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Elmira curling competition puts a name to Team Ontario

John Epping (left), the 2018 provincial curling champion, was defeated in the men’s finals Sunday at the Woolwich Memorial Centre by Team McDonald. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

Team Ontario has a name, and that name is Team Homan and Team McDonald.

Following competition on the ice at the Woolwich Memorial Centre last weekend, Homan and McDonald claimed the the women’s Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts championship and men’s Ontario Tankard, respectively, earning the right to represent Ontario at upcoming national events.

The women’s games culminated Saturday in a matchup between Team Homan and Team Tippin. Team Homan – Canada’s Olympic team at the 2018 winter games, featuring skip Rachel Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle – pulled through with the win over Tippin in a 6-4 decision.

The win earns Homan a clear berth to the national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Nova Scotia later this month, where the Ottawa skip will be hoping to pick up her fourth national title.

On Sunday, it was the mens’ turn to settle it, and with the games stacked with some of the heavyweights of the world stage, the competition proved suspenseful. Amongst the competitors were the likes of Glenn Howard, a four time world champion and winner of 10 of the past 14 Ontario Tankards. Howard was last the provincial champion in 2017, but was unseated by John Epping the following year in 2018.

This year however, it was not the Howard or Epping contingents that took the title, but the members of the Kingston-based Team McDonald. Featuring skip Scott McDonald, third Jonathan Beuk, second Wesley Forget and lead Scott Chadwick, the team won their first provincial championship, setting them on a straight course for the national Brier championship early next month in Manitoba.

The team played a perfect game all week, winning everything the other players could throw at them. For the comparatively lesser known team – at least next to the likes of Howard, Epping and Homan – the win was joyful and weighty.

“It feels pretty amazing. Yeah, it’s surreal. I don’t think it’s set in yet,” said team lead Chadwick, right after the Sunday’s win. “It’s just insane. Like you grow up watching curling, you grow up watching the Brier and you never think you’re going to make it, so yeah, it hasn’t set in yet.”

The players entered as Team McDonald, but by the end were being called Team Ontario instead. But to play for Ontario is to represent a massive population on the global stage, something team skip Scott McDonald reflected on.

“When you win Ontario, the expectation is that you do well at the Brier. And to have that weight on our shoulders is not lost on us. We’re looking forward to representing the province in Brandon,” said McDonald.

For event organizers, the games proved to go off without a hitch, though perhaps with just one minor caveat.

“Oh, we were ecstatic about the number of people coming,” said Susan Martin, chair of the game’s organizing committee in the township. Less exciting, however, was the vicious snowfall near the start of the week. “I wish I would have had control of the weather.”

Another wrinkle emerged from the championships this week, when Rachel Homan took to social media to speak about an “incident” during the provincial championships.

In a post yesterday (Wednesday) on her personal Twitter account titled “Let’s Be Better Than Yesterday,” Homan accused a group of bullying during the championships, though without giving further details, and said: “we are simply seeking an apology.”

“A day after Bell Let’s Talk day, an incident occurred during the Ontario Scotties that was disappointing. It was hurtful and disrespectful to all of those involved. On a positive note, many have come forward to apologize and take responsibility for their participation,” reads the post, signed Rachel Homan.

“To those still attempting to hide and take no responsibility, it is a shame. We are simply seeking an apology. To personally tear someone down for reasons we may never know, is not a part of curling. There is no place for bullying in or out of sport.”

Initial media reports from the Canadian Press suggest the incident was over a spat between the players on Team Homan’s eligibility in the Ontario championship, despite some team members not primarily residing in the province. The Observer could not confirm the reports.

Homan’s Twitter post also drew attention to mental health awareness, and stated that Team Homan will be making a donation towards an anti-bullying campaign in Ottawa, Can’t Dim My Light.

Event organizer Susan Martin said she was not aware of the incident.

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