Chelsea Carey, Kevin Koe await challenge in Olympic curling trials finals
Women's semi pits former champs Jones and Homan; men's sees Gushue vs. McEwen
And then there were six.
Eighteen of Canada's best men's and women's curling teams started their Olympic pursuit last Saturday.
Now, as the Roar of the Rings playoffs are set to begin, the field has been cut to three men's teams and three women's team.
Chelsea Carey and Kevin Koe booked their spots in Sunday's finals by finishing first in the round robin.
Defending Olympic champion Jennifer Jones plays hometown favourite Rachel Homan in Saturday afternoon's semifinal, while Brier and World champion Brad Gushue plays Mike McEwen in the other semifinal.
History was made during the round robin event. For the first time ever, a women's team went undefeated. Carey went a perfect 8-0.
"None of it matters unless you go undefeated through the whole thing to win it all," Carey said. "You want to make the playoffs. Then you want first place. How you do that you don't really care."
Carey has been fighting through her emotions all week while skipping her team. It was not even a week ago her grandfather died. She says he was her biggest fan.
"Two weeks ago when were playing in the Grand Slam in northern Ontario and he was still around, he somehow found it on the TV in the common room and had everyone watching it," Carey said.
Carey had to miss his funeral in Winnipeg on Wednesday. She defeated Jennifer Jones just hours after it finished. Carey says for the past 10 years her grandfather called her an Olympian. She's never been to the Olympics, but now she's just one win away.
"We've had a great week and we're confident going in," she said.
Carey and her team of Cathy Overton-Clapman, Jocelyn Peterman and Laine Peters will have two days of rest before Sunday's final.
Olympic champ vs. world champ
Jones and Homan square off in a game of high stakes. The winner advances into Sunday's final against Carey, while the loser is eliminated.
Jones is the defending Olympic champion. She started the week 5-0 and was seemingly invincible. But she lost her last three games of the round robin, including a Friday night loss against Homan. Still, there's no panic.
"Doesn't concern me at all. It was fun out there. I love to play in these big moments," Jones said. "It's the Olympic trials semifinal. Who doesn't want to be there?"
Homan is trending in the other direction. After losing her first game of the tournament, she finished with seven straight wins.
"The team is playing phenomenal and really gelling on the ice," she said. "We're loving where we're at right now."
Homan grew up about 10 minutes away from Ottawa's Canadian Tire Centre and has been soaking up the home-ice advantage throughout the week. Now, she's hoping they can give her team an added advantage against Jones.
"It's an experience I'll never forget. Just hearing the roar of the building is unbelievable."
Koe awaits his big moment
Despite losing his last game of the round robin Friday night against Gushue, Koe earned a direct entry into Sunday's final after finishing with a record of 7-1.
Koe has won three Briers and two world championships — but never a berth to the Olympics.
"The last couple years at the big events we've been at there at the end, and obviously this is the biggest," he said.
At the beginning of the week, Koe said it would take great shooting and some breaks along the way.
"Have we played our best game yet? Hopefully not. Hopefully our best game is Sunday," Koe said. "And if we can win on Sunday and go get a medal at the Olympics, that would be pretty special."
Gushue vs. McEwen
Gushue says when his team is on, they're the best in the world.
The St. John's, NL., skip is brimming with confidence heading into his team's semifinal against Mike McEwen. Gushue was sitting with a 2-2 record after four games, but swept his final four.
"We have our confidence back from the way we were playing in March and April when we won the Brier and Worlds," he said.
"I feel like if we play as good as we can we're going to have a really good chance to win this."
McEwen started the week with three consecutive wins before losing his next two. He finished with a 5-3 record to earn the last playoff spot.
In some respects, McEwen and his team were reeling. But then they got a massive win Friday morning over Brendan Bottcher.
"It felt good to really grind out that game," he said. "That was the team playing really well and we're going to have to be able to win games like that going forward."
Winners of both semis advance to Sunday's final. Only one men's team and one women's team earns the right to represent Canada at the Olympics.