A waiting game many curlers and curling fans alike across Canada have been wanting to be over, has finally ended.
Thursday morning, Curling Canada, with the assistance of Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Committee, announced Rachel Homan and John Morris as the mixed doubles team for Canada competing at the Beijing Olympics. The selection process became necessary when last month's Olympic trials in Manitoba were cancelled because of the threat of COVID-19.
Homan, who skipped her four-person team at the Olympics in Pyeongchang four years ago, says while it's not the way anyone wanted this decision to be made, she's elated at the chance to represent Canada again at the Games.
"It's the phone call everyone dreams of. You try and prepare your whole life for this moment and that's what John and I have done," she told CBC Sports.
"We feel like we're in a really great spot. We're excited to put the Maple Leaf on and want to hear a lot of cheers from everyone back home. We're going to do everything we can and put everything we have into each game over there."
THAT CURLING SHOW | Morris, Homan to represent Canada in mixed doubles:
Morris is heading to his third Olympics, having already won gold twice previously at the Games, at the 2010 Vancouver Games and an historic first mixed doubles title with Kaitlyn Lawes in South Korea.
The 43-year-old from Ottawa is eyeing a golden curling Olympic hat trick.
"I think we have an awesome dynamic that goes back a long way. It would be special to bring more hardware back home," he said.
"We have an outstanding team. Although it's a different Olympics over in China in the middle of a pandemic, we think it's going to be awesome. We're hoping Canadians are going to set their alarm clocks and enjoy this journey with us."
Homan and Morris, along with Curling Canada mixed doubles coach Scott Pfeifer are renting a home in Canmore for the next couple of weeks and will be isolating together, training together and practicing on the ice together before flying to Beijing later this month.
Avoiding a positive COVID-19 test and staying mentally healthy are the top priorities of the team right now.
"We had to tie up some family stuff to make sure everything was good on the homefront. Johnny and I both have little ones, but we have such supportive family and friends," Homan said.
"Making sure we're sticking together and keeping our bubble really tight. We just want to make sure we're mentally 100 per cent there. We're going to need all the support we can get to be at our best."
'Just get 'er done'
Morris says he has no concerns about the short runway from now until the first game at the Olympics, less than three weeks away.
"I love a training camp that's like a week or two. Very concentrated. Just get 'er done," Morris said.
"Totally focused on training. Getting into a good place mentally. Working on things. We're always trying to get better."
But the announcement is not without debate and controversy.
For nearly two weeks curlers, fans and sports journalists have been weighing in on what team was going to be selected and how the decision was going to be made.
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In the end, Curling Canada used what they're calling a "weighted ranking system" — using three relevant factors to rank the remaining eligible teams for nomination purposes.
Those three factors included:
Final CMDR standings for the 2022 Canadian Mixed Doubles Curling Trials.
International competitive experience at the Olympic Games and World Curling Championships.
Combined win/loss percentages of individual players in mixed doubles games during the trials qualifying period (March 15, 2019 to December 14, 2021).
Through this process Homan and Morris got the nod.
"It's not how you'd ever like to write it up. I think every competitor wanted to have a chance to win and compete, so that was unfortunate," Morris said.
"This isn't how you draw it up but whenever you have the chance to put that maple leaf on and go to the Olympics and represent your country, you're getting called to duty and it's one of the best calls in the world. It's an honour and a privilege."
Homan and Morris have been a mixed doubles team since 2015 and have been a successful duo over the years. When Homan won the right to compete for Canada in 2018 in Pyeongchang with her team, Morris had to find a new partner — he teamed up with Lawes and the two immediately found chemistry and won gold.
Homan says despite the small timeframe to prepare for the Olympics, she's confident her and Morris will be ready for competition.
"We both have tremendous respect for each other. Both of us know the pressure. We've been there before and at different levels we've succeeded and have come up short. We're taking all of our experiences into this," she said.
Morris says their bond goes way back, as early as when Homan was a baby and they were growing up in the Ottawa Valley.
"I used to play with Rachel's brother in Little Rocks. We played out of the RCMP Curling Club and Rachel was a rink rat around there. We were 10 or 12 years old. Rachel was running around and didn't want anything to do with a curling rink back then," Morris said.
"I think she was one or two when I met her and we've been family friends ever since."
Canada begins the mixed doubles Olympic curling competition on Feb. 3.
Their first game is against Great Britain, composed of defending mixed doubles world champions Jennifer Dodds and Bruce Mouat.