The next quadrennial in the Olympic cycle looks to be a turbulent one in the world of curling as last spring's flurry of breakups and unions has led to a new look in the Canadian landscape for the sport. For St. Gregor’s Kirk Muyres, he and mixed doubles curling partner Laura Walker have elected to go headlong into a new and exciting adventure away from their long four player traditions.
In 2018, Walker and Muyres joined to form one of the country’s premier mixed doubles duos. They’ve been part of a movement that’s been nurturing the sport, and now that hard work is coming to fruition. Mixed doubles is gaining a new foothold with high profile events and national broadcasts in the mix.
Muyres says walking away from the four person game wasn’t as easy as it sounded for the duo.
“We grew up our whole lives wanting to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for Laura, and for me, I wanted to win the Brier for Saskatchewan,” muses Muyres. “That’s still a long term goal, but for Canada to really get to the top of the curling world, the mixed doubles world specifically, we need players who are dedicated to focusing on that.”
Leaving their foursomes behind was necessary to provide the time and strategic adjustments to the doubles game as their sole focus. Both Walker and Muyres saw mixed doubles being a “second fiddle” to the men’s and ladies’ game - that will no longer be an issue.
The new spotlight on the mixed doubles game is partly due to the Olympics, but Muyres says it’s a natural evolution in the sport.
“It’s almost that the younger generation, they love fast things including fast sports, something that can grab the attention really quick, and mixed doubles does that. The game takes an hour to an hour and a half to play. The end starts with rocks in play, there’s always action and there’s always something going on. It’s an exciting sport to play, but it’s also an exciting sport to watch.”
CBC is banking on the burgeoning interest with a new 5-event mixed doubles Super Series set for broadcast. Like the four-person Grand Slam events, the new series will bring together the best mixed doubles players in the world for the calibre of competition that captivated viewers during the Olympics.
“When you get stakeholders like that investing in the game, they know what the next big thing is and they want to attach their horse to it.”
The pair is in Edmonton preparing for a mixed doubles training camp. Walker’s home base is in Edmonton, and with the arrival of the second walker son, Weston, to Laura and husband Geoff Walker of Team Gushue fame, Kirk Muyres has also adopted Edmonton as a base of operations. Walker and Muyres are focusing on their past successes and working to replicate those maneuvers in their camp, alongside some of the best coaches in the game.
“We’re getting back to what we do as a team really well, as well as exploring different ways to go about the game. We have so much time and energy to focus on the mixed doubles discipline that I think there are opportunities for us to innovate and grow, and to change the way that people play mixed doubles.”
Canada learned at the last Olympics what the curve is like in mixed doubles when it comes to the world stage. Countries like Italy emerged at the forefront, while the duo of John Morris and Rachel Homan encountered struggles. For those critics of the Canadians’ selection strategy at the 2022 Olympics, the hope rests on a renewed process that looks at the excellence of duos dedicated to the doubles discipline.
“They haven’t announced too much about how they are going to select the teams for 2026,” admits Muyres. “All we can do at this point is just focus on getting better and playing well and stacking up win after win after win. Hopefully by the end of 2025 going into that Olympics in Italy, we’ll be at the top of that list and in a position to represent Canada.”
Those who show success over time, but also show success in big moments on the world stage and in pressure situations, are the ones that should invariably bubble to the top, says Muyres. In the meantime, it’s preparation and one event at a time for the Walker/Muyres combo in what will undoubtedly be an exciting journey. Their first competition of the season will be this weekend, September 23-25 in Leduc, AB at the Curling Stadium and broadcast on YouTube. The first Super Series event is in Ottawa the following weekend, broadcast on CBC Gem.