A semifinal loss at the 2013 Olympic Trials abandoned the members of Team Homan crushed. It might have been the best thing that ever happened to them.
Skip Rachel Homan and her teammates made some adjustments for this quadrennial. Their efforts paid off Sunday when they reserved their Olympic ticket with a 6-5 win over Chelsea Carey at the final of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
“You must lose before you win as you sometimes don’t understand how to win,” said former Team Homan coach Earle Morris.
Later in the day, Calgary’s Kevin Koe earned the men’s Olympic berth with a 7-6 victory over Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen.
Sherry Middaugh conquer Homan four decades back in Winnipeg before falling to Jennifer Jones, who went on to win gold in the Sochi Games.
This time around, Jones was dispatched by Homan in the semifinals. The Ottawa jump then topped Carey for the name in front of a boisterous home crowd.
“We just kept getting better and better as the week went on,” Homan said.
Carey was down two with hammer in the 10th end. Her double takeout attempt just cleared one of Homan’s stones and the party was on at Canadian Tire Centre.
Homan and third Emma Miskew jumped in one another’s arms and were immediately joined by direct Lisa Weagle and next Joanne Courtney.
“(To win) in our hometown, we could not have written a better story,” Homan said. “We can not wait to represent Canada in Pyeongchang.”
The men’s final was a back-and-forth struggle that also went the distance. Koe forced McEwen to one in the ninth for hammer coming home.
At the 10th end, McEwen had one rock biting the top of this four-foot and one in the back. Koe’s teammates put everything they had to the brush and Koe got the winning single.
Homan’s lone loss in round-robin play was to Carey, who posted eight straight wins to get into the final.
Homan was aggressive sometimes and kept the errors to a minimum. Carey made some mistakes, such as a missed peel at the first conclusion that gave Homan an early lead.
A second steal followed and the crowd was eating it up. The momentum had shifted into Homan and she controlled the game the rest of the way.
“That match was won on inches here and there,” Homan said. “I am just very proud of my team for sticking with it and fighting through.”
The win caps an unbelievable calendar year for Homan. After taking the Ontario playdowns, she won her third national title, picked up her first world championship and is now heading into the Games for the first time.
“It gave us lots of confidence coming into now,” Weagle stated.
Tears of joy ran down their cheeks as the group members were presented with Team Canada coats and medals.
“I should quit crying some time within another week or so,” Courtney said.
In the men’s final, the teams exchanged singles before McEwen came through in the fourth ending with a brilliant double takeout for 2.
Koe reacted with a deuce of his own after McEwen second Matt Wozniak missed a runback. McEwen gave up a steal in the sixth end when he was a bit heavy with a tap, but tied the game 5-5 in the seventh with a bang to get a pair.
McEwen put his final stone in the eighth on peak of this four-foot ring but Koe drew in supporting it to get one that has been confirmed with a step.
This will be the first Olympic appearance for Koe and second Brent Laing. Lead Ben Hebert and third Marc Kennedy won Olympic gold in 2010 with skip Kevin Martin.
Koe earned a berth in the final by taking first place in round-robin play with a 7-1 record. McEwen, Wozniak, direct Denni Neufeld and third party B.J. Neufeld beat Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., in the semifinal to advance.
Homan’s team won its first Scotties Tournament of Hearts crown in 2013 with Alison Kreviazuk at moment. The rink took bronze in the world championship that year.
Kreviazuk left the group another year to move to Sweden. Courtney — among the greatest sweepers from the women’s game — came on as her replacement.
Adam Kingsbury came as coach a couple of decades back and strengthened their mental game. The group is embracing the big moments and Homan has become even sharper as a jump.
“She is absolutely fearless,” Morris said. “She embraces the opportunities that are awarded. I think great athletes embrace the chances for greatness and that is exactly what she does.”
Carey’s only loss came at the worst time. Her final throw overcurled only a bit and it was costly.
“I had to hit it half an inch thinner but that was kind of the story of this match,” Carey said. “We were really close to plenty of great stuff and it just was not our day.”
Carey got on the board with a single stage in the next end. Her Calgary group of third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jocelyn Peterman and direct Laine Peters played with a strong fourth ending to force Homan to one.
Carey drew for one in the fifth and Homan took a 5-2 lead in the sixth end with a takeout for a deuce. Carey responded with a nose struck for 2 in the seventh.
Following a blank in the eighth, Homan’s final rock hung for one in the ninth.
“Technically they are better now than they ever were,” Morris said. “You see them and you say, ‘This is a team built to win championships.”‘
Announced attendance was 7,490 in the day and 7,333 in the day, bringing the overall total to 106,810. The site has a capacity of approximately 17,000.
Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won the 2013 men’s Trials and went on to win gold in the Sochi Games. Jacobs didn’t make the playoffs in this year’s Trials.
Curlers who were removed in group events still have an opportunity to qualify for Pyeongchang in mixed doubles, which is making its debut on the Olympic program.
The mixed doubles Trials are set for Jan. 2-7 in Portage la Prairie, Man. Canadian curlers who qualify in staff events cannot compete in mixed doubles in the Games.
Homan’s success means Winnipeg’s Michelle Englot will replace her as Team Canada in the Jan. 27-Feb. 4 Scotties in Penticton, B.C.
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail