By Charlie Pinkerton
Pictured on the wall in the hallway just outside the main office of Cairine Wilson Secondary School is one of Canada’s Pyeongchang medal-favourites.
Amidst the other portraits making up the Orleans’ school’s Class of 2007 photograph is Rachel Homan, donning the typical graduate garb of a white-collar shirt and gown, completed with the blue and orange Wildcat colours. Just around the corner from that photo are many more of Homan. In these – photos in the school’s wall of fame – she looks more familiar. The collection of some of her best in-rink moments detail the dominance she’s had in the sport of curling throughout her life. But nowhere on this wall are the five rings of the Olympics, a reminder that the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics will be her first time competing at the Winter Games. Homan missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics after being knocked out of the Roar of the Rings in the semi-final round.
“She had hoped we would be together in Sochi,” Homan said about her friend since early high-school, Ivanie Blondin, who made her Olympics debut in 2014. Blondin went to school nearby, only a short drive down Orleans Boulevard away, at Ecole secondaire catholique Garneau. Pyeongchang will be the speed-skater’s second time competing at the Winter Games.
In place of Homan, it was Jennifer Jones who won the 2013 Roar of the Rings and skipped Canada’s women’s Olympic curling team.
“Jen did an unbelievable job for Curling Canada,” Homan added. Jones won gold.
Though she didn’t join Blondin in Sochi, even prior to those Games, Homan’s body of work held up against the other premier competitors of her sport.
Her resume reads as that of a prodigy, which of no doubt she was. A third-generation curler, she was throwing rocks by the age of five.
She swept the provincial bantam curling championships in four straight years, from 2003-2006. She first won the junior division of the Ontario Curling Championships in 2009 before repeating that title the next year and following it up with a Canadian Junior Championship win. That year, 2010, she came second at the World Junior Curling Championships.
In her Scotties Tournament of Hearts debut in 2011, Homan came just short of a medal, skipping the Team Ontario rink to a 4th place finish.
Homan’s first win at the Scotties came in 2013, about a year before the qualifiers for the Sochi Games. At the World Curling Championships that year she won bronze. After missing out on qualifying for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Homan didn’t let up.
In a Jones-less field, Homan took first place at the Scotties again in 2014. In the 2015-16 season, while participating in the World Curling Tour circuit her team would win six consecutive events. She again won the Scotties last year, then her first ever World Curling Championship in Beijing, before taking 1st place at December’s Roar of the Rings, winning the right to represent Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, where this time she’ll join her old friend, Blondin.
“It’s pretty cool being childhood friends and that we’re finally going to the Olympics together, it’s pretty special,” Homan said shortly after her team punched their ticket with the victory.
Minutes earlier, while still on the ice in the aftermath of her victory in front of the hometown crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre, Homan stumbled while answering a question, referring to the upcoming Olympics as Sochi, before correcting herself with a laugh.
“Sorry, not Sochi, Pyeongchang,” she said immediately before being asked a question about how it feels wearing her newly earned Team Canada jacket.
“It’s perfect. Like a glove. We can’t wait to wear this Maple Leaf and represent Canada as best that we can,” she told reporters.
Alike photos of Homan there’s another fixture on the walls of Cairine Wilson S.S., the school’s motto: Carpe Diem. It wasn’t in the stones for Homan in 2014, but in Pyeongchang she’ll be one of Canada’s top athletes expected to seize the day.
-With files from Dan Plouffe.
Wed., Feb. 14, CAN vs KOR 7 p.m. ET
Thu., Feb. 15, CAN vs SWE 6 a.m.
Fri., Feb. 16, CAN vs DEN 12:05 a.m.
Sat., Feb 17, CAN vs USA 6 a.m.
Sun., Feb. 18, CAN vs SUI 12:05 a.m.
Sun., Feb 18, CAN vs JPN 7 p.m.
Tue., Feb 20, CAN vs CHN 12:05 a.m.
Wed., Feb. 21, CAN vs OAR 6 a.m.
Fri., Feb. 23, Semifinal 6 a.m.
Sat., Feb. 24, Bronze 6 a.m., Gold 7 p.m.