, but wear and tear on skips unaccustomed to the sweeping demands of mixed doubles took its toll.
Gushue's right shoulder was painful during a 7-6 semifinal win over John Morris and Danielle Schmiemann earlier Thursday.
"I don't think it was that game that took a toll," Gushue said. "It was the three games yesterday back to back to back."
Lott and Sahaidak pocketed $30,000 as runners-up. Morris and Schmiemann earned $20,000 for third place.
The top seven duos in Aberdeen qualify their countries for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
Lott and Sahaidak and Einarson and Gushue earned berths in Canada's mixed doubles Olympic trials starting Dec. 28 at a location yet to be announced.
Sixteen pairs will vie for the right to represent Canada in Beijing and defend the gold won by Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes in 2018 when mixed doubles made its Olympic debut.
Morris and Rachel Homan, Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant, Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing and Nancy Martin and Tyrel Griffith have also secured trials berths.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.
The Canadian Press