It was a week for the ages for Canada’s Rachel Homan at the world women’s curling championship in Beijing.
Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle ran right through the table and into the record books becoming the first team to post a perfect record in the event’s 39-year history.
The Ottawa-based crew capped their historic 13-0 run with a decisive 8-3 victory over Russia’s Anna Sidorova during Sunday’s gold-medal game.
Homan was in complete control jumping on the board with a deuce in the second and stealing a point in the following end. Sidorova got on the board with a single in five, but Homan didn’t ease up and added a three-count in six to give her team a nice five-point cushion. The deficit was just too much for Sidorova, who managed to get a pair in the seventh frame and shook hands early when Homan replied with two of her own in the next end.
Only two other teams have gone undefeated through the round-robin portion, but both sustained losses during the playoffs. Canada’s Colleen Jones settled for silver in 2003, falling to American Debbie McCormick in the final, while Sweden’s Anette Norberg captured gold in 2005 after sustaining a loss in the Page 1-2 playoff.
It’s an amazing accomplishment especially when you throw in all the outside factors such as adjusting to a wacky time zone shift (Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Ottawa), eating different food, smog, plus other intangibles like the pressure of having the Maple Leaf on your back. Not to mention it was a grind just to get to the worlds with Homan going 7-2 through provincial playdowns and 12-2 at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to earn the right to be there.
Before getting ahead and wondering how many world championships are in the future for Homan, it’s best to let this sink in first and realize how remarkable a performance it was when we’ve never seen one like it before.
1st End: Lengthy spell ends
Homan has now won a medal of every colour at the world women’s curling championship after picking up bronze in 2013 and silver the following year. While it erased Homan’s previous letdowns, it was also Canada’s first gold at the world women’s curling championship since 2008.
Yes, it had been a while since Canada last reached the top of the podium with Jennifer Jones skipping the nation to gold. Canada was still playing for medals in the meantime and never missed the playoffs. Still, there is often a “gold or bust” mentality with Canada expected to win. Canada has claimed a record 16 gold medals in this event with Sweden in second at just half that total.
The rest of the world simply caught up with Switzerland shining in particular at the worlds winning four times in the past five years.
Homan’s 13-0 run is one sure way to send a message and reclaim the top spot for Canada.
2nd End: Next on the schedule for Homan — WestJet Players’ Championship
Homan now turns her attention to the WestJet Players’ Championship running April 11-16 at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto.
It’s the only one of the four majors in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling series Homan has yet to win although she has come close a couple times in the past. Homan finished runner-up at the event in 2011 and 2014 – both times losing to Jennifer Jones in the final — and looked to make it a clean sweep of the Grand Slam majors last season until falling to Kerri Einarson in the Players’ Championship quarterfinals.
Scotland’s Eve Muirhead, fresh off of a bronze-medal performance at the worlds, has won the Players’ Championship all three times Toronto has hosted the event and should be tuned up to make a run at a four-peat.
Speaking of Jones, the five-time Players’ winner finished second to Muirhead at the event a year ago.
3rd End: Olympic preview?
The next time we’ll see the top women’s teams representing their countries and battling for curling supremacy will be in 11 short months at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The field may end up being similar, but for Team Homan they’ll have to get through quite possibly the toughest tournament of them all at the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials — known as the Roar of the Rings — taking place at the end of the year. Homan will have home-ice advantage with Ottawa hosting the event.
So far only Homan and Jennifer Jones have locked down their spots with more to be determined at the end of the season based on the Canadian Team Ranking System (CTRS) standings. Things will definitely get interesting in the next couple weeks with teams scrambling to score as many points as possible to either secure a spot directly into the Roar of the Rings or settle for a pre-trials berth and take the long road.
4th End: Sidorova’s silver a success story
It was another step in the right direction for Sidorova. After three consecutive bronze medals, Sidorova captured Russia’s first silver medal at the world women’s curling championship.
While Sidorova was one victory shy of Russia’s first ever world curling title in men’s or women’s play, she was simply outmatched in the final against Homan. Then again, it seems like nothing was stopping the Homan train from rolling right through to the title.
5th End: World women’s wrap-up
A couple other notes to close out the world women’s curling championship:
– Muirhead bounced back from an 8-5 loss to Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg during the Page 3-4 playoff with a 6-4 victory in the rematch for the bronze medal. The Scottish side stole singles in the final two ends as Muirhead reached the podium for the third time in her career at the worlds. Muirhead earned silver in 2010 and captured gold in 2013 where she made history as the youngest skip ever to win the event at age 22.
– Add another medal to Glenn Howard’s haul. The four-time world champion picked up bronze as the coach for Muirhead’s team.
– Switzerland’s Alina Paetz started strong out of the gate winning four consecutive games to open the tournament, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. The 2015 world champ cooled down quickly picking up just one more dub over the last seven games. Paetz finished with a disappointing 5-6 record to miss the playoffs as Switzerland’s gold-medal streak came to an abrupt end.
– It was also a subpar performance for host Bingyu Wang of China. Wang managed just two wins — over EunJung Kim of South Korea and Lene Nielsen of Denmark — to end up in second-last with a 2-9 record. Considering Wang has had a comeback season on tour this year, ranked 10th on the World Curling Tour year-to-date standings, her result at the worlds was well below expectations.
– The Winter Olympics picture is now a bit clearer with Canada, Russia, Switzerland, Great Britain, United States, Sweden and Japan booking their spots on the women’s side and joining host South Korea. Two more nations will earn berths for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games through a qualification event in the fall.
6th End: One world championship down, one more to go
The world men’s curling championship starts Saturday at the Northlands Coliseum in Edmonton.
Canada’s Brad Gushue, coming off of his spirited first Brier win, opens the event against Peter de Cruz of Switzerland.
Team Gushue made it official last week naming Tom Sallows as the alternate. Sallows filled in at lead for Geoff Walker (shoulder injury) earlier this month at the Princess Auto Elite 10.
Two-time world champion Niklas Edin of Sweden also figures to be a favourite and earned his gold medals on Canadian soil in 2013 and 2015. Given Edin’s success on tour this year — with a pair of Pinty’s GSOC titles and a European Championship gold — that pattern of odd-year success at the worlds may continue.
7th End: City of Perth International also on horizon
The City of Perth International in Scotland is the lone tour stop this week and has attracted some top Canadian teams.
Chelsea Carey, Allison Flaxey, Tracy Fleury, Sherry Middaugh and Julie Tippin are making the trip across the pond looking for more points as the season winds down.
Binia Feltscher and Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland, American Jamie Sinclair, Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa and Scotland’s own Eve Muirhead are among the notable international teams competing.
The City of Perth International starts Friday.
8th End: WestJet Players’ Championship returning to T.O.
The schedule has been set for the WestJet Players’ Championship. Click here to see the full round-robin draw featuring Homan facing Wang on opening night.
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