By Michael Sun
Ottawa curling sensation Rachel Homan has been nominated for the international Sportswoman of the Year Award, the winner of which will be revealed at the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 38th Annual Salute in New York City on Oct. 18.
The winner will be chosen from a combination of public and awards committee votes. Homan, who skipped her team to the 2017 national and world curling titles, was the only Canadian athlete among 10 team sport and 10 individual sport nominees from around the globe.
The Sportswoman of the Year website highlighted the fact that “Team Homan became the first to win the women’s worlds with a perfect 13-0 record.”
Other team sport finalists include U.S. hockey player Brianne Decker and basketball player Maya Moore, Brazilian beach volleyballers Talita Da Rocha Antunes and Larissa França Maestrini, and U.S. softball player Valerie Arioto.
The current version of the awards were first handed out in 1993, though winners in earlier professional and amateur categories were chosen between 1980 and 1992.
Past winners have included Swedish golfer Annika Sorenstam, U.S. tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, American soccer players Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm, as well as U.S. basketball players Sue Bird and Lisa Leslie.
Homan and her teammates Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle train at the Ottawa Curling Club in Centretown on a weekly basis, according to club vice-president Eddie Chow.
The club posted information about Homan’s nomination in August and encouraged supporters to vote via its website and social media streams.
“I was really pleased to hear she was nominated,” Chow said. “I realized that while it’s her deeds that were nominated, it was a team effort, so we’re very very proud of all four of them.”
Team Homan won the CPT World Women’s Curling Championships in Beijing and the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in St. Catharines, Ont. in 2017.
Homan, 28, has led teams to two previous national championships, as well.
The Ottawa Curling Club honoured Team Homan with a Distinguished Membership Award in April. Chow said the club created the award because Homan’s team is not eligible yet for the Lifetime Membership Awards.
“We wanted to recognize the significant achievement, so they are distinguished members,” he said.
Chow said Team Homan’s popularity has helped attract new curlers to the club.
“Team Homan has given curling a little more recognition and more people are trying it out,” Chow said.
Chow said the club’s Saturday league has increased from 20 to 24 teams and evolved from a male league to co-ed league due to more participants.
With the upcoming exposure from the Roar of the Rings tournament in Ottawa in December (where Team Homan will try to earn the right to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea), Chow said even more newcomers are sure to be attracted to curling.
“Historically, after an Olympics, many people call the club to want to give it a try to join a league,” he said.
Alexandra Birwistle, a club member for seven years and a board member for four, called Homan’s nomination “amazing” and “impressive”.
“They have been so successful and they show that hard work does pay off,” Birwistle said of Team Homan.
Birwistle, who knows the team members personally, praised their activeness within the club.
“They’re always around to help. They donate a lot of their time. They offer a lot of support, especially with the junior curling,” she said. “They’re pretty heavily involved in such a local club considering how big they are.”
Birwistle said the team’s character plays a role in their dedication to the sport.
“I guess the saying is, they know where they came from,” she said. “They know where it all started so they always give back.”
PJ Vankoughnett-Olson, a club member for five years, found out about the nomination through the club’s social media and placed a vote for Homan.
She said she got involved in curling after watching Team Homan on television and also praised their role at the club.
“On occasions when I go to practice in the afternoons, I’ll run into Rachel and her team,” she said. “She’s always very friendly, happy to answer questions or pose for pictures.”
Vankoughnett-Olson said Team Homan’s involvement included teaching her at the club’s Getting Started league.
“One of the things I treasure about the sport,” she said, “is the opportunity to meet world leaders in the sport and to learn from them,” she said.
Added Chow: “People are really proud of them. We’ve seen them virtually grow up.”