Canadian curler Kirk Muyres admits his focus was somewhat divided in the last quadrennial as he tried to split his time between mixed doubles and the four-player game.
Muyres and mixed doubles partner Laura Walker had decisions to make earlier this year as free agency gripped the domestic curling scene and shook up most top lineups.
Unlike most of their peers who locked in with four-player teams, Muyres and Walker decided to focus exclusively on the two-player discipline with the ultimate goal of representing Canada at the 2026 Winter Olympics.
"The opportunity presented itself," Muyres said. "It was the right time in my life and the right time in Laura's life. We just took advantage of it."
Now in their early 30s, Walker won a Canadian junior women's title in 2010 and Muyres won a junior men's title a year later.
Both went on to make regular appearances at top four-player events like the Canada Cup, Grand Slams and national playdowns while working in some mixed doubles play. Walker skipped her own team in recent years while Muyres spent last season as second for skip Matt Dunstone.
Muyres and Walker won a Canadian mixed doubles title together in 2018 and took bronze the next year.
"It's really exciting to look at it and be like, 'OK we can really be good at this,'" Walker said. "We can be that team that knows each other inside and out and knows what to do for each other in those big moments."
Working with coach Jeff Hoffart and sports psych Shannon Pynn, Muyres and Walker recently returned to the ice in Edmonton for training ahead of their season opener this weekend in Leduc, Alta.
After that, the duo will be off to Ottawa for the Sept. 29-Oct. 2 Mixed Doubles Super Series.
Muyres said preparing solely for mixed doubles has allowed him to target specific parts of his game — including mental training, technical work and preparation — more extensively.
"When your focus is divided, you feel a little bad about both," he said. "You don't feel like you're giving it all you can in men's (play) and you don't feel like you're giving it all you can in mixed (doubles) … there's just a clear vision (now) on what we want and what I want out of the game."
Walker said it has been "really refreshing" to prepare for the season a little bit differently and spend the necessary time on honing her mixed doubles skills.
"There's a few different little nuances that I've never really been able to put all of my energy into before that I can now," she said.
The duo currently has eight events on their season calendar ahead of the March 21-26 Canadian mixed doubles curling championship in Sudbury, Ont.
In a video message, Cheryl Bernard delivered a final sign-off on TSN's opening broadcast of this week's PointsBet Invitational.
Bernard spent eight years with the network as a curling broadcaster. She announced last July that she would be focusing on family and her responsibilities as president and CEO of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
TSN used a three-person crew for the opening draw in Fredericton with host Vic Rauter joined by analysts Russ Howard and Cathy Gauthier.
All draws through Sunday's finals will be shown on TSN and RDS2 in Canada. ESPN3 is the U.S. rightsholder.
Twelve of Canada’s best university curling teams are competing in this week's 2022 FISU Qualifiers in Ottawa.
Berths in the Jan. 12-22 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., are on the line.
Canada has won eight medals (3-4-1) since curling made its debut at the World University Games in 2003 at Tarvisio, Italy.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2022.
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