HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: Ottawa Curling Club skip Rachel Homan has completed her team for the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which leaves one question about her participation in the Canadian women’s curling championship.
Will Homan lead her formidable rink of third Emma Miskew, second Sarah Wilkes, lead Joanne Courtney and alternate Alli Flaxey, who was named Sunday, to Thunder Bay for the nationals on Jan. 28 to Feb. 6?
On Friday, the Ontario Curling Association (CurlON) announced Team Homan had been appointed to represent Ontario at the Canadian championship, after “an extensive review of all teams that qualified for the event (Ontario championship).”
For the second year running, the Ontario women’s curling championship didn’t happen on its scheduled date or at all because of the health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2022 provincial championship is now slated to be staged in early April, but that’s too late for an Ontario representative to be determined for nationals on the ice. In 2021, the Ontario championship was cancelled and CurlON selected the Team Homan rink as its representative. Team Homan placed first overall after the round-robin and won the silver medal at nationals for the third consecutive year.
While Team Homan is preparing for its ninth national championship (three titles, three silver medals, one bronze and one fourth place in the past 11 years), Homan could still be selected to Canada’s 2022 Beijing Olympic team for the mixed doubles competition. She is partnered with Ottawa’s John Morris, the gold medallist at the 2018 Olympics with Kaitlyn Lawes, who is ineligible this time because she is a member of Jennifer Jones’s four-player team at the Beijing Games.
Curling Canada is still consulting with the Canadian Olympic Committee about the mixed doubles curling team and no firm timelines are in place to announce the team.
Homan doesn’t have the option to play both events as the nationals start Jan. 28 and the Olympic mixed doubles begin two days before the official Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on Feb. 4. Canada plays its first game against Great Britain on Feb. 3.
CurlON had a difficult decision to select its national championship representative as Team Homan and the Hollie Duncan team of the Royal Canadian Curling Club in Toronto were extremely close in the rankings this season.
“The Canadian Team Rankings System played a part in the final decision for our representative,” CurlON said in a press release. “Also included in this review were results based on Strength of Field Multiplier and history in events of a national/international calibre (Grand Slams, Canada Cup, Scotties, Worlds and Olympics).”
Team Homan had a strong advantage in the historical column, having competed in three world championships (winning in 2017), one Olympic Games (Team Homan tied for fifth at the 2018 Olympics with a disappointing 4-5 record), and owning the record for Grand Slam of Curling victories at 11.
But Duncan, who won the Ontario title and attended the Canadian championship in 2018, has had a strong season with two firsts and one second and was only 3.2 points behind Homan in the CTRS standings. Homan, who hasn’t reached a final this season but has four quarter-final showings, ranks fifth and Duncan is sixth.
If Curling Canada selects Homan and Morris as its mixed doubles team, Homan may be faced with a difficult decision – siding with her four other teammates for the national women’s championship or selecting Morris for her second Olympic experience.
“This award (representing Ontario at nationals) is dependent on which twosome is named the 2022 mixed doubles Olympic team representative,” CurlON added. “If Rachel Homan is awarded and accepts (being) the Olympic mixed doubles team representative, then the Ontario representative will be awarded to Team Duncan.”
The Duncan team is comprised of Hollie Duncan, Megan Balsdon, Rachelle Strybosch, Tess Bobbie and Julie Tippin (alternate).
STEWART-JONES, CYR DOMINATE CROSS-COUNTRY SKI TRIALS
Nakkertok Nordic’s Katherine Stewart-Jones and Skinouk’s Antoine Cyr appear ready for their first Winter Olympic Games. After the two pre-selected cross-country skiers scored a pair of victories each at the Olympic, world U23 and junior championships trials in Canmore, AB., all they should have to do now is wait for their Olympic team nomination by Nordiq Canada and Canadian Olympic Committee confirmation.
Nordiq Canada can nominate four female and three male nordic skiers to the COC for selection to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which open Feb. 4. One female and three males had met the Olympic criteria before last week’s trials.
After passing on the opening women’s senior free technique sprint, Stewart-Jones captured a pair of wins by contrasting margins. She won the 10-kilometre interval-start classic on Saturday by half a second over friend and national team teammate Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse Ski Club. Stewart-Jones was timed in 34 minutes, 29.6 seconds, while Beatty stopped in 34:30.1.
On Sunday, Stewart-Jones was proud of her race pacing, placing first in the interval-start free 15-kilometre test in 39:47.4 and posting an 18.7-second margin of victory. Nakkertok’s Zoe Williams was fifth in 44:22.3 and Laura Leclair of Chelsea Nordiq was eighth in 47:44.8.
“Pacing was a huge part of today (Sunday),” said Stewart-Jones, who has attended the past three world championships and has a personal-best race result of 23rd in the 30-kilometre mass start in 2021. “I decided to go off a little more conservative than yesterday (Saturday) and I thought I nailed the pacing today.
“I just kept telling myself to move my legs, when they were so dead and to use my arms more on the flats to give my legs a rest.”
Leclair opened the trials on Thursday by defeating national team members and scoring an upset victory in the women’s free technique sprint, while Williams placed sixth.
Cyr, who placed an impressive seventh in the team sprint in his first world championship in 2021, won the men’s senior free technique sprint Thursday as well as the interval-start classic 15-kilometre race on Saturday, covering the 15-kilometre course in 41:12.0. In the 30-kilometre interval-start free, Cyr was third among senior men, but sixth overall in 1:15:28.6.
Nakkertok’s Pierre Grall-Johnson placed third in the senior sprint and 15th in the 15-kilometre interval-start classic in 44:14.1.
Nordiq Canada can send five male and five female skiers to each of the world U23 and junior (U20) championships Feb. 22-27 in Lygna, Norway. Several Ottawa skiers are in contention for those two teams, which could be announced as early as this week.
Grall-Johnson was the top U23 skier in the free technique sprint, fifth in the interval-start classic and fifth in the interval-start free. Bronwyn Williams registered a pair of third-place results in the interval-start classic and interval-start free.
In their U23 interval-start free races over 30 and 15 kilometres respectively, Mats Halvorsen of Nakkertok was ninth among the men and Katherine Mason of Nakkertok was 10th for the women.
Nakkertok junior women were regularly in the top-10 at the trials and vying for world team selection. Jasmine Lyons, a scholarship skier at the University of New Hampshire, was second in the women’s U20 interval-start free 15-kilometre race (and fourth out of open women), while Clara Hegan was seventh and Katya Semeniuk took ninth.
In the women’s U20 interval-start classic 10-kilometre race, Semeniuk was fourth, Hegan finished fifth and Lyons was eighth. Lyons and Magalie Daoust qualified for the six-racer women’s U20 free technique sprint A final and placed fifth and sixth respectively.
Pembroke Nordic’s Guillaume Pelchat placed fifth in the men’s U20 free technique sprint and the interval-start free 30-kilometre race.
OTTAWA BOBSLEIGH/SKELETON ATHLETES IMPROVE IN WORLD CUP RANKS
Ottawa sliders had a solid outing at the Jan. 7-9 International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Cup competition in Winterberg, Germany.
After being sidelined for the last World Cup race due to positive COVID tests, Cody Sorensen and Mike Evelyn returned to pilot Chris Spring’s sled for the four-man bobsled competition and earned the team’s best result of the season. They placed eighth, and improved their overall series ranking to 12th.
After winning bronze in December on the same track, Mimi Rahneva had her second-best result of the season in the women’s skeleton race. The 33-year-old placed fifth in a time of 1:56.54, just .07 seconds from the podium, and moved into the #9 spot in the 2021-2022 World Cup rankings.
Up next on the World Cup schedule is Rahneva’s favourite track in St. Moritz, Switzerland – the lone natural course (craved out of the snow) on the world tour – where she posted the largest margin of victory recorded in a World Cup event, in 2017. Women’s skeleton begins at 9 a.m. ET on Friday.
NATIONALS ROOKIE IMPRESSES AT CANADIAN FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ottawa’s lone skater competing in the hometown Canadian Tire National Skating Championships impressed in her nationals debut. Katherine Medland Spence of the Nepean Skating Club placed sixth in the senior women’s competition. Read full coverage here.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.