OTTAWA — A semifinal loss at the 2013 Olympic Trials left the members of Team Homan crushed. It may have been the best thing that ever happened to them.
Skip Rachel Homan and her teammates made some changes for this quadrennial. Their efforts paid off Sunday when they booked their Olympic ticket with a 6-5 win over Chelsea Carey in the final of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings.
"You really have to lose before you win because you sometimes don't know how to win," said former Team Homan coach Earle Morris.
Sherry Middaugh beat Homan four years ago in Winnipeg before falling to Jennifer Jones, who went on to win gold at the Sochi Games.
This time around, Jones was dispatched by Homan in the semifinals. The Ottawa skip then topped Carey for the title in front of a boisterous home crowd.
"We just kept getting better and better as the week went on," Homan said.
Carey was down two with hammer in the 10th end. Her double takeout attempt only cleared one of Homan's stones and the celebration was on at Canadian Tire Centre.
Homan and third Emma Miskew jumped in each other's arms and were quickly joined by lead Lisa Weagle and second Joanne Courtney.
"(To win) in our hometown, we couldn't have written a better story," Homan said. "We can't wait to represent Canada in Pyeongchang."
Homan's lone loss in round-robin play was to Carey, who posted eight straight wins to get to the final.
Homan was aggressive at times and kept the mistakes to a minimum. Carey made some errors, including a missed peel in the first end that gave Homan an early lead.
A second steal followed and the crowd was eating it up. The momentum had shifted to Homan and she controlled the game the rest of the way.
"That game was won on inches here and there," Homan said. "I'm just really proud of my team for sticking with it and battling through."
The win caps an incredible calendar year for Homan. After taking the Ontario playdowns, she won her third national title, picked up her first world championship and is now heading to the Games for the first time.
"It gave us a lot of confidence coming into today," Weagle said.
Tears of joy ran down their cheeks as the team members were presented with Team Canada jackets and medals.
"I should stop crying some time in the next week or so," Courtney said.
Homan's team won its first Scotties Tournament of Hearts crown in 2013 with Alison Kreviazuk at second. The rink took bronze at the world championship that year.
Kreviazuk left the team the next year to move to Sweden. Courtney — one of the best sweepers in the women's game — came on as her replacement.
Adam Kingsbury came aboard as coach two years ago and strengthened their mental game. The team is embracing the big moments and Homan has become even sharper as a skip.
"She's absolutely fearless," Morris said. "She embraces the opportunities that are given. I think great athletes embrace the opportunities for greatness and that's what she does."
Carey's lone loss came at the worst time. Her final throw overcurled just a touch and it proved costly.
"I had to hit it half an inch thinner but that was kind of the story of the game," Carey said. "We were really close to lots of good stuff and it just wasn't our day."
Carey got on the board with one point in the third end. Her Calgary team of third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jocelyn Peterman and lead Laine Peters played a strong fourth end to force Homan to a single.
Carey drew for one in the fifth and Homan took a 5-2 lead in the sixth end with a takeout for a deuce. Carey responded with a nose hit for two in the seventh.
After a blank in the eighth, Homan's final stone hung on for a single in the ninth.
"Technically they're better now than they ever were," Morris said. "You watch them and you say, 'This is a team built to win championships.'
Announced attendance was 7,490 to bring the overall total to 106,807. The venue has a capacity of about 17,000.
The men's final between Winnipeg's Mike McEwen and Calgary's Kevin Koe was scheduled for Sunday night.
Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won the 2013 men's Trials and went on to win gold at the Sochi Games. Jacobs did not make the playoffs at this year's Trials.
Curlers who are eliminated in team events still have a chance to qualify for Pyeongchang in mixed doubles, which is making its debut on the Olympic program.
The Canadian mixed doubles Trials are set for Jan. 2-7 in Portage la Prairie, Man. Canadian curlers who qualify in team events cannot compete in mixed doubles at the Games.
Homan's victory means Winnipeg's Michelle Englot will replace her as Team Canada at the Jan. 27-Feb. 4 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Penticton, B.C.
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