By Martin Cleary
Ottawa Curling Club’s Rachel Homan has a berth in her 10th Scotties Tournament of Hearts without having to toss a rock at her main qualifying competition, the Ontario championship.
Team Homan will certainly participate in the 12-rink provincial championship, which runs Sunday through Jan. 29 in Port Elgin, but there will be no pressure to win the title to be the provincial representative at nationals.
Curling Canada wants the country’s top female curling teams at the Canadian championships and in recent years has expanded the field to 18 entries (14 provincial associations, Team Canada and three wild cards).
At the moment, the Homan rink has solidified one of the three wild cards by ranking second in Curling Canada’s Ranking System. Homan actually would be considered the top contender for a wild-card berth, since CCRS points leader Kerri Einarson has already qualified for nationals as the two-time defending champion and the Team Canada representative.
The Canadian teams ranked behind Einarson at 382.859 and Homan at 341.859 in the points race are well back and won’t be able to pass Homan by the end of the qualifying period.
“This is the first year we’re going to the Ontario championships knowing we will have a berth at the Canadian championships,” Ottawa’s Emma Miskew, the Homan rink second, said in a phone interview earlier this week.
“Our points are at the top and we cannot get passed. Curling Canada is making sure the best teams are there (at nationals), regardless of what happens at provincials.”
That’s definitely a bonus for the Homan rink, which is completed by lead Sarah Wilkes and skip Tracy Fleury. Homan throws the final two rocks in each end, plays third and is a regular sweeper.
That positive and unexpected result falls in line with Miskew’s season of change, which she has experienced during the past 12 months.
In February, 2022, Miskew went to the Canadian championships as the team skip, after Homan elected to represent Canada at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in mixed doubles with John Morris. Curl ON, the Ontario Curling Association, selected the Hollie Duncan rink as its representative for nationals and the Homan rink, without Homan, qualified as the No. 3 Wild Card team based on CCRS points.
During the summer, Homan made a major adjustment to her team by welcoming elite skip Fleury. As a result, Miskew changed positions and became the second, after serving 20 consecutive years as the third for Homan.
Miskew also recently joined the 10-member executive of the upstart World Curling Players’ Association, which was created by Rylan Hartley of Maitland, ON., to help unify the world’s top players and bring about improved communications between the various arms of the sport.
“It has been a long-time coming. Most sports have a players’ association. It’s important,” Miskew said.
The players’ association would like to have a unified voice when speaking to key groups like the World Curling Federation, national associations such as Curling Canada and event organizers.
“In the past few years, there have been major rule changes and we wondered who made those decisions,” Miskew added. “There are a lot of players who don’t like this and we’re the ones out there.”
Sweden’s Niklas Edin, the six-time world men’s champion, is the interim president of the players’ association. There have been some meetings to get the group off the ground and more are expected in the off-season.
The players want to be more involved with decisions affecting the growth of curling, review the point structure for how teams can qualify for Grand Slam events and work with event organizers when there are sponsorship conflicts.
“I think it’s exciting for everyone,” Miskew said. “We’re trying to start something. It’s hard to get the group going because we have a lot of players from everywhere. Everyone is committed at this point to getting it off the ground.”
For now, Miskew is focused on continuing to help the Homan rink develop as a team and add to their successful season at the crucial part of their schedule.
“It has been awesome,” Miskew said about the play of the revised Homan team. “We are having a lot of fun. We were doing the same thing for a long time. I was the third for 20 years. This year, it’s refreshing to do something different.
“There’s still work to do because we all have new positions and we’re still on a learning curve.”
In Homan’s first nine trips to the Canadian championship, her rink won three national titles (2013, 2014, 2017) and reached three other finals (2019, 2020, 2021).
“To win a Scotties in our first year as a team would be really exciting. We’re confident in what we do and what we can accomplish,” Miskew continued. “It will be interesting to watch the Scotties.”
BIATHLETE SHILO ROUSSEAU SCORES SPRINT SILVER AT FISU GAMES
University of Ottawa’s Shilo Rousseau continued her biathlon magic Wednesday at the FISU World Winter University Games, winning the silver medal in the women’s 7.5-kilometre sprint.
On Saturday, she won Canada’s first medal at the Games in Lake Placid, New York, when she captured gold in the 12.5-kilometre short individual race.
Rousseau finished the sprint in 24 minutes, 41.2 seconds and placed second to Poland’s Anna Nedza-Kubiniec, who had the best time of 24:17.1. On the shooting range, Rousseau was clean for her opening five prone shots, but had one miss in the standing portion.
Gee-Gees teammate Zoe Pekos of Richmond Hill, ON., was 15th in 26:21.9, while Isabelle Caza of CÉGEP de l’Outaouais and Chelsea, PQ., took 41st in 31:21.6.
In the men’s 10-kilometre biathlon sprint, Gee-Gee William Ng of Ottawa was 29th in 32:01.0.
Carleton University cross-country skier Bronwyn Williams of Ottawa was 29th in the women’s five-kilometre individual pursuit free race in 14:28.4, while Ravens teammate Katherine Mason placed 48th in 16:30.8.
Kanata’s Aidan Kirkham of uOttawa and Ottawa’s Robin Mason of the University of Calgary were 33rd and 39th respectively in 26:12.3 and 26:37.5 in the men’s 10-kilometre individual pursuit free race.
Canada earned its fifth consecutive men’s hockey victory, after blanking Czech Republic 4-0. Defenceman Jacob Paquette of Queen’s University and Ottawa was the Canadian workhorse, recording team highs for shifts (35) and minutes played (20:32) as well as one assist.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.