Canada's Rachel Homan opened the Ford Women's World Curling Championship with a 7-5 win over Russia on Saturday. The Ottawa skip and her teammates know properly managing sleep, diet, stress and downtime for another eight days will keep those wins coming.
Homan, third Emma Miskew and front end Alison Kreviazuk and Lisa Weagle have played in enough national and international events to know their off-ice schedule impacts the on-ice performance, particularly in the important games at the end of the tournament.
The Canadians will sleep as much as they can and eat at pre-scouted establishments that serve healthy food. When they need to mentally "check out", the Ottawa Curling Club foursome will play cards or "Heads Up", which is a game app popularized by Ellen DeGeneres.
In short, winning a world title is a marathon and not a sprint.
"We make sure we're trying to keep it as loose as possible when we're not on the ice because it's pretty stressful out there wearing the Maple Leaf," Homan said. "We want to be as stress-free as possible when we're not playing."
For Homan, that means going to the gym a couple of times during the tournament. Miskew doesn't love napping, but she knows it's important to lay down, put her feet up and close her eyes for awhile, particularly on a day when Canada plays morning and evening draws and not in the afternoon.
That's Canada's schedule Sunday when the host team faces the Czech Republic in the morning draw and the United States in the evening. Those days are the toughest when it comes to eating at the right time of the day.
"The eating schedule is challenging because you eat in the morning, have a game and you're starving to eat a big lunch," Miskew explains.
"You're not really hungry before your next game, but an end or two in you're starving. You almost have to force yourself to eat before the game so you're not dying during the game."
Canada had a kind opening-day schedule in Saint John with one game in the afternoon draw. Homan had hammer coming home with the score tied 5-5. She didn't have to throw her last stone because Russian skip Anna Sidorova was heavy with a draw.
Sweden's Margaretha Sigfridsson played twice Saturday and opened 2-0. Sigfridsson lost to Canada's Jennifer Jones in the Olympic women's curling final last month in Sochi and took the silver medal.
Russia rebounded with an evening win over Latvia's Evita Regza to put both at 1-1 alongside South Korea's Ji-Sun Kim. Alison Pottinger of the U.S. and Switzerland's Binia Feltscher joined Canada at 1-0.
Scotland's Kerry Barr, Denmark's Madeleine Dupont, Anna Kubeskova of the Czech Republic, China's Liu Sijia and Germany's Oona Lehmann were 0-1.
Canada's average age is 25.5 and the Russians are even younger at 23.5. Sidorova, vice-skip Margarita Fomina and front end Alexandra Saitova and Ekaterina Galkina went 3-6 at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Sidorova, 25, is making her fifth straight appearance at a world championship and her third as a skip. Russia was scheduled to arrive in Saint John on Thursday, but they were delayed until Friday because of winter storms that wreaked havoc on air travel midweek.
Mistakes on both sides
The Canada-Russia opener wasn't a classic as both teams made mistakes. But when Canada made a costly error, Russia let them off the hook with one of their own.
"I can't say we're really tired," Sidorova said. "We're ready to play. We still want to win.
"We need to be much better than the others. That's probably the goal this week and hopefully we will (be). The game was pretty tight, but in the end, they were just better than us."
Miskew's shooting percentage was 90 per cent compared to Fomina's 78. Homan outcurled Sidorova 89 to 66 per cent. Saitova at 78 per cent and Galkina at 91 outcurled Kreviazuk and Weagle both at 71.
Kreviazuk missed shots in the fifth and seventh ends, but Russia handed momentum right back with lethal errors. Canada scored two points in those ends to lead 5-3.
"It's the first game so you're not going to know the ice perfectly," Homan said. "A couple of spots we're learning and a few misses here and there, not because we're throwing badly, just because we're learning the ice."
Russia countered with two in the ninth to tie it up. Homan's double takeout that end limited damage from Miskew miscue. Another double from the Canadian skip in the eighth erased Russia's chance to score two and forced Sidorova to blank the end.
Homan was pleased to start the tournament with a win in front of 2,848 at Harbour Station, which seats 6,000 for curling this week.
"It wouldn't have been fun to lose that one with everyone coming out to cheer us on," the 24-year-old Canadian skip said. "I'm glad we got the win under our belts. Now we've got the night off to have some dinner with friends and family and re-group for tomorrow."
Homan and company won the bronze medal at last year's world women's championship in Riga, Latvia. Their reward for a 13-0 record at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Montreal was a return trip to the world championship and in their own country this time.
The Jones team from Winnipeg went undefeated in Sochi to claim gold for Canada. Edmonton's Kelsey Rocque won the world junior title earlier this month in Switzerland.
Homan wants to continue the domination of Canadian women on the world stage.
The last Canadian team to win a women's world curling title was Jones in 2008 in Vernon, B.C. Kelly Scott (2007) and Colleen Jones (2004) earned Canada's other world women's titles in the last decade.