Rachel Homan perfect through round robin at curling worlds
Canadians will face Russia in Page playoff 1-2 game on Friday
Canada skip Rachel Homan tuned up for the playoffs in style Thursday by beating Italy and Denmark to remain unbeaten at the world women's curling championship.
Homan and her team of third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle closed out round-robin play with a perfect 11-0 record. As the top seed, the Ottawa-based team will open with hammer in the Page playoff 1-2 game against Russia's Anna Sidorova on Friday night.
The 1-2 winner will advance to Sunday's gold-medal game and the loser will fall into Saturday's semifinal. Canada is trying to win gold for the first time since 2008.
"You can go undefeated in the round-robin and not win a medal, so it's not like it's in the bag," said Miskew. "We still have two or potentially three tough teams to play. We're prepared to have to play the semi, but it would be great to come out tomorrow and have a good game to get to the final.
"But it's all business for us. We're just trying to stay patient out there, not get caught up in anything and just play our game."
Homan had already secured the first seed entering her morning game against Italy's Diana Gaspari at the Capital Gymnasium. Canada scored three in the fourth end and a deuce in the eighth for an 8-5 victory.
In the afternoon matchup, Denmark's Lene Nielsen had a 4-3 lead after seven ends but Homan moved ahead with an open hit for three points in the eighth. She iced the 8-4 victory with a steal of two in the ninth.
Homan is making her third career appearance at this event. She won bronze in 2013 in Riga and took silver the next year in Saint John, N.B.
"I mean we've been in this position before and that's great," Miskew said. "In Latvia it was very overwhelming going into the playoffs because it was our first world championship (at this level). We were there in Saint John too, and now it's great that it's our third time here and we're used to this playoff scenario.
"We have two lives in the playoffs and we're really grateful for that."
Sidorova (8-3) wrapped up the second seed with a 6-4 victory over China's Bingyu Wang.
"We felt it was a tough week for us, but it was our main goal to get this chance," Sidorova said. "We have never played (the) 1-2 Page before. We are improving every year. We stayed focused and never compromised to win."
Sweden's Anna Hasselborg (8-3) will play Scotland's Eve Muirhead (7-4) in the Page playoff 3-4 game on Saturday afternoon.
The 3-4 winner will advance to the semifinal while the loser will play for bronze Sunday against the semifinal loser. The semifinal winner plays the 1-2 game winner for gold.
Muirhead locked up the fourth seed with a 7-6 win over Anna Kubeskova of the Czech Republic.
"We were at the stage that win, win, win was what we had to do," Muirhead said. "Our first goal was to make the playoffs and we've ticked that box. Our next goal is to make the semifinal and onwards from there."
Nina Roth of the United States just missed the playoffs at 6-5. South Korea's Eun Jung Kim, Switzerland's Alina Paetz and Germany's Daniela Jentsch joined the Czech Republic at 5-6.
Italy was in 10th place at 3-8, followed by China at 2-9 and Denmark at 1-10.
Homan is the third skip in tournament history to go unbeaten in round-robin play.
Preparation pays off
Canada's Colleen Jones did it in 2003 in Winnipeg and Sweden's Anette Norberg did it in 2005 in Paisley, Scotland. Jones went on to win silver while Norberg took the gold.
"We've put everything we have into our preparation," Homan said. "It's sports, so when it comes down to it anything can happen. But we really want to get ourselves to the final, whether we go through the 1-2 game or through the semifinal.
"We've gone both routes and we're ready for either one."
With round-robin play completed, all but two spots in the 2018 Winter Games women's curling field have been finalized. Canada, Great Britain (qualified as Scotland), Japan, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States will join host South Korea at the Feb. 9-25 competition.
The Czech Republic, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Latvia and Norway are eligible to compete for the final two berths at the Dec. 5-10 Olympic qualifier in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
Canada's Jennifer Jones won Olympic gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
The winner of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings — the Canadian Curling Trials — will represent Canada next year in Pyeongchang.
Jones and Homan have already secured berths in the Dec. 2-10 event in Ottawa.