Curlers are supposed to be good sports. As Matt Sussman wrote last year, the “first page of the official rulebook discusses The Spirit of Curling for a reason.” Curlers call their own fouls, even in the Olympics.
But at Friday’s Canada vs. Denmark group play match, The Spirit of Curling was completely forgotten. During the fifth end, a Danish player’s broom accidentally came into contact with the rock. When a burned rock like that happens, the other team can ignore it or they can reposition the rocks to where they thought they would’ve been without the accidental touch.
There’s a third option that’s used much less, however: Completely removing the rock from play. And that was what skip Rachel Homan did, which caused a (relatively polite) uproar.
“I think that was a rash move to take it off,” CBC Sports’ Joan McCusker says during the broadcast (in the video above). “They should have left it in play. It doesn’t look good on you.” McCusker would know: She won a gold medal for Canada at the 1998 Olympics.
“It’s quite unusual. If it had been burned out there in the middle of the sheet, any team would have done that. But right there in the house, the rock had just about stopped. That never happens,” Danish skip Madeleine Dupont told CBC. “I was thinking ‘I’m pretty sure karma will hit you at some point.’”
Canada took advantage of its lack of curling etiquette and turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead in that fifth end. But then karma did bite them. Denmark took the game to overtime and won, 9-8, when Homan blew the last shot. Asked afterward if it felt good to win after the burned rock controversy, Dupont said: “It does, it does.”
Even worse, after the match Dupont said that Homan admitted touching a rock herself during the game but didn’t remove it: “She’s allowed to [remove the rock] but later in the game she said ‘Oh, I just touched this one’ and she’s like ‘Oh, but that’s OK’ and didn’t do anything about it.” Rachel Homan is curling’s new top heel!
Who knows how much longer she’ll be around this tournament, though. The Canadians are now 0-3, a shocking start to the Olympics for a country that’s medaled in women’s curling every year. Canada faces the U.S. next on Saturday night.