Rachel Homan has confidence, home ice and hammer heading into Sunday’s final at the Ford Women’s World Curling Championship. She intends to turn those assets into gold.
Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Alison Kreviazuk and lead Lisa Weagle out of the Ottawa Curling Club will start the championship game against Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher with last-rock advantage.
It’s Canada’s reward for their 10-1 record to win the preliminary round and their 8-3 playoff win Friday over the Swiss.
None of the other 11 countries at Saint John’s Harbour Station were as effective at scoring more than one point with hammer as Canada, so having it in the first end is an advantage.
“It’s huge,” Homan said. “If you play your game properly, you can control the game.”
Canada last won a women’s world curling title in 2008, when Winnipeg’s Jennifer Jones claimed it in Vernon, B.C. The wait hasn’t been as long for Switzerland, as Mirjam Ott took the title two years ago in Lethbridge, Alta.
With spectacular runbacks and raise takeouts, the Canadians drained Switzerland’s offence Friday to win the playoff between the tournament’s top two teams.
That provided the host country a direct route to the gold-medal game, while Switzerland needed a 7-3 win over South Korea in Saturday’s semifinal to gain a rematch.
Russia’s Anna Sidorova and South Korea’s Ji-sun Kim will play for bronze Sunday in what will be a first women’s world curling medal for one of the countries.
Homan’s team had Saturday off, so the skip watched the game in her hotel room and conducted interviews by phone in a raspy voice.
“The rest will be good for me,” Homan said. “I’m glad the final is not today.
“It’s been a long week and we all need a bit of rest, so we’re glad that we put in the work and played really well and were able to get this bonus day off. We have some confidence we can take over into the final.”
Feltscher, 35, won an Olympic silver medal in 2006 playing third for Ott, but Sunday’s final will be the biggest game of her career as a skip.
Third Irene Schori, second Franziska Kaufmann and Lead Christine Urech made their world championship debut in Saint John, so a 9-2 round-robin record and a berth in the final is a surprise.
“We’ve got nothing to lose tomorrow,” Feltscher said via an interpreter. “It would be a great pleasure for us to put that gold medal around our necks.”
Switzerland was the only country to beat Canada in the round robin. Down 8-4, Homan shook hands after eight ends.
Canadian Al Moore, husband of television curling commentator Linda Moore, is one of Switzerland’s coaches.
“I don’t think their expectations were particularly high coming in,” Moore said. “My goal coming in was to be in the playoffs. I really thought they could do that. The gold-medal game is a bonus.”
“They believe they can win. They believe if they go out and play their best, they believe they can win and really that’s the difference.”
Jones and Brad Jacobs gave Canada double curling gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi last month, with Jones going undefeated en route to the top step of the podium. Homan is on the verge of making it a dominant season for Canadian women’s curling.
“We have pressure on ourselves as well,” Homan said. “You want that gold when it comes down to it.
“Seeing Jones and (Brad) Jacobs bring home the gold from the Olympics, I really want to make it a clean sweep for Canada and make sure we’ve got gold everywhere.”
The average age of Homan and her teammates is just under 26, but they have big-game experience.
They’ve won back-to-back Canadian titles, took bronze in their world championship debut last year in Riga, Latvia, and made it as far as the semifinal in December’s Olympic trials.
Homan was a shot away from making the final last year in Riga, but she missed a double takeout with her last throw of the semifinal to give up a steal and lose 8-7 to Scotland.
The travel, time zone and arena were kinder to Homan this time.
“You’re going to feel nervous and that comes with the territory and that comes with the sport,” Homan said. “We love playing with the pressure and the home crowd.
“A little bit different than Latvia. We had about five fans cheering us on. There’s a lot more energy this time around.”