Many curling rinks would have crumbled after making a significant error in the middle of the biggest game they have ever played.
Not Rachel Homan’s rink from the Ottawa Curling Club. Her teammates dealt with the mistake head on last month and went on to win their first national women’s curling championship.
It was a good example of the mental strength the players have built up while working with Dr. Natalie Durand-Bush, who serves as their mental performance consultant. The Homan rink quickly shook off the sweeping miscue and stepped up for a 9-6 win over Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones.
“It’s definitely something that we’ve been working on for several years — the ability to manage distractions,” Durand-Bush said in a recent interview.
Homan, Emma Miskew, Lisa Weagle and Alison Kreviazuk lost only one game at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. They will represent Canada at the March 16-24 world women’s curling championship in Riga, Latvia.
The significant error at the Scotties came in the fifth end of the gold-medal game.
With several rocks in play, Weagle misjudged her position on the sheet. Her vigorous sweeping caused her broom to dig underneath a stone just before Miskew’s rock made contact with it.
The stone popped up in the air in a scene that even seasoned curling officials had never seen before. Two displaced stones had to be returned to their original spots and the Ontario stone was taken out of play.
Weagle smiled it off but she appeared more anxious after the error. Her teammates were quick to support her and they quickly moved on.
In fact, Ontario scored a single point in the end for a 4-2 lead entering the halftime break. Jones tied it in the sixth before Homan scored three in the seventh for a lead she wouldn’t relinquish.
“What we’ve been able to do this year is to talk about so many different ways to win,” said Durand-Bush. “Coming from behind, getting a huge distraction like that but still be able to perform really well.
“We’ve accumulated a lot of lessons over the years, just so they have the confidence and the knowledge that they can win no matter what.”
The team’s mental strength was even more impressive considering the players are in their mid-20s and were making their first appearance in a Scotties final. That fifth end could have snuffed their early momentum.
Instead, Weagle became even more determined and her excellent sweeping helped Ontario pick up a key point.
“She said she was extra vigilant, which had a positive effect,” Durand-Bush said. “The potential for things to go wrong was there but I think that they handled it very well.”
Durand-Bush will join the Ontario team overseas. She has worked with the rink since 2006.
“It’s definitely not an overnight thing,” Homan said. “Over the years just getting the experience and learning from our mistakes and just growing and maturing as time went on — and her helping us shaped that.
“I think it really helped us out in the end in that final.”
The 23-year-old Homan’s focus was obvious at the national playdowns. Her steely gaze and intensity were a constant throughout the tournament.
She also came through when it counted. Homan threw for a sparkling 93 per cent in the final against Jones.
Homan finished fourth in her Scotties debut in 2011. She said that she didn’t expect to win that year but was confident they could contend for a championship in 2013.
Homan has the same mindset entering the world playdowns.
“I would say she’s definitely in a league of her own,” Durand-Bush said. “If you look at the elite skips out there, she’s definitely one of them. She just has tremendous ability to focus and to play with pressure ... in her case, the higher the pressure, the more she says, ‘Bring it on. I can handle it.’
“So that’s such a great strength.”
Canada is scheduled to play its opening game against Scotland on Saturday at the Volvo Sports Center.
Alberta skip Heather Nedohin represented Canada at last year’s world women’s curling championship in Lethbridge. She finished third behind Sweden and champion Switzerland.
The men’s world championship is scheduled for March 30-April 7 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria. Northern Ontario skip Brad Jacobs will represent Canada.