LAKELAND – It may have been Team Canada (Einarson) versus Team Ontario (Homan) in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts final on Sunday night, but there were plenty of people across the Lakeland tuning in to the match-up.
Both teams had local connections to the area – specifically St. Paul. Rachel Homan, whose team grabbed the silver medals on Sunday night, has spent time living in the area; while Val Sweeting from Team Einarson is also now a St. Paul resident.
Sweeting, along with teammates Kerri Einarson, Shannon Birchard, Briane Meilleur and Krysten Karwacki took home the gold medals from this year's Canadian championship, following a 9-7 win on Sunday. Team Einarson curls out of Gimli, Man., and was coached by Heather Nedohin, who hails from Alberta.
The final on Sunday put the top two teams of the tournament up against one another – and it wasn't for the first time. Team Einarson has now won back-to-back national championships, beating out Team Homan both times. Team Einarson is the first team to win back-to-back at the tournament since Homan won in 2013 and 2014.
When asked what it felt like to win for a second time in as many years, Einarson said it meant the world to win, but it was also special to play against some amazing teams throughout the tournament.
"We had to fight really hard," said Einarson, shortly after her team's win Sunday night.
Sweeting acknowledged this year's Tournament of Hearts had a completely different atmosphere, with no fans cheering from the stands. But the teams' family members were visible during the finals, thanks to a large screen that showed them watching the game from home. She added that the win hadn't really sunk in yet.
Einarson said the team focused on having fun, and didn't put pressure on themselves to repeat last year's win. But, she also had complete faith in her team throughout the competition.
"I wasn't worried," said Einarson.
Speaking about the tournament overall, Sweeting said things went very smooth, and she was impressed with how Curling Canada put on the event, which was held in Calgary. The tournament was still something special – even without family and fans cheering them on from the stands.
When asked about any specific turning point in the tournament for the team, Sweeting said the team just "tried to gradually keep building." Sweeting said Nedohin reminded the team that they were their own energy. They celebrated every shot and cheered each other on, right to the end.
Homan also spoke after Sunday's final, saying she was proud with how her team played.
"It was down to the last rock," said Homan. At eight months pregnant, Homan said she pushed as hard as she could, and relied on her team when she had to.
While Team Einarson may have won on Sunday night, Team Homan is confident and excited about what the future holds for the Ontario-based curling team.
Watching from St. Paul
St. Paul Curling Club president Troy Bohn was at home Sunday night, watching the action from St. Paul.
Like many other sporting events held during the pandemic, cardboard cut-outs replaced live spectators, and other COVID protocols were evident to those watching from a distance. But, despite the differences, "there was no shortage of excitement," said Bohn.
"It is incredible that a world class curler from each team have connections to our community," he added.
Rachel Homan, skip for Team Ontario, and Val Sweeting, third on team Canada, have both made valuable contributions to the St. Paul Curling Club, according to Bohn, who offered congratulations to both teams "for a well deserved spot in the finals, and to team Canada for their consecutive gold metal."