Whitehorse’s Robert and Jody Smallwood are going to nationals … again.
The husband and wife team won the Yukon Mixed Doubles Curling Championships a fourth year in a row on Sunday at the Whitehorse Curling Club.
“We found our mojo and kept on going,” said Robert. “We made a little change in the way we were doing it. Jody was throwing first and last rocks and I was throwing three rocks in between and we had never done that before.
“We did that after we lost our first game – changed the way we were doing it – and carried on like that and it was successful … My wife didn’t want the pressure of throwing last rock, but she did pretty good.”
Team Smallwood swept up the Yukon title in dramatic fashion, forcing a tiebreaker with an 8-2 win over Team Balsam on Sunday.
They then defeated Team Balsam – skip Herbert Balsam and third Corrine Delaire – 11-2 in the tiebreaker late Sunday evening. It was also the fourth year in a row Team Smallwood denied Team Balsam the title.
The Smallwoods scored four in the first end and four in the sixth, at which point Team Balsam decided to call it a game and shake hands.
“All it takes is one crucial missed shot on the other team and bang, you’re hitting for four,” said Robert.
Last year the championship had only Smallwood and Balsam compete, but this time there was a third with Team Thom, featuring skip Greg Thom and third Charmaine Thom.
Team Thom went winless with four losses, but almost took down the Smallwoods on Saturday. Team Smallwood scored four in the eighth end to narrowly win 10-8 in the game.
“It wasn’t easy this year – it hasn’t been easy any of the years – but it was nice to see Charmaine and Greg Thom throw a team in,” said Robert. “It was their first time and they did really well. They had us on the ropes for a while, but we came back in the later ends.”
The mixed doubles championship was originally supposed to take place in Atlin, but the Atlin Curling Club decided not to commit to hosting duties over concerns the ice wouldn’t be ready.
The Smallwoods will now represent the territory at the Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship beginning late March in Saskatoon, Sask. They reached the quarterfinal at their first championship in March of 2013.
“That was the first year (we went) and after that it’s been getting more competitive; they are getting better curlers at the nationals,” said Robert.
“I think with the switch we made, it’s going to work out OK. If I’m on top of my game, I think I can make just about any shot that comes our way.”
Robert and Jody have plenty of experience donning Yukon purple and black on the national stage.
Last month the Smallwoods represented Yukon at their third consecutive Canadian Mixed Curling Championships. They, along with Yukon teammates Nicole Baldwin and Wade Scoffin, placed eighth at the championships in Toronto for the best finish on record for a team representing Yukon.
Robert was also the winning skip at last season’s Yukon Men’s Curling Championship and went on to compete at his third career Brier – the Canadian men’s curling championships.
He’ll try to pull off the feat again this season with his new men’s team of Jon Solberg, Clinton Abel, Scott Odian, and fifth player Dave Rach.
“We’ve had to use (Rach) quite a bit this year,” said Robert. “He’s probably curled more game than all of us.”
The winning mixed doubles team at the 2016 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Championship will go on to represent Canada at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championships this April in Karlstad, Sweden. The first mixed doubles world championship was held in 2008.
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