Relax Canada Homan have the house back in order


After a three straight losses to kick off the Olympics, women’s curling team finds its game again with a lopsided victory over the United States.

PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA After approximately 28 baffled and soul-searching hours, the great Canadian curling crisis of 2018 is over. It must have been a tense day in the Tim Hortons lines of the nation; it must have been, like watching CNN these days, an unfolding disaster enjoyed from the comfort of your couch.

But everyone can exhale. After three straight losses to open their Olympic debut, Rachel Homan and her suddenly shaky rink blasted the Americans to bits, 11-3 in seven ends. Everything’s OK again, for now. Return to your homes.

“How are you?” someone asked Homan.

“Better today,” she said, cool. “You?”

It was a bad few days. Extra-end losses or not, burned rock controversies or not, getting chirped by the Danes or not — when Canada is being credibly chirped by the Danes at the curling, you know something’s going wrong — they needed this game. The U.S. wasn’t bad. Canada had been, just enough.

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Which was weird. Homan, 28, is the youngest Canadian skip with three national titles. Between the 2017 Scotties, 2017 world championship and the Olympic trials, this rink went 34-3. Next thing you know they had losses to Korea and the Danes, and Danish skip Madeleine Dupont called them afraid to lose. Homan was throwing rocks that seemed a little lost. Decisions were being questioned. The team’s coach said he had no idea what was going on.

“I’ve had it go off the rails many times,” said the CBC’s Colleen Jones, owner of two world championships and six national championships. “When I would lose my game, I wouldn’t know where it was going, and my fallback was just I would hit everything.

“It’s all in the head. It’s always in the head. It’s never a comfortable place to be at. But this is a team, they’ve been so great, sometimes you’ve got to go through the firs a bit in order to learn how to rally out of it. And I have no doubt they’ll rally out of it. Because great teams find a way.”

And then Canada came out and stomped the Americans, ruthless as Godzilla. In fairness, it did help that the Americans absolutely honked it. Skip Nina Roth sailed a rock between two Canadian stones in the first on a double takeout, and then came up short on a draw. 3-0, Canada, and they destroyed them from there.

“We just had some unfortunate misses in the first end,” said Roth, tight-lipped. She wanted to put pressure on a struggling team, make them make shots. And then, well . . .

“They’re the best women’s hitting team in the world,” she said. “So.”

But Homan also curled at 96 per cent, Emma Miskew at 98, Joanne Courtney at 93, Lisa Weagle at 88. They were destroyers of worlds. So Canada is back, fixed. Right?

“I think the excitement and the potential panic buttons that people were hitting — it’s valid, it comes with sport — but last night was a really meaningful night,” said coach Adam Kingsbury. “We had some really great conversations today with the team. Sometimes there are those critical periods in a team’s history where they can come together or they can split apart.

“I’ve never, in the three-and-a-half years I’ve known them, I’ve never seen them have such real, authentic conversations like they did today. And they were different. As we could see. Forget the scoreboard, they’re different people out there today. I’m just so proud of them. It was such a pleasure to watch them play today.”

The players didn’t say what they talked about: they just evinced relief.

“We have to remember that we’re still a team, we’re still really great curlers out there,” said Miskew. “We don’t need to do anything special. We just need to be ourselves. It’s not like we’re crashing and burning.”

They could have, though. No Canadian rink had lost more than three games in the Olympic round robin since 1998.

“I wouldn’t call it panic,” said Kingsbury. “As I said, I would call it really feeling for them. Seeing a team that wanted nothing more than to go out and play well and represent their country, and be that team that they know they can be. But sometimes when you try really hard to be a certain way, it has inadvertent consequences.”

He talked about how they saw their families Friday night, have stuck together as friends, how they had to show vulnerability to each other, how they play cards and watch TV together — the Bachelor or the Bachelorette, he was not sure and how “they’re making sure that the one thing that doesn’t happen is breaking down as a unit.”

They need five more wins. This can still go sideways. But for now, cancel the Royal Curling Commission — Should we make them play cross-ice, develop more skills?— and stop worrying. Rachel Homan and her rink are killers when they’re not trying too hard, worried and doubting, throwing rocks into the universe without knowing where they’ll land. The mixed doubles gold in the first year of the sport at the Olympics showed a couple things. One, jazzing up curling may make even ardent diehards feel like the game as it stands now can become an ice age thing.