Jenn Hanna and her team returned home to a heroes' welcome yesterday after losing a hard-fought Canadian women's curling championship final on Sunday.
Family, friends and fans gathered at the Ottawa International Airport to show support for Hanna, her younger sister Stephanie, Pascale Letendre and Dawn Askin.
The four women from the Ottawa Curling Rink represented Ontario at the Scott Tournament of Hearts in St. John's. Their remarkable ride to the championship game ended in an 8-6 loss when Manitoba skip Jennifer Jones made a miraculous last-rock shot to score four.
"I'm almost shaking with emotion, I'm so proud of the girls," said Valerie Hanna, mother of the Hanna sisters. "They never gave up, they just kept rolling. I don't know how they did it."
The four women were met with flowers and applause as they descended the airport's escalators and headed for the baggage carousel.
Skip Jenn Hanna admitted it felt odd to be greeted by so many new faces.
"This is the most emotional I've been all week," said Hanna, trying hard to hold back the tears. "I was expecting a few family members, not all these people."
Julie and Tryshia Colquhoun, who grew up with the Hanna sisters, held a large welcome home banner inside the airport.
"I knew (Jenn) was championship material when we were playing as kids," said Julie.
Leading up to the team's arrival in the baggage area, many passengers from their flight approached the crowd asking what was going on. Few realized they'd shared an airplane with Ottawa's newest celebrities.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the team did not seem disappointed.
"I couldn't have written a better story," said Hanna. "It's been the week of my life."
A TV HIT: CBC's broadcast of Sunday's championship game drew an average of 911,000 viewers, a 23% increase over last year's final. Saturday's semi-final game between Hanna and B.C.'s Kelly Scott drew 620,000 viewers while an average of 432,000 tuned in for all of CBC's live games during the week-long tournament.