12 April 2019

Mortgages to medals: Story of Walker and Muyres

© WCF / Céline Stucki

Ahead of the Grand Final, we speak to the first team to qualify for Beijing.

It can sometimes take years to generate chemistry within a team. While some constantly work for a groove, others click instantly with little effort required.

It can happen by accident, too. Laura Walker had regularly teamed up with - then partner, now husband - Geoff Walker. But due to Geoff’s participation at the World Men’s Curling Championship, Laura was left without a partner before the Canadian Mixed Doubles Championship. In stepped Kirk Muyres.

With just six practice games before the championship commenced, few would have believed the instant rapport between the two. While they hail from different provinces, the pair have plenty in common off the ice and a bunch of affinity when they’re on it.

The duo lost just once during their weekend in Alberta, registering nine wins with a deuce in the final’s last end to seal a maiden mixed doubles championship for the pair. Easy, right?

Reflecting on their first experience on the main stage as a pair, they confirmed that seamless connection on the ice and believe the long-standing friendship they’ve shared since their teens was a massive help.

“We seemed to have clicked instantly. We have been friends for almost 10 years, so that probably helped,” says Muyres. “But it seemed to be something we had instantly, which is probably a contributing factor to our early success as a group.”

Walker agreed, adding that their game suited one another: “We definitely worked well as a team right away. We are both very similar which helps us get along, but we also have strengths that complement each other, and we've learned to draw on that.”

© WCF / Richard Gray

Established as a team on the mixed doubles circuit, the two were chosen by Curling Canada to represent the maple leaf in leg one of the inaugural Curling World Cup. It was an experience they will not forget.

“It was a privilege to play in the first ever World Cup,” Walker says. “The committee did a great job of making it feel like a world-class event and we loved trying a different format. We are so grateful to be playing in another one!”

The Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre hosted leg one, which had only opened weeks prior to the event and had taken a few curlers by surprise.

“The venue was spectacular,” admits Muyres. “It was amazing. The committee was great, and the city was beautiful. It was an awesome experience and winning it certainly doesn’t hurt either.”

Hailing from different provinces – Muyres’ roots lie in Saskatchewan, while Walker calls Alberta home – the doubles pairing are aiming to take upwards of $USD 22,500 back home to Canada.

Despite it being the Curling World Cup’s debut season, Muyres has been impressed by how quickly the event has been distinguished with the four-stage competition taking place on three continents, four cities, with more than 180 players from 10 countries taking part.

“I am excited to get back to a World Cup event. I can tell these events are getting more and more prestigious by the day and I am honoured to be a part of them and hopefully take home another championship,” says Muyres.

© WCF / Céline Stucki

Walker, also 28, shares her partner’s excitement about heading back to the country in which they claimed victory in leg one. She has her eye on a certain rival pairing in Beijing.

“I can't wait to get there. Every game is going to be a battle, we are playing against the best teams in the world. A rematch with our American friends [Korey Dropkin and Sarah Anderson] is always one I look forward to,” reveals Walker.

It has been a season of firsts for Muyres, who took the reigns as skip of a quartet which consisted of his brother Dallan and twins, Kevin and Dan Marsh. In his new role, he has reached four finals on tour and won the Saskatchewan provincials by defeating Jonkoping winners Team Matt Dunstone.

Walker returned to the skip role for the start of the season and credits the move to helping her make the difference when it counts.

“I don't sweep much in mixed doubles so our dynamic together has not really changed. If anything, I feel the skipping has helped me - I've gotten more used to those pressure moments and making big shots when my team needs me.”

Muyres admits his arm “hurts after a couple of games” when moving to the two-person discipline but it is a partnership which has been fruitful since the beginning.

It could be down to the fact that both work as mortgage brokers off the ice, but whatever the source of their synergy, Muyres and Walker will be a threat to the whole field when they arrive at the Shougang Arena in May.

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