By Charlie Pinkerton
While shuffling through the chronology of Team Homan’s road to the PyeongChang Olympic Games there’s a moment that stands out. Right before that moment was a period of almost-but-not-quite for Team Homan, that began almost exactly four years ago.
Team Homan, composed of skip Rachel Homan, third Emma Miskew, lead Lisa Weagle – three of the team’s current members – and second Alison Kreviazuk, had been bounced from the 2013 Roar of the Rings in a decisive 10-4 semifinal loss to the fellow Ontario rink skipped by Sherry Middaugh. Middaugh’s team would then lose to the eventual gold medalists at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Team (Jennifer) Jones.
Team Homan, the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts champions, defended their title at the 2014 version of the event by going undefeated and throwing their championship rocks on the eve of the day that Team Jones would launch into their Olympic gold medal pursuit.
Team Homan’s victory made Rachel the youngest skip to ever repeat as champion in the tournament. But Ottawa’s on-the-rise team faced a dilemma; Kreviazuk, their two-time Scotties champion second, was bound for a move to Sweden towards the end of the year with fellow-curler-boyfriend, Fredrik Lindberg.
Cue moment; enter Joanne Courtney.
Courtney, who was 25 at the time, the same as Homan and Miskew, was the second for a rink skipped by Val Sweeting out of Alberta. She had lost to Homan in the finals of the Scotties that year at the conclusion of what she called at the time a breakthrough year for her rink. A few months earlier her team had missed the Roar of the Rings playoffs by one game.
Courtney told the Ottawa Sportspage then that she hardly knew the girls in Team Homan and that their relationships didn’t extend far beyond handshakes as opponents after matches.
But she shared some commonalities with the Ottawa girls. Like them she followed other members of her family into the sport. Her father picked up the sport in his early 20s. She said her brother curled and that she wanted to copy him, so she started curling well before she was even a teenager. She said somewhere around age 15-16 it really took off.
Also alike her soon-to-be-teammates, Courtney had a lust for the Olympics.
“I was crying,” Courtney told the Sportspage in 2014, describing watching Jennifer Jones’ rink capture Olympic Gold. “I think my heart rate was 180 for the entire final. It was great to see them achieve their dreams on that stage. The look on their faces made you feel great and really proud to be Canadian and to be involved with curling.”
Team Homan’s pitch to Courtney at the time was for a four-year commitment to get them a shot at their version of that moment the next time around in PyeongChang.
“When I got the phone call at the end of the last quad, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Courtney said after winning the 2017 Roar of the Rings.
With another Scotties title (2017) and a World Curling Championships gold medal (2017) crammed in-between, Homan, Miskew, Courtney and Weagle have created a bond that’s far eclipsed their old post-match handshakes.
“I have so much respect for my teammates. They’re unbelievable people. They’re fantastic curlers, and beyond that, they’re like my sisters now. I feel I’ve gotten to be so much better, even better than I could have ever thought I could be. I can’t say enough about them. They’re amazing.”
And now they’ve got one goal left.
-With files from Dan Plouffe.
Wed., Feb. 14, CAN vs KOR 7 p.m. ET
Thu., Feb. 15, CAN vs SWE 6 a.m.
Fri., Feb. 16, CAN vs DEN 12:05 a.m.
Sat., Feb 17, CAN vs USA 6 a.m.
Sun., Feb. 18, CAN vs SUI 12:05 a.m.
Sun., Feb 18, CAN vs JPN 7 p.m.
Tue., Feb 20, CAN vs CHN 12:05 a.m.
Wed., Feb. 21, CAN vs OAR 6 a.m.
Fri., Feb. 23, Semifinal 6 a.m.
Sat., Feb. 24, Bronze 6 a.m., Gold 7 p.m.