Curling Elite Amateur Sport

Curler John Morris gears up for (possibly) his last Games

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Sport: Curling
Event: Mixed doubles
Age: 43
Hometown: Ottawa
Residence: Canmore, Alta.
Local Club: Ottawa Curling Club
Third Olympics
Twitter: @johnnymocurler
Instagram: @johnnymo_7

By Ethan Diamandas

Like most high-level athletes, curler John Morris has a deep desire to compete — which is why he was frustrated by his berth to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

COVID-19 restrictions forced Curling Canada to scrap its pre-Olympic tournaments, so the organization selected Morris and Rachel Homan as its mixed doubles reps, forgoing the traditional route of having Canadian duos compete to qualify.

“Both my parents are military, and it’s been ingrained in me that you got to earn everything you ever get in life,” Morris told the Sports Pages from Canmore, Alta., days before leaving for Beijing.

The selection process irked Morris because these Olympics mean more to him than past Games, and he wanted to work for it like everyone else. Still, he’s honoured to play for Canada once again.

“As much as we would have liked [to earn the Olympic berth], when Canada and your country calls, you got to answer that bell,” Morris said.

At 43 years old, this is likely Morris’s final Olympic Games. With gold medals at Vancouver 2010 (four-man curling) and PyeongChang 2018 (mixed doubles), Morris has already become the first man to win multiple Olympic golds, solidifying his legacy as one of Canada’s best curlers ever.

And he’s not finished yet.

Kaitlyn Lawes and Ottawa’s John Morris celebrate winning their second Olympic gold medals in 2018 in Pyeonchang, South Korea. Photo: Canadian Olympic Committee

While he admitted there is an end to his career in sight, Beijing represents one last chance to battle top competition in a high-stakes atmosphere, and Morris will never turn down that opportunity.

“I have trouble playing in Timbuktu against another club team that we play on tour all the time — it’s hard for me to get motivated that way,” Morris said. “But when you’re on the greatest stage in the world, playing against the world’s best, that’s what gets my juices flowing.”

The field for mixed doubles — a sport that debuted at the 2018 Olympics — is strong this Olympics, too. Switzerland, the United States, and even Australia are all sending top notch competition.

“There’s probably six or seven teams that I don’t think many people would be surprised if they win a medal or a gold,” Morris said. “We’ve got a great feat ahead of us.”

Morris has a new curling partner for the 2022 Games in Rachel Homan, who replaces Morris’s previous partner, Kaitlyn Lawes. Morris and Homan have a lengthy history together, dating back to their days as kids training at Ottawa curling clubs.

Morris remembers a very young Homan ambling around the ice rink as he curled with her older brother, Mark. Morris’s dad, Earle, a member of Canada’s Curling Hall of Fame, also coached Rachel as she climbed the curling ranks.

Earle Morris. File photo

“We have a good history there and a great family friendship,” Morris said.

Team camaraderie in mixed doubles is important, Morris said, and the bond with your playing partner can often be the difference between winning and losing. Luckily, Homan shares Morris’s intensity.

“Rachel and I have been throwing since we’ve been five years old, and we have great curling instincts,” Morris said. “Trusting that instinct, trusting our partners, and allowing them to throw the shots they’re really comfortable with, I think is vital to high performance.”

Homan and Morris — who first competed together in 2017 — will have their physical and mental strength tested during Beijing’s grueling round robin portion, where Canada will play eight matches in five days beginning Feb. 2, which made it more important to the duo to stay relaxed before departing for Beijing.

John Morris and Rachel Homan. File photos

Morris, Homan, and their coach, Scott Pfeifer, were all isolating in a cottage, and between training sessions at the Canmore Golf and Curling Club, the group made sure to stay busy with outdoor activities such as snowshoeing and ice fishing. On nights in, they all played cards and listened to music.

The time in isolation has also allowed Morris to reflect on his career and contemplate what’s left to achieve.

John Morris won world junior titles skipping a rink out of the Ottawa Curling Club in 1998 and 1999. File photo

“I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to curling,” he said. “And I think that time and commitment to curling … is close to coming to an end. And I have zero regrets about that.”

As a husband and father of two, Morris wants to spend more time with his family once he’s finished with curling. But just because he’s heading into maybe his last attempt to, once again, reach the pinnacle of curling doesn’t mean he won’t fight like hell to get to the top.

A victory in Beijing would make Morris the first curler ever to win three Olympic gold medals, but he’s quick to dismiss the significance of personal achievement.

Instead, when the first stones are thrown, Morris won’t thinking about his own accomplishments; he’ll be thinking about his teammates, his family, and all the Canadian fans — including those from Ottawa — watching from home.

“This may be my last kick at the can for Canada,” he said. “And you can bet on it, I’ll have every ounce, every piece of my heart going into this.”


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