HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Olympic dreams were fulfilled for the first time and multiple times Wednesday by five National Capital Region curlers and cross-country skiers.
Rachel Homan and John Morris, the two most decorated curlers in Ottawa with multi-Games experience, will represent Canada in mixed doubles curling at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which begin Feb. 2.
Curling Canada made the difficult boardroom decision along with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium, following the cancellation of the national Olympic mixed doubles trials in Portage la Prairie, MB., as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nordiq Canada also announced its seven-athlete team for cross-country ski racing and it included first-time Olympians Katherine Stewart-Jones and Laura Leclair, both of Chelsea, Que., and Antoine Cyr of Gatineau.
The appointment of the Homan and Morris pairing had a domino effect on the Ontario representative for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which is the Canadian women’s curling championship.
After the Ontario Curling Association (CurlON) postponed its provincial women’s championship and wasn’t able to declare an on-ice winner for the second straight year, it named Homan’s rink of third Emma Miskew, second Sarah Wilkes, lead Joanne Courtney and alternate Alli Flaxey as its representative for the Jan. 28 to Feb. 5 nationals in Thunder Bay.
But CurlON added if Homan was selected by Curling Canada to play in the Olympic mixed doubles competition with Morris and she accepted, Ontario would send the rink of skip Hollie Duncan, Megan Balsdon, Rachelle Strybosch, Tess Bobbie and alternate Julie Tippin.
Read Updated Story: Team Homan selected as a wild card for Canadian women’s curling championship
“We are absolutely thrilled for Rachel and John to represent Canada at the upcoming Olympics in Beijing,” Team Homan wrote in a Twitter message shortly after Curling Canada’s long-awaited announcement.
“We can’t wait to watch you both fight for your dreams and we will be cheering for you so loud. Best of luck to our skipper and friend. We know you’ve worked hard for this.”
The Homan-Morris team responded in kind on its Twitter account.
“It’s official, we are headed to Beijing and we are extremely eager to make Canada proud,” their message read. “We know these are difficult circumstances and we truly appreciate the faith being shown in us by the Canadian Olympic Committee and Curling Canada.
“Over the years, we have played a lot of mixed doubles together in the ultimate dream of playing for Canada at the Olympics. We know it’s a tough field, but we can’t wait to give it our best and we’ll be fighting hard for gold.”
Homan, who has represented the Ottawa Curling Club for many years, and Morris, who won two world junior championships as a skip while living in Ottawa before sharing in three men’s world titles from 2008-15, have extensive mixed doubles curling experience. As members of the Canmore Golf and Curling Club, they won the national mixed doubles championship silver medal in 2017 and earlier this season won the world-class Qualico mixed doubles classic in Canmore and Banff, AB.
Morris will be competing in his third Winter Olympics and seeking a third gold medal. He teamed with Kaitlyn Lawes to win the mixed doubles gold medal at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang and was part of Kevin Martin’s four-man championship rink at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Homan, a three-time national and one-time world (2017) champion, competed for Canada at the 2018 Olympics in women’s four-person curling and had a 4-5 record.
Homan and Morris will play their first round-robin pool match at the Olympics on Feb. 3 against the Great Britain rink of Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat, the reigning world mixed doubles champions.
3 nordic skiers headed to Games
Meanwhile, Stewart-Jones, Cyr and Leclair will be experiencing their first Winter Olympic Games.
“I’m really excited to be heading to my first Olympics,” said Stewart-Jones, the lone woman to pre-qualify before last week’s Olympic trials. “It is something I’ve always wanted to accomplish and it is crazy that it is finally here.”
Stewart-Jones had her best season on the World Cup circuit in 2021 with regular results in the Top 30.
Cyr also pre-qualified for the Olympic team based on two top-12 finishes in World Cup competitions this season.
“Today is a dream come true and my whole focus now is on getting ready for the Olympics,” he said. “I have worked very hard and kept believing. I’m super happy. Hopefully, I can represent the maple leaf well by throwing down some good races.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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.
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