Busy schedule working nicely for top-ranked Ontario skip Rachel Homan

SYDNEY, N.S. — A packed schedule this season has worked quite nicely for Rachel Homan. Her life will be getting even busier later this year.

Homan, who is pregnant and due in mid-June, has managed to juggle a full-time curling schedule — guiding her team to the top of the rankings along the way — while continuing her education program studies at the University of Alberta.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Homan said. “You go from go-go-go while you’re on the road and then you get back and you’ve got lots of work to do. I’m doing my placement right now, so I’m teaching in a school. You’re right back at it as soon as you get home.”

Homan, who represented Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, is a headliner at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. Preliminary round-robin play begins Saturday at Centre 200.

Homan has three Grand Slam victories and a World Cup win this season. The Ontario skip has achieved those results despite very little downtime.

“Sometimes you’d like to take a couple days recovery from the week and from your travel,” Homan said Friday after the team’s practice session. “It just takes a little bit longer to recover but I think everyone kind of goes through that, whether you’re working or you’ve got a busy life outside of curling.

“It’s always a challenge to try and juggle.”

There have been some distractions this season too.

A number of curlers in the recent Ontario championship, upset that Homan’s team was eligible despite two players primarily living out of province, voted for her to win a sportsmanship award in an apparent mock gesture.

Without revealing specifics, Homan later issued a statement on Twitter that included the post: “Let’s be better than yesterday. Stand up and speak out .antibullying.”

At the time, Homan said many curlers apologized but others had not.

“We’ve moved past that situation and are just focusing on nationals,” she said. “We’re excited to be here and are just really proud to represent our province.”

Edmonton-based second Joanne Courtney is the team’s so-called “import” player. Homan goes to school in Edmonton, her husband lives in St. Paul, Alta., and she maintains a residence in her native Ottawa.

The three-time Scotties champion is able to curl at the Ontario playdowns thanks to an exemption for full-time post-secondary on-campus students.

Courtney, meanwhile, is also pregnant — she’s due in July. The pregnancies will likely force the team, which includes third Emma Miskew and lead Lisa Weagle, to tinker with their schedule later this season.

The rink has two more Grand Slams coming up in April and has also locked up a berth at the Curling World Cup grand final in Beijing in May.

“We’re just taking it day by day and feeling good right now,” Homan said. “We’re just fortunate that we’re both feeling really good going into nationals and are excited to play this week.”

Curling Canada is expected to tinker with its residency rules later this year. That could be good news for Homan if she continues to live in Alberta and puts her studies on hold after the baby arrives.

The Scotties playoffs begin Feb. 23 and the final is set for Feb. 24.

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