Olympic medal dreams dashed for Team Homan

Canadian women’s curling rink will miss its 1st Winter Games podium

Rachel Homan, bottom, is the first Canadian Olympic skip to fail to win a medal at a Winter Games. © Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

It was their dream — all four of theirs — to curl for Canada at the Olympics and bring home a medal.

Remember when Joanne Courtney caught the attention of the curling-crazed nation when they earned the right to go? O Canada played after their win at the Canadian trials. Courtney sobbed. She couldn’t stop — her pride in that moment bubbling over.

But when the dream of a curling medal at the Olympics ended as Rachel Homan’s rock came up short in the 10th end against Great Britain Wednesday morning, there were different tears.

“It’s a dream come true to be here,” Courtney said as she started to cry. “It was just a pleasure to be on the ice with these ladies and live out our dreams.”

They battled. It wasn’t their week, but Homan’s team never quit.

After losing their first three games they regrouped and won the next three. But a loss against China had them sitting with a 3-4 record and in a do-or-die game against Great Britain. It turned out to be a colossal curling battle.

Homan was leading by one point heading to the final end without last rock. The yellow granite started piling up against them after a couple of misses. Needing to make an incredibly difficult draw to keep the game alive, Homan’s red rock came up short.

“We came up a little bit short and didn’t quite finish this game,” Homan said.

The loss marks the first time in history a Canadian curling team has not made it to the medal round at the Olympics.

“I feel disappointed. This was not the Olympics we wanted to have,” lead Lisa Weagle said. “We had some really great games and a shot here or there was the difference.”

Homan’s team was able to regroup for a gutsy 9-8 win over the Russians in its round-robin finale, but that game was essentially meaningless.

‘A whole different beast’

The weight of the Maple Leaf is extra-heavy at the Olympics. When it comes to hockey and curling, many Canadians have great expectations for their teams. It’s gold or bust.

Team Homan knew that coming in and felt it. They had prepared for it, though, and were buoyed by the fact they had won last year’s world championship by going undefeated.

But the Olympics are something entirely different.

“The Olympics is a whole different beast,” Courtney said. “I’m disappointed. I feel like we gave every last ounce of ourselves out there in this last game.”

Head coach Adam Kingsbury, who has a sport psychology background, was gutted for them after the loss.

“I’m heartbroken for the girls and I know there are a lot of people back home that are sad and disappointed, but truth be told it’s a testament to how much the game has grown.”

He has a simple message for the team as they prepare for their last game against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

“Hold your heads incredibly high,” Kingsbury said. “Here’s the truth: getting to the Olympics is so much more than winning a medal. They earned their right to be here.”

Great Britain’s coach, the legendary Canadian curler Glenn Howard, felt the gravity of helping end his home country’s Olympic medal dreams.

“Mixed emotions,” Howard said. “It’s super tough to beat Canada and knock them out, but that’s sports. I really wish that game didn’t have to be against the Canadians.”

What next?

Curling Canada’s Elaine Dagg Jackson, who was part of Homan’s support staff at the Olympics, said they will go over all of the decisions they made leading up to the Games and evaluate what they did throughout.

“We’re always constantly assessing and building our program, even when we’re winning,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to be better and stronger. That will be no different this time around.”

Dagg Jackson says they’ve known for years the competition in women’s curling was improving dramatically.

“We’ve always known we’d have to fight really hard to get a medal in women’s curling,” she said. “There are a lot of other great teams out there that made shots in key times and that’s how curling goes sometimes.”

Team alternate Cheryl Bernard knows the disappointment of the Olympics all too well. She missed her last shot to capture gold for Canada at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

She agrees with Dagg Jackson — the world is coming in curling.

“Other teams are rising. They saw the Maple Leaf and played incredible against us,” Bernard said.

“It’s very easy to come out here under all the pressure and lose some games. It was a shot here or there.”

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