Kevin Koe had his eye on the Pyeongchang Olympics when he made an unusual decision shortly after winning the Tim Hortons Brier in 2014.
Even though they were newly crowned national champions, Koe told his teammates that he'd be moving on at the end of that season. Carter Rycroft, Pat Simmons and Nolan Thiessen would eventually team up with John Morris while Koe would join forces with Ben Hebert, Marc Kennedy and Brent Laing.
The new members of Team Koe (pronounced KOO-ee) took a little while to click as a unit. Once they did, the results came in a big way.
The team built for a run at the 2018 Winter Games delivered when it counted at the Olympic Trials last December, booking a ticket for Pyeongchang with a 7-6 win over Mike McEwen in the final.
"We always kind of perform well in the biggest events," Laing said. "In the Briers we've always been pretty close. Kevin is a big-game player. When the chips are down, there's nobody I'd rather have throwing that last rock than Kevin."
Hebert, at lead, is the emotional sparkplug of the Calgary team while Koe, the veteran skip, is as laid back as it gets. Laing, at second, and Kennedy, at third, fall somewhere in the middle.
They started to blossom as a unit in their second season together, taking Brier and world titles in 2016 and returning to the national final last year.
At the Olympic Trials, Koe's rink posted a 7-1 round-robin record to earn a direct berth in the final. They had hammer in the 10th end and Koe drew the four-foot — after a furious sweep by his teammates — for the victory.
"I think Team Koe is capable of winning any competition, wherever it is and no matter who you line up on the other side," Laing said in a recent interview. "We'll go into the game expecting we can win."
Team Rachel Homan will represent Canada in the women's competition at the Games. They edged Chelsea Carey 6-5 to lock up the Olympic berth.
The victory capped an incredible calendar year for the Ottawa team, which won the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and ran the table at the world championship. It will be the Olympic debut for Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle.
They also made a lineup change for this quadrennial after Alison Kreviazuk left the team to move to Sweden. Courtney, one of the best sweepers in the women's game, left Val Sweeting's team to move into the second position on Team Homan.
"It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Courtney said.
Cheryl Bernard recently came on board as an alternate. She won Olympic silver as a skip at the 2010 Vancouver Games. Scott Pfeifer will serve as the men's team alternate.
Former Team Homan coach Earle Morris said Homan is "incredibly focused" and will be tough to beat in Pyeongchang.
"She's absolutely fearless," Morris said. "She embraces the opportunities that are given to (her) and I think great athletes embrace the opportunities for greatness. That's what she does."
This will be the first Olympic appearance for Koe and Laing. Hebert and Kennedy won Olympic gold in Vancouver with Morris and skip Kevin Martin.
Morris is also returning to the Games. He'll team with Kaitlyn Lawes in mixed doubles, a discipline that is making its Olympic debut.
Lawes won gold at the 2014 Sochi Games with Team Jennifer Jones.
"We feel very comfortable with the three teams that will be vying for Olympic medals," said Curling Canada high-performance director Gerry Peckham. "Without any question, the Koe team, the Homan team, and the combination of Morris and Lawes are very well-equipped to ... represent Canada both from a skill perspective and also from international experience, which is so critical."
Curling is one of two sports — ski jumping is the other — that will begin play the day before the opening ceremony. Canada opens the mixed doubles round-robin Feb. 8 against Norway at Gangneung Curling Centre.
The men's and women's team competitions begin Feb. 14. Sweden, Switzerland and the United States are some of the other podium favourites.
Canada is also the reigning men's Olympic champion. Team Brad Jacobs was victorious four years ago.
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