Duluthians Thiesse, Dropkin crowned world mixed doubles curling champions
The event took place in the same Gangneung, South Korea arena where John Shuster's four-man rink won an Olympic gold medal in 2018.
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — There must be something about the Gangneung Curling Centre for the Twin Ports.
On Saturday, in the very same arena where the Team Shuster quartet won an Olympic gold medal in 2018, the team of Duluthians Cory Thiesse and Korey Dropkin rolled to the World Mixed Doubles Championship, crushing Japan 8-2 in the gold-medal match, played Saturday afternoon Korea time.
The gold-medal match marked the first time an American team had even played for the gold in the tournament, first held in 2008. Thiesse, then Cory Christensen, paired with John Shuster for a third-place finish in 2019.
On Saturday, facing a Japanese team that had never played for a medal of any color at this event, the Americans did early damage without the 'hammer,' indicative of the last-shot advantage. Team USA stole a point in the first end by millimeters after a three-way measurement, and then took two in the second after a Japanese mistake.
Japan, represented by Matsumura Chiaki and Tanida Yasumasa, got on the board with a single in the third end before a tap from Thiesse on her last stone of the fourth led to a pair of points and a 5-1 lead at the halfway mark.
Mixed doubles matches feature eight ends, pre-placed stones and the 'power play,' in which each team can position set up the pre-placed stones to its liking. Japan took its advantage coming out of the halftime break, but the Americans paid no mind, stealing another point in the fifth end. With a 6-1 lead and just three ends to go, it was all but over, and after the Americans scored a deuce in the seventh end, Japan conceded the world championship.
The victory capped a red-hot conclusion for Thiesse and Dropkin to the 20-team tournament, which started April 22.
The Duluth duo had a 7-2 record in its 10-team pool (including a loss to Japan), which was enough to advance them via tiebreaker into the six-team playoffs.
In the quarterfinals on Friday morning, Thiesse and Dropkin got off to a huge start, scoring four in the third end to take a 6-1 lead against the 2021 champions from Scotland, which they turned into an 8-6 victory.
The semifinal pitted the Duluth pair against the Canadian team of 2014 Olympic women's champion skip Jennifer Jones and Brent Laing. In a cagey affair, the teams exchanged singles over each of the first five ends before Team USA stole one in the sixth and two in the seventh to earn a 6-2 win.
Four American teams have won the four-man men's world championship (1965, 1974, 1976, 1978), three of them representing the Superior Curling Club and the fourth (in Duluth in 1976) from Hibbing. The U.S. women won a world championship in 2003.
Both Thiesse and Dropkin won silver medals in their respective four-person teams at the 2016 World Junior Championships. This was the third appearance for both in the World Mixed Doubles Championship.