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Curlers reunite for provincials

One time coach Shawna Jensen teams with Connor Deane for this week's Mixed Doubles Championships
Shawna Jensen and Connor Deane practicing at Tunnel Town Curling Club in preparation for this week's BC Mixed Doubles Championships in Hope.

Connor Deane has re-united with one of his curling mentors for this week’s 2020 Mixed Doubles Championships at the Hope Curling Club.

The 18-year-old from Ladner has teamed with Shawna Jensen who worked with him several years ago as part of the junior program at the Tunnel Town Curling Club.

Mixed Doubles is a relatively new version of the game that features fewer players (two) and ends (eight) than traditional curling. It made its debut at the 2018 Winter Olympics and will also be part of the 2022 Games in Beijing.

Each end begins with two rocks in a play — a centre guard and another in the back of the four-foot that belongs to the team with the hammer. The end features five rocks thrown by each team and the first four must remain in play. If an end is blanked the hammer still goes to the other team. A complete game usually takes about 90 minutes to play.

Jensen, 25, has played mixed doubles for a number of years with her regular partner Travis Cameron. When he decided to take the year off, she began discussions with her former student at a bonspiel last summer. She also was Deane’s high school coach for one year at Delta Secondary.

Jensen is a former provincial high school champion from South Delta Secondary while Deane won silver in his Grade 12 year last February.

“We just began talking about it at a fun summer bonspiel and a couple months later decided we were going to do it,” said Jensen, a UBC graduate and now a teacher-on-call. “My women’s schedule was what is was and he had his junior schedule which made it hard to get together (to practice) initially.”

It got easier once Deane wrapped up his junior season at provincials in early January. The pair usually hit the ice at Tunnel Town on weekday afternoons depending where Jensen happened to be teaching that day.

They wasted little time in locking up a spot at provincials — winning one of the two spots available in the “A” event at regional playdowns. They will be one of 16 teams in Hope with the championships concluding on Sunday.

Amazingly, this will be Deane’s second time at provincials. He qualified when he was just 16 and his partner was even younger at 14. One of their losses that year came to Jensen and Cameron.

“I don’t know if it’s better than traditional curling but it is fun to kind of switch gears and play a different game,” said Deane. “I find it does help my other game because I’m throwing a lot more draws and you are getting up and judging your own rocks a lot more.

“I sweep all of her rocks and I can’t even tell you the amount of times I let go of the rock and realize it’s not going to make it and (jump up and sweep). Fitness is a huge part of it too.”

Jensen agrees both versions of the game have their strengths. A win in Hope would send them to the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championships next month in Manitoba.

“They definitely both have their positives that I can take from them,” she added. “In this game I only have to worry about one other person. That is kind of nice rather than three other people. But there’s definitely a lot more work with reading rocks.”