Closed-door meeting helps Rachel Homan's team get 1st Olympic win

Canadian women curlers crush U.S. after string of losses and an essential heart-to-heart

Closed-door meeting helps Rachel Homan's team get 1st Olympic win
A heart-to-heart after their shocking 0-3 start helped Canada's, from left, Joanne Courtney, Rachel Homan, Lisa Weagle and Emma Miskew get their first Olympic win. © Jason Ransom/COC/Canadian Press

By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports

Rachel Homan's team is back — in a big way.

After her rink started the Olympic women's tournament with three straight losses, the Canadian skip curled 96 per cent Saturday to lead an 11-3 trouncing of the United States in South Korea.

"I know everyone back home is cheering hard and supporting us. I'm just as gutted over our losses as they all were. It's tough on this stage," Homan said after needing just seven ends to earn her first Olympic victory. "We have to be the team we know we can be now."

Homan showed laser-like focus the entire game as she got back to playing to her strength, throwing takeouts on 12 of her 14 rocks. The skip was decisive — the way she is when she gets on a roll.

"We knew what we all needed to bring today and we know what we're going to have to bring from here on out," she said. "We're going to give it our all and try to make Canada as proud as possible."

After starting 0-3, the team knew the mountain to the medal round would be steep — especially given the weight of their curling-crazed country's expectations. But Homan, Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle took a big step toward the top with the win over the Americans.  

"We just let go of what happened in the first three games," Miskew said. "It's a fresh start today and we've played with our backs against the wall a bunch of times and it's worked for us."

Miskew was the most efficient performer of the game, shooting 98 per cent. She says she just wanted to get back to being in the moment.

"You never know if you're going to get back to the Olympics and we don't want this to be a negative experience because we didn't start off the way we wanted to."

Canada has five games left in the round robin. Three are against teams with better records than theirs. They still control their own destiny. If they win out, they'll make the playoffs.

"We're playing for each other out there and trying to enjoy this Olympic experience as much as possible," Homan said. 

Real talk

On Saturday night, the four members of Homan's team held a closed-door, players-only meeting. They needed to get away from outside distractions and have a heart-to-heart. It may have helped that, after a loss to Denmark dropped them to 0-3, the women had a day and a half to regroup before playing the U.S. — a lot of time to talk.

Homan wanted the team, which has been through so many battles together, to get back to trusting one another in those crucial moments.

"We all said things that were really important to help us get to be where we need to be. We know each other so well and we knew what to say to get ourselves in the best frame of mind," the skip said.

Miskew told her teammates in the closed-door meeting that they needed to forget about everything that had happened in the first three games and remember to have fun 

"We wanted to come out relaxed, enjoy this experience," she said. "We want to be the team we know we can be, and if the stars align, that's great."

Coach Adam Kingsbury, who has a sports psychology background, has worked tirelessly for the past two years with the team on trying to get them mentally prepared for moments like this. Though he wasn't part of the players-only meeting, he made his own efforts to get the team talking.

"The most real conversations that I've ever been a part of happened last night and this morning," Kingsbury said. "That team came together in a way I've never seen before. It was special to be a part of."

Team alternate Cheryl Bernard also wasn't a part of the meeting, and was OK with that decision.

"They had a heart-to-heart by themselves. They figured it out on their own," she said. "That was incredible. That's the team we all know, right? It was really great to see and you could see other teams looking over and going, 'uh-oh.'"

Bernard sees a long road ahead, but she thinks a comeback is underway.

"When your back's against the wall and there's nothing to lose, magic can happen."