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Canada's Homan beats Switzerland's Tirinzoni to win gold at world curling playdowns

SYDNEY, N.S. — Riding one of the strongest seasons in recent curling history, Canada skip Rachel Homan had every reason to be confident entering the final at the world women's curling championship.

SYDNEY, N.S. — Riding one of the strongest seasons in recent curling history, Canada skip Rachel Homan had every reason to be confident entering the final at the world women's curling championship.

On Sunday night, she again showed no fear and it paid off with her first world title since 2017.

Homan made a game-turning split for three points in the ninth end and forced Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland to concede in the 10th for a 7-5 victory.

"I believed in my team and my team believed in me," Homan said.

Homan and her top-ranked side of third Tracy Fleury, second Emma Miskew and lead Sarah Wilkes ran the table at the national championship and picked up where they left off against the 13-team field at Centre 200.

Canada was 11-1 in round-robin play and beat South Korea's Eunji Gim in the semifinal. When Switzerland beat Italy's Stefania Constantini in the other semifinal, it set up a one-versus-two showdown that was as tight a matchup on ice as it looked on paper.

With Carole Howald, Selina Witschonke and Tirinzoni setting up the steady Alina Paetz at fourth, the defending champions wrested hammer from the Ottawa-based side with a force in the opener.

Canada made some small mistakes early as Miskew hit and rolled out in the second end and Homan's freeze attempt was slightly off. Paetz made a soft hit for two and the lead.

Canada was forced again in the third end and Homan's final stone undercurled in the fourth to set up a Swiss hit for two. But Paetz was heavy on back-to-back throws in the fifth to allow Canada to pull even with a pair.

"We had to ride out the storm a little bit," said Canadian coach Viktor Kjell.

After the break, two blanks preceded an eighth end with rocks in play. Fleury made a hit that rolled frozen on the button and Tirinzoni couldn't blast out the Canadian stones.

Homan made a hit to sit four and Paetz was forced to draw for one.

In the critical ninth end, Homan made two great team shots that turned the game.

Her rocket double-takeout left Canada sitting three. Paetz followed with a double-takeout that left Canada as shot stone with two Swiss rocks on the back of the 12-foot ring.

Homan elected to tap her own rock just before the rings and both stones rolled in to score three, thrilling the near-sellout crowd of 4,373.

"It was just a phenomenal team shot to really get a leg up on Switzerland for the first time in the whole game," she said.

Tirinzoni was hoping to get a force on the Canadians in that end.

"Our chance to win would have been so much higher, but you have to make all the shots and we didn't," she said.

The Swiss players offered handshakes when they didn't have a shot to tie the game in the 10th. That ended Tirinzoni's streak of four straight world titles and improved Homan's season record to an incredible 62-6.

"It's really hard to sum it up," Kjell said. "I think it's going to take a long time before another team in the world can have a season like this."

All eight players shot at least 78 per cent. Team totals were virtually identical with Switzerland shooting 87 per cent to Canada's 86 per cent.

Homan led all fourths throughout the competition at 88.6 per cent.

"She made a ton of shots this week," Miskew said. "She was on fire."

In round-robin play, Homan ended Tirinzoni's 42-game win streak at this competition. The Canadian's lone loss came in an essentially meaningless playoff tune-up against Gim when the first seed was already secured.

"The more games we have together, the stronger we get," said Fleury, who joined the team at the start of the quadrennial.

Homan's title also ended Canada's six-year gold drought at this event. Jennifer Jones was the last Canadian to win, taking top spot in 2018 in North Bay, Ont.

Homan has also won the last two Grand Slam titles. She'll cap her memorable campaign at The Players' Championship next month in Toronto.

"It's one of the best seasons I've ever heard of," said Canadian fifth Rachel Brown.

Earlier Sunday, Gim defeated Italy 6-3 to win the bronze medal.

Homan and Miskew were named all-stars and Howald took the nod at lead. Sweden's Sara McManus was named top third and Italian second Angela Romei won the sportsmanship award.

Overall attendance at the nine-day event was 45,602. Uijeongbu, South Korea will host next year's world women's championship.

The world men's curling championship begins Saturday in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L., will skip the Canadian team.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2024.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press