Rachel Homan intends to continue Canada’s curling dominance on the world stage.
On the heels of Jennifer Jones’s 11-0 run in Sochi to claim an Olympic gold medal for Canada, Homan would love to roll through the women’s world championship to a title in Saint John, N.B., starting Saturday.
Homan and her Ottawa teammates boast their own unbeaten record domestically from the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal. They went 13-0 en route to a second straight Canadian title last month.
“Jones went undefeated. So did we,” Homan said. “We’re hoping to do the same thing at worlds and have a clean sweep for Canada. That would be a great ending to this year.
“Me and Jen will take pictures of our gold medals, hopefully. I love those girls. They’re amazing curlers and amazing people. So happy they were able to run the table and so proud to be Canadian watching them celebrate at the end.”
Canadian women also claimed this year’s world junior title in Flims, Switzerland, where Edmonton’s Kelsey Rocque defeated South Korea’s Kyeong-Ae Kim 6-4 in early March.
Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Alison Kreviazuk and lead Lisa Weagle open their world title bid Saturday against Russia’s Anna Sidorova.
Homan was a shot away from reaching last year’s world championship final in Riga, Latvia. With the score tied and Homan with hammer coming home, she missed a double takeout attempt to give Scotland’s Eve Muirhead the steal of a point and an 8-7 victory.
The Canadians defeated Erika Brown of the U.S. for a bronze medal in their world championship debut.
“We were one shot short. That happens in sport,” Homan said. “I 100 per cent believe you learn so much more from losses than from wins. It’s hard to swallow at first, but when you can step back and reflect on that, the lessons you learn are invaluable.
“We’re grateful for the opportunities we’ve had. We’ve been in big games. We’re grateful for the losses and the wins. They’re both equally important to how we’re performing today and the level we’re at right now.”
The Homan foursome had more time to prepare for this year’s world championship in Saint John than they did for the tournament in Riga, although weather delayed their travel to both destinations.
A snowstorm grounded them in the Frankfurt airport for 30 hours en route to the Latvian capital last year.
Their flight Thursday from Halifax to Saint John was cancelled, so the team drove the final 410 kilometres of the journey, announcing their arrival on Twitter.
This year’s Scotties was held earlier than usual due to the Winter Olympics. Homan won the Canadian championship Feb. 9, two days after the opening ceremonies in Sochi.
Because of the overlap, Jones wasn’t going to compete in the Scotties and didn’t participate in Manitoba provincials.
Homan and company had almost five weeks to prepare for this world championship instead of the usual 19 days after securing the Canadian title.
“Going overseas and travelling six time zones is not ideal,” Homan said. “This year, it’s much better. We’re on home soil.
“We’ve been able to recover, organize our lives. It’s an amateur sport. We’ve got a lot on the go and a lot going on in our lives that we need to take care of before we leave.
“This year we’ve been able to see friends and family, relax a little bit, celebrate a little bit from the Scotties. It’s an amazing accomplishment and something we’re really proud of. We’ve also been able to practise a lot and get back to the gym. At the Scotties, it’s a little bit tougher to do off-ice training.”
Homan, Miskew, Kreviazuk and Weagle are all under the age of 28 and already one of the top women’s teams in the country.
A year after Homan, Miskew and Keviazuk won a Canadian junior title in 2010, that trio and Weagle made the Scotties playoffs and lost in the bronze-medal game in their national championship debut.
They beat Jones in the final of the 2013 Scotties for their first Canadian title. Homan’s team led last year’s world championship in force efficiency, meaning the Canadians were the best at limiting opposing teams to a single point in ends where the opposition had last-rock advantage.
Homan had a rough 1-2 start the Olympic curling trials in December, but managed to reach the semifinal in Winnipeg before losing to Sherry Middaugh. Homan’s team worked hard on and off the ice last summer with the intent of peaking for trials.
They fell short of wearing the Maple Leaf in Sochi, but are reaping the benefits of their work now, says Homan.
“It didn’t work out for us, but I think all the prep we did for trials carried over into the Scotties,” she said. “Nothing is guaranteed in sport. We felt really good about the preparation we put in. Hopefully we can continue that into worlds.”
The 12-team world championship field is eclectic. Just three countries will be represented in Saint John by their Olympic teams.
A headliner in Saint John and a challenge to Homan’s title bid is Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfridsson, who lost to Jones in the Olympic final and has finished second at the world championships four times in her career. Sigfridsson throws lead rocks with vice-skip Maria Prytz throwing fourth stones.
Russia’s Sidorova went 3-6 in Sochi. The 23-year-old skip had social media buzzing and was featured in Britain’s Daily Mail when she posed for photos in black lingerie and high heels prior to the Games.
South Korea’s Kim Ji-Sun skips a team to watch with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on the horizon. The South Koreans were eighth in Sochi. Kim reached the world championship playoffs in 2012 and lost to Canada’s Heather Nedohin in the bronze-medal game.
Denmark’s Madeleine Dupont wasn’t in Sochi, but she was in Vancouver in 2010 throwing fourth stones for Angelina Jensen. They won world championship silver in 2007 and bronze in 2009.
Allison Pottinger of the U.S., is another international veteran. The transplanted Canadian has appeared in 10 world championship for the U.S. and won a world title playing third for Debbie McCormick in 2003. Pottinger was McCormick’s third in the 2010 Winter Olympics and her alternate in Sochi.
Germany’s Imogen Oona Lehmann will skip Germany for the first time at the world championships, although she was Andrea Schoepp’s third in three tournaments. Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher played third for Mirjam Ott when they won a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Two glaring absences are reigning world champion and Sochi bronze medallist Muirhead and former world champion Bingyu Wang of China.
Muirhead didn’t participate in Scotland’s women’s playdowns. Her former junior team third Kerry Barr will skip the Scots in Saint John. China will be skipped by Liu Sijia. She’ll make her world championship debut as will Evita Regza of Latvia.
Anna Kubeskova of the Czech Republic makes her second world championship appearance after her first in 2011.
Harbour Station in Saint John is the site of a world curling championship for the first time since 1999 when the men’s and women’s championships were held as one event. The championships split into two separate events in 2005.
Alberta’s Kevin Koe won the Tim Hortons Brier last Sunday and will represent Canada at the men’s world championship March 29 to April 6 in Beijing. Homan’s team is coached by Earle Morris.