By Curling Canada and World Curling Federation 2017-03-30 16:03:13
BEIJING – On a lovely spring day in the Chinese capital, Rachel Homan’s Ottawa foursome ended a lengthy spell of frustration for teams wearing the Maple Leaf, downing Russia’s Anna Sidorova 8-3 in the gold-medal game of the 2017 World Women’s Curling Championship. Canada’s last WWCC gold medal came in 2008 when Jennifer Jones prevailed in Vernon, B.C., and while Homan herself had reached the podium twice in the following years – bronze in 2013, silver in 2014 – the gold medal was what everyone had desired. As was the right to call themselves world champions. “It sounds pretty amazing,” said Homan, whose team was rounded out by third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney, lead Lisa Weagle, alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk, team coach Adam Kingsbury and national coach Elaine Dagg-Jackson. “My team worked so hard for this; we’ve been at worlds now four times (including World Juniors in 2010, where her team won silver) and to finally bring back the gold for Canada, and stop the drought, we’re pretty excited. We really wanted to bring back gold this time, so that we could make a statement going into the Olympic year – no matter who represents us (in 2018) for Canada.” It was an historic victory not just for ending the longest gold-medal drought for Canadian women’s teams (eight years); Homan’s team became the first in the 39-year history of the women’s worlds to run the table, going a perfect 13-0 en route to the gold medal. But the perfect record was merely a bonus, said Homan, 27. “We just wanted to bring back gold for Canada, no matter how we had to do it,” she said. “That’s what’s most important, and now we’re going to celebrate.” It was a textbook game from Homan and Co. against a Russian team that had never beaten them in nine previous meetings on the World Curling Tour and the world championships. After an open first end, Canada, as has been the case all week, went hard for multiple points in the second and it paid off. Sitting one in the four-foot, a magnificent sweeping effort from Courtney and Weagle barely dragged Homan’s draw far enough for the key second point to open the scoring. An end later, two great shots from Homan leave Sidorova in desperation mode, and her in-off overcurled and left a steal of a single for Canada to make it 3-0. After a blanked fourth, Russia finally hit the scoreboard in the fifth with a single. Then, Canada delivered the knockout punch – a short raise takeout from Courtney put the Russians in chase mode, and when Sidorova’s last-gasp come-around to somehow bury at the back of the four-foot rubbed off a Canadian stone, Homan made the delicate tap to score three, and the result was never in doubt after that. “We just wanted to go out there and keep doing what we were doing (during the round robin) and not think about (what was at stake),” said Miskew. “Because there’s a lot of weight on that gold medal. We just went out there and put the pressure on, and got the misses we needed.” It was Canada’s leading 16th gold medal at the women’s worlds; Sweden is next with eight and Switzerland is third with six. “It’s really hard to describe how amazing it feels, to be able to call our team world champions,” said Homan. “I’ve watched the worlds every year since I was eight years old, so to be standing there on the podium and signing O Canada was just an amazing moment.” While the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, are still 10 months away, Homan and her teammates established in Beijing that it will be a favourite. But they still have to navigate their way through the 2017 “Roar of the Rings” aka Canada’s Olympic Trials, next December on “Homan” ice in Ottawa. “We went into this game thinking this is a great dress rehearsal for next year, having a lot on the line, (feeling) that pressure, coming together as a team,” said Courtney, who wasn’t a part of the Homan team at the 2013 and ’14 worlds (she replaced Alison Kreviazuk, Cheryl’s sister, for the 2014-15 season). “It’s certainly motivating going into next season. We’re going to keep our heads down, keep working… we’re pretty pumped right now.” The silver medals marked Russia’s first appearance in a women’s world championship final, following Sidorova’s impressive run of three consecutive bronze medals in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Given that Russia started the week at 0-2 and had to reel off six wins in a row to finish the round-robin, silver represents a tremendous result. “It’s always tough to lose a game, especially a final, but we made these medals, and that’s history for my country,” said Sidorova. “It’s a pity we didn’t play well today, but it was a great experience for us. This is very important for us, especially now going on to the Olympic Games.” Earlier on Sunday, Scotland’s Eve Muirhead won the bronze medal in dramatic fashion. Down 4-3 through seven ends to Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg, Scotland stole points in the eighth, ninth and 10th ends for a 6-4 triumph. The Scots, armed with Canadian curling legend Glenn Howard as coach, had stumbled into the playoffs and fell to Sweden in the 3 vs 4 playoff game. The Swedes dropped the semifinal to Russia after Homan dispatched Sidorova in the 1 vs 2 playoff match. “That was a really strong team performance out there,” said Muirhead. “We came out fighting for that medal because we knew we really wanted it. “It’s been a tough week, a lot of ups and a lot of downs. To come away with a medal is satisfying. We played a fantastic last end, I am really pleased. That was my first bronze, so I’ve got world gold, silver and bronze now, so I’m delighted. It’s good to have a solid worlds going into the Olympic Games.” Following a player vote, a delightfully surprised Chinese skip, Bingyu Wang, was announced as the Frances Brodie Award winner for sportsmanship during the tournament. This was the first World Women’s Curling Championship to be held in China and it was deemed to be a success, with the combined audience figures for the week exceeding 90,000.
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