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Homan wants to be as good as gold at women's world curling championship

Homan reaching for gold standard in Beijing

The next move for Rachel Homan at the women's world curling championship is the top of the podium after silver and bronze medals in previous appearances.

Homan, third Emma Miskew, second Joanne Courtney and lead Lisa Weagle out of the Ottawa Curling Club open the 2017 world championship Saturday against host China in Beijing.

They won the national championship Feb. 26 beating Michelle Englot in an extra end in St. Catharines, Ont.

Homan, Miskew, Weagle and second Alison Kreviazuk were third in their world championship debut in 2013 in Riga, Latvia, and runner-up the following year in Saint John, N.B.

Courtney, who will play in her first world championship, was recruited in 2014 after Kreviazuk moved to Sweden.

"The first time you go, everything is so new and foreign," Homan said. "We did our best and came up a little bit short. The second time was in Canada and we did a little bit better.

"We're fairly young for being able to go our third worlds. We have a bit of experience on our side."

Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones dominated women's curling at the 2014 Winter Olympics, going undefeated to claim gold. But it's been nine years since Canada won a women's world championship.

Jones took the crown in Vernon, B.C., in 2008, which was a year after Homan graduated from high school. The average age of Homan's current team is 28.5.

Swiss women have dominated recently winning four of the last five world titles. Binia Feltscher was victorious last year in Swift Current, Sask.

Homan topped the preliminary round in 2014 with a 10-1 record in Saint John, but lost the final to Feltscher.

The 12-hour time difference from Ottawa means Canada plays their first game at 1 a.m. ET on Saturday. Homan and her teammates began adjusting their sleep patterns four days before their departure.

"Yep, definitely going to be in a bubble and far away in a different culture," Homan acknowledged. "I think there's going to be lots of people watching us and cheering us on from all over Canada and we know that.

"We know there's going to be some impact on work productivity in Canada from all our friends and family staying up late."

They'll play in the 17,000-seat Capital Gymnasium, which was the venue for the 2014 men's world championship. Canada's Kevin Koe finished out of the medals there, but won the men's title in 2016.

Nolan Thiessen, who was Koe's lead in 2014 and now a Curling Canada consultant, has met with Homan's team to give advice on handling smog and unfamiliar food.

"We know this time it's going to be a culture shock for us. We've been preparing for it," Miskew said. "We've been at two world championships now. This is our second one abroad.

"It's going to be a little bit more reassuring heading over there this time than it was the first time."

Hans Wuthrich of Gimli, Man., is the chief icemaker in both Beijing and at next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

While world championship gold is their objective, the Homan team has tailored their curling and more recently their lives around winning December's Olympic trials and wearing the Maple Leaf again in Pyeongchang.

They've taken time off from work and curtailed their social lives to achieve it.

"No other team is going to have this opportunity to play internationally before the trials," Homan said.

"I think right now we're excited for the opportunity to represent our country. We've really got to stay focused on the worlds."

The 12-team field in Beijing includes three world champion skips: China's Bingyu Wang (2009); Scotland's Eve Muirhead (2013) and Switzerland's Alina Paetz (2015).

Anna Sidorova has skipped Russia to bronze the last three years. Wang, an Olympic bronze medallist in 2010, won World Curling Tour events in Saskatoon and Abbotsford, B.C., this winter.

The format is the same as Canadian championships with the top four teams from the preliminary round advancing to the Page playoff.

The top two seeds meet with the winner advancing directly to the final March 26. The loser drops to the semifinal to face the winner of the playoff between the third and fourth seeds.

Brad Gushue's team from St. John's N.L., will represent the host country at the men's world championship April 1-9 in Edmonton.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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