OTTAWA — Hometown curling hero Rachel Homan walked down the tunnel Friday, past the blue curtains and out onto the ice for the first time in preparation for the Canadian Olympic curling trials.
Upwards of 19,000 empty seats, bright lights and booming music cascaded down. Homan took a moment to breathe it all in. She grew up about 10 minutes from the Canadian Tire Centre.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never felt before,” she said. “Since we can remember we’ve been in these stands cheering on the Sens, coming to concerts, watching Gord Downie a few months ago. It’s a special venue.”
Now Homan and her rink from the Ottawa Curling Club are hoping to create curling magic in a place they know so well and they’ll have thousands of people cheering them on throughout the week.
“Family, friends so many people from the city are going to be here for all of the draws cheering us on. Having this opportunity is something we’ll never forget.”
18 teams, nine of each gender, are in set to take to the ice today as the Roar of the Rings gets underway. It’s a week of curling many regard as being the most competitive bonspiel in Canada once every four years. And the pressure can be paralyzing.
Gushue feeling free and calm
Brad Gushue is considered one of the heavy favourites to win this week. It was 12 years ago, as a 25-year-old, he played in his first Olympic trials, flying under the radar before he burst onto the national curling scene by winning the trials and Olympic gold in Italy.
Now all these years later, Gushue is back and is taking a completely different approach to it all, mostly because he’s won all there is to win in the sport.
“After we won the Brier and the worlds last year it was the monkey off the back,” Gushue said. “It really freed us up, at least me, and Mark would feel the same way. Now we can just put some icing on the cake and play with freedom.”
Gushue says the curling trials are pressure-packed to begin with. Then, he says, teams put it on this massive pedestal and if things start going sideways it can get off the rails in a hurry.
“They approach it bigger than any other event, which is not necessarily a good thing. Curlers change their bodies, the way they approach things and do things they normally wouldn’t do,” Gushue said.
“Generally that’s why you see teams that you expect do well, not do well.”
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