By Jake Romphf
The Ottawa Curling Club rink led by superstar skip Rachel Homan — already the reigning national and world women’s champions — have punched their ticket to represent Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics after defeating a tough field of competitors at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings tournament in Ottawa.
Team Homan, hometown favourites during the week-long Olympic qualifier that took place Dec. 2-10 at Canadian Tire Place, took a near-perfect 7-1 record into a four-rink playoff before notching a 6-3 semi-final win over Team Jennifer Jones — the 2014 Olympic champions from Winnipeg — and then a dramatic 6-5 victory in the final against a previously undefeated team in the tournament, also from Manitoba, led by skip Chelsea Carey.
Homan is an Ottawa native and three of the other four women on the team also call Ottawa their home: third Emma Miskew, lead Lisa Weagle and alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk.
Joanne Courtney, who throws second rocks, is from Edmonton.
The team developed around Homan as juniors at the historic curling club on O’Connor Street and has continued to train there while rising to the top of the sport internationally in recent years. In addition to its world and Canadian titles this year, Team Homan previously won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts (the national championship) in 2013 and 2014, and won bronze and silver medals respectively at the 2013 and 2014 world championships.
“They practise here, they play some games here sometimes, they are heavily involved in our community and they also do make a lot of presence with their Ottawa youth curling league,” said Alexandra Birtwistle, director of member services at the OCC.
The 2017 Roar of the Rings drew nine teams from across Canada on both the men and women’s sides. Team Homan and the men’s champion at the tournament — Team Kevin Koe out of Calgary —will carry Canada’s hopes at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February.
In the early days of round-robin play at the Roar of the Rings, the OCC’s Birtwistle said if Team Homan earned a trip to the Olympicsit would have a huge impact on the curling community in Ottawa.
“It would be unbelievable that such a local, homegrown team is representing us at the most prestigious level in the world,” said Birtwistle.
But the Roar of the Rings itself was a big deal in for curling enthusiasts at the OCC.
“We had a send-off party in here a couple weeks ago and it was packed in here, so people are huge fans of Team Homan,” said Birtwistle. “This week people are coming in to watch the games and we all get together so its kind of like one of those things where it doesn’t need to be planned, it’s kind of an unspoken — you just show up and everyone’s supporting the same thing.”
One of the reasons for Team Homan’s success is their work ethic, said one close observer of the rink’s progress through the years.
“A lot of teams don’t practise anywhere near as much as they do, and it’s everyday — sometimes twice a day — and they hardly ever miss a practice,” said Joe Pavia, who runs the OCC pro shop and was a long time curling columnist for the Ottawa Sun.
Win or lose at the Olympics, Team Homan already has the Centretown community, Ottawa and all of Canada behind them.
“I know preteen girls who come here and stare at the sign out outside and they say, ‘Mommy, we’re going into the place where the Homan team plays!’ And they are wide-eyed when they say that, so people of all ages follow that team,” said Pavia.