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Rachel Homan back on top at Hearts, wins Canadian women's curling championship

Team Ontario–Homan skip Rachel Homan directs her teammates as they play Team Canada in qualifications at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh Team Ontario–Homan skip Rachel Homan directs her teammates as they play Team Canada in qualifications at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
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CALGARY -

Rachel Homan reclaimed the Canadian women's curling championship seven years after her last one with a 5-4 win over Jennifer Jones on Sunday.

Homan and longtime teammate Emma Miskew won their fourth titles and lead Sarah Wilkes her second. It was the first for Homan's third Tracy Fleury.

"Unbelievable," Homan said. "Tracy Fleury is an unbelievable competitor and so happy we can win it with her.

"Phenomenal to be able to do it with my kids here. One's missing back at home because he doesn't sleep, but I know he's cheering hard."

They will represent Canada at the world championship March 16-24 in Sydney, N.S., and will return to the 2025 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay, Ont., as defending champions.

Homan's team also earned $100,000 in prize money for the victory, as well as a berth in the 2025 Canadian curling trials pending a top-six finish in Sydney.

Homan won three Tournament of Hearts between 2013 and 2017 and lost in the final three straight years between 2019 and 2021. The skip gave birth to her third child last year and Wilkes also had her first child.

"I can't describe the feeling of just coming so close, so many times losing, I don't know, feels like seven finals," Homan said.

"We put in the work and we didn't have as much time as we would have liked because of the kids, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. They motivate us. So excited to get to share this journey with them and show them dedication and hard work and setting your goals high."

Her Ottawa Curling Club foursome went undefeated at 11-0 in Calgary on the strength of defence that averaged less than four points against per game, and in a field that featured the top-eight ranked teams in Canada.

Homan didn't give up a steal in the tournament until a playoff win over Jones that went to an extra end Saturday. Homan also defeated Jones 7-5 in pool play.

"We had to beat them three times and it came down to the last rock on every single one," the skip said.

Six-time champion Jones intends to retire from women's team curling at the end of this season, although the 49-year-old from Winnipeg will compete in mixed doubles with her husband.

The decorated veteran lost in a Hearts final, which was the 11th of her career, a second straight year. Homan had hammer coming home with the score tied 4-4, but she didn't need to throw her last rock.

Jones, needing to draw to the button with her final rock, rubbed on an Ontario stone in the four-foot rings and rolled just wide, which gave Homan her point for the victory.

"My last one got by. You (don't) want to end on a miss," Jones said. "I thought we played a really great game today. We showed up to play and it could have gone either way and unfortunately it didn't go our way today."

Jones stood in the middle of the home-end rings to acknowledge the standing ovation she received at the sold-out crowd of 3,195 at WinSport Event Centre.

"I love being part of this curling community," Jones said. "The standing ovation was more than I could have ever expected, the fact that all these people came and supported our sport and kind of support me means the world.

"This moment, it's really hard to say goodbye to be honest."

Homan led 3-1 at the fifth end break with a steal of one in the fifth. Homan outcurled Jones 98 per cent to 68 over the first five ends.

After blanking the sixth end Jones executed a tricky tap for one in the seventh to trail 3-2. Homan tapped and rolled to the button for one in the eighth for a 4-2 lead.

Jones grouped rocks in the ninth to to set up for a multi-point end. Homan managed to clear a couple, but left her counterpart a shot for two to tie the game.

After lead Joanne Courtney retired in 2022, Homan brought Fleury on board to skip and throw third stones, while she threw fourth rocks.

Longtime third Emma Miskew shifted to second and Wilkes to lead. They didn't reach the final four in last year's Hearts in Kamloops, B.C.

Homan took the broom back this season as the four women settled into their new positions. They've lost just five games in almost 60 played this season.

"You put in the work and you hope it's enough," Homan said. "Today it was enough."

Homan, Miskew, Courtney and Lisa Weagle won a world championship in 2017 in Beijing, a silver medal in 2014 in Saint John, N.B., and a bronze in 2013 in Riga, Latvia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2024.

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