A new Olympic cycle has begun, signaling the start of a four-year period for Canada’s elite curlers who hope to wear the Maple Leaf at the next Winter Games in 2026.
That’s really what it’s all become now – every four years curlers burn themselves out in a relentless quest to be able to represent the country at the Games.
And in this crazy curling country of Canada, it feels like there’s more pressure on the stone throwers than on any other Olympic cycle.
“We’re looking longer term and making sure we’re ready for March and April. And four years. We don’t want to burn out. We’re not spring chickens,” Gushue said.
“The season has gotten longer and longer. It will take a bit of time for our mojo to kick in.”
There’s always a lot at stake, but this time around the rings it’s different.
WATCH l That Curling Show previews the inaugural mixed doubles super series:
These first days of the new quadrennial are extremely interesting. In the wake of last season, there were an unprecedented number of teams splitting apart, shaking up the granite landscape in Canada in ways we’ve never seen before.
Rachel Homan and Tracy Fleury teamed up with Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes. Jennifer Jones now skips World Junior Champion team Mackenzie Zacharias. Kailtyn Lawes, who was third for Jones for years, is now skipping her own team.
Brett Gallant left Gushue and company to join Brendan Bottcher, Ben Hebert and Marc Kennedy. Brad Jacobs has been away from the four-way game for at least a year.
EJ Harnden, who played with Jacobs, takes Gallant’s place on Gushue’s team.
That’s a dizzying amount of change. And the aforementioned elements are just a small part of many other changes that have taken place during the offseason. And maybe there are more to come depending on how this first season unfolds.
But now we have our first glimpses of these newly formed teams and there are bound to be some surprises as the quartets go through some growing pains.
Take for example what happened at the PointsBet Invitational in Fredericton a week ago.
The new knockout format was a refreshing touch to start the season with $50,000 checks to the winning women’s and men’s team.
And while many expected Kerri Einarson Rink and Gushue Rink to be there in the final, it was Jones and Carruthers who surprised, knocking out Einaron and Gushue respectively in the semi-finals.
They would then go on to win the championship games.
‘We are one team. We are all equal’
Jones, who leads this younger team, feels full of energy and excited about what’s to come.
“It’s really exciting. If I can make an impact that really feels good,” Jones said.
“I love curling. It has given me more than I could ever dream of. We are one team. We are all equal. They are so selfless. They want the best for the team. “I see the fire. They remind me of me when I was their age. They’re so excited to play and train. For me, that’s life. Experimenting and finding ways to improve.
Zacharias, who led Canada to a World Junior victory in 2020 and is just 23, says she’s still playing with Jones.
“She has such a passion and drive for curling. She’s brought so much to our team. To be able to hold the broom for her is amazing,” Zacharias said.
Carruthers, who recently became a father after the birth of his son Bo, looks rejuvenated and focused with a new team and a new perspective.
They knocked out Gushue in the semi-finals, then beat Dunstone in the final.
“I knew if we were on the right track, we could win. We were seeded number five. We’re all in a really good mental space,” Carruthers said.
WATCH | Carruthers defeats Dunstone in the men’s PointsBet Invitational final:
He admits that there will be adjustments to the new team, but wants to put pressure on the rest of the Canadian teams to raise their level of play.
“We have to hold all these other teams accountable,” Carruthers said.
Many of the teams that competed in Fredericton are now gearing up for the first Grand Slam of curling event in North Bay next week.
Things are about to get very busy not only for four-person teams, but also in the world of mixed doubles.
Mixed Doubles Super Series
A newly formed mixed doubles super series has been established with the first of five events taking place this weekend at Carlton Place, just outside of Ottawa.
The event features some of the best Canadian and international mixed doubles teams – one of the showpiece clashes pitting Great Britain’s Jenn Dodds and Bruce Mouat against Brad Jacobs and Kerri Einarson on Saturday afternoon.
Fans can watch the event live on cbcsports.ca and on CBC Gem throughout the weekend with the championship game scheduled for Sunday night at 5 p.m. ET
We’ve seen players like Laura Walker and Kirk Muyres move away from the four-man game and focus solely on mixed doubles, which many in the sport believe will become the norm in the years to come.
There are bound to be twists and likely more team changes on the pebble ice leading up to the 2026 Winter Games.
This journey begins now.