Need a title drought snapped in women's curling? Rachel Homan's the one to do it.
Ontario hadn’t won a Canadian junior crown since 1993 until Homan broke through in 2010. And the province hadn’t captured a Scotties Tournament of Hearts since the irrepressible Marilyn Bodogh did in 1996 until Homan and her rink of Emma Miskew, Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle turned in their tour de force last month in Kingston, Ont.
Now the Ottawa Curling Club juggernaut heads to Riga, Latvia, for the 2013 World Women’s Curling Championship from March 16-24, looking to be the first Canadian rink to win gold since Jennifer Jones in 2008. With a 28-1 record in playdowns this year, they’re a very strong bet to do just that.
“I think it’s been a pretty fast turnaround for us,” Homan said Wednesday on a media conference call. “For me, it just recently sunk in that we’re Canadian champs; there’s been so much stuff to do to get ready for the worlds. The whole team is really excited to go and we’ve hard it’s a beautiful city.”
It’s not the first time Homan has played in a world championship overseas as she won the silver medal at the 2010 world juniors in Flims, Switzerland.
“That year we came up a little short, but this year we’re looking to go one better,” she said. “Junior is a little different from the women’s in that there are more experienced teams this time around, but then again so are we. Canada hasn’t won in a while, so it would be an amazing accomplishment for us.”
Some of the rinks – Eve Muirhead of Scotland (Canada’s opening opponent), 2009 champion Wang Bingyu of China, Anna Sidorova of Russia, Erika Brown of the U.S. and Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland – Homan has faced before. The others, including two-time champ Andrea Schoepp of Germany, aren’t as familiar.
“That’s a good thing and a bad thing in that we don’t know the experience they have, but at the same time they haven’t played us, so they don’t know what we’re capable of,” Homan said. “We’re going to play each team the same.”
Homan said her team doesn’t feel any added or different pressure with the maple leaf on their backs.
“It’s all about our own pressures, our own expectations,” she said. “And you can only prepare as much as you can and take everything as it comes, deal with problems as they arise. I don’t think there’s any point in stressing over what might be. We’ve been overseas before, so we know what it’s like to have to travel long distances and deal with jet lag. And we’ve played on so many different ice conditions, we’ll be ready for anything.
“Canada’s always been a top contender at the worlds and we’ve beaten the best in Canada. Before the Hearts we said we could win it and the feeling is the same way heading into the worlds. We know what to do to get that championship.”
Having the Scotties MVP in Weagle, only the third lead so honoured, is a major asset for Homan. Weagle played ticks from the first end on in the Hearts final against Jones – a shot usually saved for defensive purposes later in a game -- and the strategy is already being employed at the Brier.
“Playing lead is very important,” Weagle said. “The game is developing and evolving all the time and so is the importance of the front-end shots, obviously, in terms of setting up an end and what’s left for the skip. We gave up very few steals this year because we left Rachel a lot of (easier) shots.”
Their coach, Earle Morris, said the approach the team will take isn’t going to vary.
“Our message before the provincials was, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’ Same at the Hearts,” he said. “The thing is, they won’t have to raise the level of their play. They’ll just have to keep doing the good things they have been doing and the results will take care of themselves.”
If they do, another championship wait will come to a welcome end.