We are now midway through the mixed doubles curling tournament and several key storylines have emerged, with a surprising country at the top of the tables.
Italian duo Stefania Constantini and Amos Mosaner find themselves with a perfect 6-0 record. To say their emergence in the tournament comes as a surprise would be an understatement. The pair are currently ranked 25th in the world, though they did place fifth at the 2021 Worlds in Aberdeen. For Mosaner, 26, it represents a marked improvement over his previous Worlds experience (he finished 18th in 2019). Constantini, 22, is currently the leading all women in the tournament, shooting an impressive 81 percent through 6 games. Italy's remaining schedule (Norway, Sweden, and Canada) is as difficult as it comes, and they now have the added weight of expectations.
Things haven’t been so easy for Swiss pair Martin Rios and Jenny Perret. The silver medalists from Pyeongchang sit tied for seventh with a disappointing 2-4 record. In some ways that record flatters their play. Rios is shooting just 76%; only Christopher Plys of the United States and Dean Hewitt of Australia have a lower percentage at this stage (73%) for those shooting second through fourth stones. Rios' struggles have affected teammate Perret, who has been under pressure all tournament. The pair particularly struggled against Canada. Rios' misses made every shot Perret attempted more difficult and resulted in her shooting just 60 percent on 15 draws in the game. With four losses already, even improved scores are unlikely to result in a chance at the playoffs.
The Canadians aren't quite in sync yet, but show signs of figuring things out. John Morris, the defending gold medalist from Pyeongchang, started the tournament slow, curling just 68% against Great Britain. Rachel Homan's numbers from that game were not impressive either, at just 55%, but she routinely had to make high-difficulty level shots with her final stone and minimize a lot of the damage created by Morris. Both were much improved in their second game against Norway, especially Homan, who shot 85%. If Homan was the glue for Canada during their first four games, peak-Morris arrived against Switzerland, when he shot 89%. After falling to a dominant Swedish side in their fifth game, Homan and Morris rolled to a 7-2 drubbing of the Americans in seven ends. Particularly impressive was the pair's steal of one when the Americans deployed the power play. Canada is well-positioned to advance to the playoffs, with games against Italy, the Czech Republic, and Australia remaining.
Sweden is also primed for a playoff berth with a 5-2 record. Oskar Eriksson and Almida De Val have play well so far, shooting 79% and 73% through seven games. De Val, who was great against Canada, trails only Kristin Skaslien (75%) of Norway and Constantini in curling percentage among women.
At 4-2, Great Britain's playoff hopes remain strong, but Bruce Mouat and Jennifer Dodds haven't looked as dominant as expected. After a narrow loss to the struggling Swiss, the pair needed an extra end to defeat winless Australia, after allowing the Australians to score seven in the second half of the game. They also fell to the Italians in a close game, handing them their perfect 6-0 record heading into the final slate of round robin games.
The round robin portion of the event wraps up Monday morning (Eastern US time) and playoffs begin Monday night. The top four teams from the round robin advance to the semifinals. The semifinal winners will play for gold, while the semifinal losers will play for bronze. The medal games will take place on Tuesday, February 8th, at 1:05 AM (bronze) and 7:05 AM (gold) Eastern time.
(Photo: Olympic Broadcasting Services)