The plot thickens

Okay, it’s odd for me to talk about curling this much when there aren’t games happening (the last time I was even close to this also involved Rachel Homan when she parted ways with Lisa Weagle, along with a number of other changes to a number of teams), but I really have to follow-up on what I talked about last week.  The story so far is due to the normal playdowns being cancelled, Rachel Homan’s team was selected to represent Ontario at the Scotties, but there was a wrinkle:  Homan herself was up for selection to go to the Olympics as part of the mixed doubles team, and if she did then she wouldn’t be able to attend the Scotties, and so the Ontario curling powers-that-be decided that if that was the case her team wouldn’t go and that they’d send Hollie Duncan’s team instead.  I wasn’t really sure what to think about that move, but it did cause a fair bit of consternation in the curling community over whether that made sense since Homan’s team could just play with a substitute, which had already happened a number of times in the past, including during the pandemic.

At any rate, Rachel Homan and John Morris were selected to go to the Olympics for mixed doubles.  Now, I actually thought that they probably won’t going to be selected, because they were sitting fifth in the points rankings for mixed doubles, which is a fair ways down the list to be selected.  The top two teams were ruled out because they were already on the four person team that was going to the Olympics and Canada does not allow someone to go to the Olympics and play on both the four person team and the mixed doubles team, but that still left two teams ahead of them.  The third place team was Nancy Martin and Tyrel Griffith, who are mixed doubles specialists and from what I am given to understand don’t play four person at all, and the fourth place team was Lisa Weagle and John Epping.  Weagle is actually on the four person team that’s going to the Olympics, but she’s an alternate and so is technically able to play.  So I expected that they’d choose one of the other two teams, and was surprised that they chose them to go.  The articles I read didn’t give reasons, but I was thinking about it a bit and have thoughts on why the choice wasn’t just made by rankings.  For Lisa Weagle, from what I’ve heard the alternate actually does quite a bit for the team even when not required to play, such as doing things like organization and tracking shots and ice conditions and strategies during the game, and so having her distracted by that might hurt Jones’ team, or might hurt the mixed doubles chances.  And then if she needed to step in due to injury or illness they’d have exactly what they didn’t want to have:  someone playing in both competitions.  So given that the difference in the points used to rank the teams probably wasn’t that great, it would be pretty easy to decide that it would be better all around to send a team that could focus entirely on mixed doubles.

The more puzzling case to me is Martin and Griffith, who were the highest on the list and, again, were pretty much mixed doubles specialists.  They didn’t have the international experience of Homan and Morris, but Homan’s international experience was in four person and although she went to the Olympics last time around she didn’t do all that well.  So one consideration likely was that they didn’t have the experience of the other teams, but I don’t think that should have counted enough to go two places down the rankings to replace them.  The other consideration that I thought of was that as mixed doubles specialists they would obviously play in more mixed doubles events than the ones who didn’t.  While this could count in their favour for going to a mixed doubles tournament, the issue is that it would skew the points gained and therefore the rankings.  Their team would have an advantage over the teams that consisted of players who normally played four person not because they were better teams but simply because they could play events while the others were playing in four person tournaments.  Normally, the trials would sort this all out, but they didn’t have that option this year (their trials were cancelled) and so they had to take that into consideration.

Given that, it was probably a relatively easy decision to decide to send the team that won the gold medal last time around.  Both of them had decided to play with different teams — Morris was originally playing with Homan and played with Kaitlyn Lawes instead when Homan had to bow out to play on the four person team — and Lawes couldn’t play mixed doubles because she was on the four person team.  So sending John Morris with his regular partner to defend his medal, given the circumstances, seemed pretty reasonable, although it had to be pretty disappointing for Martin and Griffith … about as disappointing as them not really being considered favourites to go from the beginning.

So, Rachel Homan was selected to go to the Olympics, which then triggered the Ontario curling powers-that-be to send Hollie Duncan’s team instead of Homan’s team.

But it doesn’t end there.  Last year, the Scotties organizers increased the number of teams that they enter because of the pandemic, adding three wild card teams to the normal teams per province and territory — and Northern Ontario, for historical reasons — to bring the field to 18 teams.  They normally only have one team in the competition as a wild card team and pick two teams to play off the Friday night before the event to decide which one gets in.  Due to the number of provincial playdowns that were cancelled, they decided to do the same thing this year as well.  So they added three teams to the main draw according to points accrued:  Tracey Fleury’s team, Chelsea Carey’s team and … Rachel Homan’s team, who are adding Alli Flaxey as a fifth player and, from their Facebook page — that I can’t really see because it wants me to log in and I am not on Facebook and don’t want to be — are shifting everyone up a position, which means that I think that Cheryl Kreviazuk was their original fifth and so will be playing lead for the team.  Which I thought is what they could have easily done when this whole thing blew up, given that Emma Miskew for a while seemed to be making a lot of the calls, Sarah Wilkes used to play third, and Joanne Courtney used to play second.

So, Rachel Homan’s team still gets to go to the Scotties … but not as Ontario, because their skip is going to the Olympics.  It will be interesting to see how the teams do and probably interesting to see what happens when the teams play against each other.

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One Response to “The plot thickens”

  1. Scotties (First Weekend) | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] we already knew that we’d have a Team Homan skipped by Emma Miskew, since Rachel Homan is playing mixed doubles in the Olympics and can’t be here.  I had […]

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