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Ottawa at the Olympics Day 3: Curling tandem catches fire

By Ethan Diamandas, Charlie Pinkerton and Martin Cleary (This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.)

Ottawa at the Olympics Day 3: Curling tandem catches fire

That’s a wrap on Opening Ceremony Day!

Always one of the Games’ highlights, each nation marches through the stadium in an extravagant ceremony designed to entertain the crowd on hand and fire up the fans at home.

Dressed in their sleek red coats and scarves, Canada’s flagbearers — speedskater Charles Hamelin and hockey player Marie-Philippe Poulin — led the charge as dozens of Canadian athletes marched down the aisle. 

Hours before Canada’s visually stunning Opening Ceremony appearance, Ottawa’s mixed doubles curling duo of Rachel Homan and John Morris faced another round of competition, this time duelling a historically dominant Swiss team.

After a disappointing loss in their first match of the Games, they’ve officially turned things around with three straight wins.

Canada started the match by stealing three points in the very first end of the 7-5 win, much to the enjoyment of Homan and Morris, who calmly fist bumped each other. 

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Curlers’ ex-coach (and father of 1/2 the team) weighs in

John’s parents, Earle Morris and Maureen Morris, were watching live from their home in Ottawa and got a shoutout from the TV cast. The elder Morris was Homan’s first coach, and, according to CBC broadcasters, Earle said the team’s communication needed to improve during this Olympics.

Turns out, the Canadian Curling Hall of Famer knows his stuff.

In the seventh end, with Canada firmly in the lead, Homan released her first stone and immediately vocalized her view on the line.

“Woah, woah,” she shouted, and when Morris started using his broom, Homan got even louder — “John, stop sweeping!” Homan yelled at her partner. It was a comical display of their close but candid relationship, as Canada curled to a safe victory.

“This morning was good to watch,” wrote coach Scott Pfeifer in a Curling Canada blog. “There’s still some work to do, but it looked from where Marc (Kennedy) and I were watching that Rachel and John looked more comfortable out there.”

Canada continued its hot streak against host-nation China, controlling the match from start to finish. China rallied late in the 8-6 victory, but Homan delivered another excellent tick shot in the seventh end to help Canada eventually tack on two points. 

It was the best day of curling for Canada so far, and Homan and Morris recognized they’ve built some real momentum after losing their first game. 

“We’re starting to get into a rhythm now,” Morris said afterwards. “First day, we were a little off, I wasn’t quite myself, but feeling really good now.”

Canada now sits in third place with a 3-1 record. 

Day 4 Preview: Hockey ready to go, skating begins, curling continues

Jamie Lee Rattray has followed a fractured path to the Olympics. COVID-19 decimated multiple women’s hockey opportunities, and the mass uncertainty messed with Rattray’s psyche. 

 “It was heartbreaking,” she told the Sports Pages’ Martin Cleary. “But in the end, I learned to love the game more and changed things to adapt.”

Finally, in her first Olympic Games, Rattray has some security. Now, after years of bouncing around, she has a true, cohesive, dominant group of girls alongside her. Canada’s women’s hockey team not only looks like the most dominant hockey squad in the Games, they may be the most dominant team in any Olympic sport this year.

Part of creating a strong team dynamic comes from coaching, and Canada has no shortage of talented staffers on its bench. Assistant coaches Alison Domenico, of Barrhaven, Doug Derraugh,of Arnprior, and mental performance coach Kim Thompson, of Ottawa, will all be counted on as Canada goes into overdrive with three games in the next four days.

“We have our eye on the prize (gold medal) … We talk about confidence, motivation, fears and apprehensions, and try to make sense of that,” Thompson told the Sports Pages

After annihilating Switzerland 12-1 on Wednesday, Canada looks to tackle its next challenge — an 11:10 p.m. eastern time matchup versus Finland — with similar ferocity. Finland dropped its opening game against the U.S. 5-2, so Canada has a chance to take advantage of a talented Finnish team while it’s vulnerable.

(Correction: We owe subscribers of our newsletter who received yesterday’s edition a mea culpa. We said the women’s hockey game against Finland was happening last night, when it in fact it will be played on Friday evening, here in Ottawa time. This was editor Charlie Pinkerton’s error, who is apparently still struggling with the time change. He apologizes. To avoid being like him, follow our site’s schedules tool, which keeps track of all Ottawa athletes’ events in eastern time.)

Long-track speedskating also begins early Saturday morning (3:30 a.m. eastern) and two of the sport’s best skaters — Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann — are set to rep Ottawa in the women’s 3,000-metre event. 

For Weidemann, it’s yet another opportunity for the 26-year-old to flash her dominance. As the world’s No. 1 ranked endurance skater, she enters at her absolute peak — at least to date. A gold medal is squarely on her mind.

Blondin, on the other hand, is seeking redemption after her performance in Pyeongchang. 

“I truly believed I could come home with one medal,” she told the Sports Pages‘ Cleary. “But I felt I had failed. I came home empty-handed.”

The key to win in Beijing? Skate as much as possible. Blondin will compete in not just the 3,000-metre event, but also the 1,500m, the 5,000m, the mass start and the team pursuit. It’s an outrageously packed schedule, but Blondin is ready. 

“I’m excited to perform. Whatever happens, I will accept,” she said confidently and boldly.

On the curling front, Homan and Morris will continue their round play with a matchup against Sweden early Saturday morning (1:05 a.m. eastern) and then a rivalry game versus the U.S. at 7:05 a.m. eastern.

Ottawa at the Olympics Central webpage + a bonus column coming soon!

As always, be sure to bookmark and frequently check our Ottawa at the Olympics central webpage for daily updates on your favourite local athletes. 

Also, if you’re on our site later today, you’ll find some Olympic predictions from High Achievers columnist Martin Cleary. Will the veteran of six live Olympics (plus many more from home) end up looking like a genius, or is he bound to be exposed (Freezing Cold Takes-style)?

The Games are now about to really pick up in the coming days, so enjoy watching, and stick with us for more Olympic coverage!

This article was first sent to subscribers of the Ottawa at the Olympics Daily Newsletter. Sign up to receive it, for free, here.

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