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Rachel Homan, John Morris must beat Italy after stunning loss to Australia in Olympic mixed doubles curling

Just when it looked like Canada would cruise into the playoffs in Olympic mixed doubles curling, a loss to an unlikely opponent sent the defending gold medalists off course

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BEIJING — Just when it looked like Canada would cruise into the playoffs in Olympic mixed doubles curling, a loss to an unlikely opponent sent the defending gold medalists off course.

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Rachel Homan and John Morris lost 10-8 in an extra end to Australia’s Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt on Sunday night at the Ice Cube and now the Canadian duo needs a win Monday over unbeaten Italy in order to get into the semifinals.

Australia entered the game with just one win in eight games. Earlier in the day it seemed the game would be a forfeit for Canada because Gill tested positive for COVID-19.

Instead, she was re-instated by a medical panel and the Aussies had by far their best day of the tournament. They opened up a 7-0 lead on Canada through four ends, allowed Homan and Morris to fight back to tie it at 8-8 and won it with a deuce in the extra end.

“It’s put us in a little bit of a pickle here,” Morris said after Canada dropped to 5-3 in the tournament. “We’ve got to really dig deep and come out strong (on Monday) because our lives depend on it.”

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The Australians were playing against the man who coached their team for the last two years. They spent the five months leading up to the Olympics in Canmore, Alta., working with Morris.

Now they’ve dealt a serious blow to his hopes of repeating as Olympic champion.

“It was a tough game to play,” Morris said. “They were playing pretty loose, with nothing to lose and that’s how I know they can play. They are good friends of mine and it was just a tough battle.

“We never gave up and played a hell of a back four and those are tough ones to lose because you came back and really battled, but they just made enough shots to win. We were a little slow out of the gate and could never catch up.”

The Italians (Stefania Constantini and Amos Mosaner) have been steamrolling through the field and enter Monday’s play with a perfect 8-0 record.

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Also qualified for the semifinals are Norway (Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten) and Great Britain (Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat). Both those teams are also 5-3 but hold tiebreakers over Sweden (Almida de Val and Oskar Eriksson), which sits at 5-4.

If Canada should lose Monday, it will not hold the tiebreaker over Sweden and Homan and Morris will be eliminated.

If Canada does win, it could finish as high as second place.

The semifinals will be played Monday night.

Gill and Hewitt could barely believe they had a chance to play against their coach at all, especially at the Olympics, and to beat his team was something beyond imagination.

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“It’s pretty special,” Hewitt said. “You know, John has always been our friend first and coach second. That’s always the key with us, in our relationship. We’re so grateful for all the things and sacrifices he’s made for us. He treats us like family and we love working with him.

“He’s probably taught us too well, know. Once we get on the ice, we’re fierce competitors and that’s just our nature. We just enjoyed playing that game.”

‘MOST DRAMATIC GAME’
Canada’s first game of the day was highly entertaining and it featured a crazy comeback by Homan and Morris.

The Canadians trailed the Czech team of Tomas Paul and Zuzana Paulova 4-3 in the seventh end when Homan and Morris made the interesting decision to give up one point and trail by two going into the eighth and final end.

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It’s not easy to score two points in mixed doubles curling, especially when you don’t have a power play left to use and have very little time left on the 22-minute game clock.

The Canadians used every second of their time and managed to get their deuce, with Homan executing a draw that she released with one second left on the clock. Had it run out, Canada would have lost.

“The problem was I couldn’t see the clock,” Homan said of the close call. “I saw a four and I assumed it said 14, so I double checked with John and he said ‘Go, go, go!’

“Not ideal to be telling your partner to ‘Go, go, go!’ when she’s in the hack, but it was necessary,” Morris added.

Canada then stole a point in the extra end to pull of an impressive 6-5 victory and improve its record to 5-2.

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“Absolutely the most dramatic curling game I’ve ever been a part of,” Morris said. “Just a roller-coaster. We just had to hang tough and hope for the best. We finally got a break in that extra end and my partner made some brilliant shots when we needed them.”

It was clearly a calculated risk for Canada to intentionally give up a point and retain the hammer for the final end and it worked out to perfection, even with the stakes high and the pressure building.

“(Homan) made a great shot, under pretty intense conditions,” Canadian coach Scott Pfeifer said. “It was a shot she’s thrown many times in these kinds of games but not under that kind of time crunch.”

Morris lauded the Czechs for playing a great game but was also impressed by how he and his partner found a way to dig deep with a playoff spot potentially on the line.

“That was a gutsy, gutsy effort,” he said. “Those Czechs threw everything they had at us and they’re a wonderful team.

“Not how we drew it up but just a dramatic game and I’m really proud of Rachel for making the clutch shots when we needed her.”

[email protected]

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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Reference-nationalpost.com

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Pioneer Jury is a qualified writer and a blogger, who loves to dabble with and write about technology. While focusing on and writing on tech topics, his varied skills and experience enable him to write on any topic related to tech which may interest him. [email protected]

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