By Mac White
As superstar skip Rachel Homan thanked a crowd of well-wishers that had thronged the Ottawa Curling Club on Jan. 30 to give Team Canada an enthusiastic send-off to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, the three other members of the world’s top-ranked foursome sat quietly on a couch at the historic O’Connor Street rink.
The scene spoke volumes about the Homan-led team’s relatively little-known lead, second and vice-skip — Lisa Weagle, Joanne Courtney and Emma Miskew respectively — who played key roles in a history-making 2017 that saw the women secure first the national Scotties title, then a world championship in Beijing and finally a ticket to the Pyeongchang Games at December’s Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifying tournament in Ottawa in December.
The four members of the Homan rink were treated to speeches and awards from the likes of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change.
While the 28-year-old Homan — the leader and face of the team — received most of the attention from the adoring audience, her three teammates kept to the background.
“Honestly, it’s Rachel Homan’s team, but one person does not make the team,” said Dalal Abou-Eid, the curling club’s manager. “Every one of them brings something different to help the team win.”
So just who are the other three members of Team Homan, the first Olympians in the club’s 166-year history?
While Homan also emphasizes that her team is a cohesive unit on and off ice, she’s known her third, Miskew, the longest.
“I met Emma 23 years ago — which is kind of crazy — and we’ve curled for 17 years. We’ve gone through many marriages and definitely wouldn’t have made it this far without counsel, that’s for sure,” she said, laughing.
Long before their incredible 2017, the duo had many triumphs as junior curlers leading an OCC rink that eventually included sisters Lynn and Alison Kreviazuk. Homan and Miskew won gold at the 2007 Canada Winter Games and 2010 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, followed by a silver at the 2010 World Junior Curling Championships.
The eldest of the current foursome, at 32, is Weagle, who joined Team Homan in 2010 and throws the rink’s opening stones. According to her Team Canada profile, Weagle’s Olympic curling aspirations were “sparked by watching Sandra Schmirler” — Canada’s gold-medal winning skip at the Nagano Games in 1998, the first time women’s curling was an Olympic medal sport.
Twenty years later, Weagle is heading to the Winter Games herself.
“Lisa takes care of me and consoles me at times when I need it,” said Homan. “She’s very professional and dedicated to her craft, which is what makes her the best at her position in the world.”
Alberta native Courtney, 28, joined the team for the 2014 season after some successful years under skip Val Sweeting. With Team Homan, Courtney moved from her traditional position as vice-skip to second.
Matthew Kellett, the club’s president, said he believed it took Courtney about a “year to get settled” with the team, “especially with her release” of the stone, in order to blend well with her teammates.
“She wears her heart on her sleeve, as you’ve probably seen many times on TV,” noted Homan. “We’re so thankful she came to play with us and what we’ve accomplished in four years is really hard to believe.”.
So how much training does the team do at the Ottawa Curling Club much?
“They’re a bit split up, actually. Joanne is from Edmonton and Rachel’s very busy,” said Kellett. “We see Lisa and Emma a fair bit. Whenever they show up in town as a team or even individually we make sure the practice ice is to their specifications.”
Like many Canadian curlers, Homan’s three teammates have day jobs outside of their on-ice careers. According to their Team Canada profiles, Miskew does freelance graphic design work, Weagle works as a communications adviser with the federal government and Courtney is a registered nurse in her home province..
The team was scheduled to leave for South Korea a few days after the Jan. 31 send-off event at the OCC. They spent some time training with the Canadian men’s team — led by skip Kevin Koe — before heading to Pyeongchang.
John Morris, who will be one half of Canada’s mixed-doubles team at Pyeongchang with Kaitlyn Lawes, was also raised in Ottawa and rose to prominence as a national and world champion junior curler out of the Ottawa Curling Club.
Morris’s father, Earle, is a legendary OCC coach who trained his son as well as the members of Team Homan during their development years.
Team Homan will open the Games with a match against the host South Koreans on Feb. 15, the start of a week-long series of preliminary round games.
The women’s curling gold medal game is scheduled for Feb. 25, and members of the Ottawa Curling Club will be hoping to see Homan and her three teammates atop the podium.