Burned rock controversy dogs Canada’s women’s curling skip

A curling controversy took centre stage at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Friday.

Rachel Homan and her Ottawa rink dropped to 0-3 in the women’s curling tournament with a 9-8 extra-end loss to Denmark on Friday. That alone is a troubling start for a team heavily favoured to win gold at these Games. But Homan, who uncharacteristically missed on two key shots, also had her sense of sportsmanship come into question. She was criticized on social media by some curling fans by ordering a “burned” Danish rock removed in the fifth end.

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A burned rock is one that is touched by a curler while in play. The opposing team then has three choices: They can ignore the foul, rearrange the stones to whatever position they think they would have ended up if the stone hadn’t been touched, or remove the stone from play.

Curlers often ignore the foul, but Homan’s decision had some criticizing the move as unsportsmanlike.

“There are options, but we’ve burnt rocks in the past at a national championships and they’ve come off,” Homan said in her defence. “Burning a rock is not something that you can do. It’s just the rules, I guess.”

The move originally paid off, as Canada scored four in the fifth end to take a 6-4 lead. But Denmark got the last laugh, scoring two in the 10th to force and extra end and stealing the winning point in the 11th when Homan wrecked her last shot on a guard.

Homan will need to turn things around quickly to add to that medal total. Canada is the only women’s team without a win at the Olympic curling tournament.

Still, a couple of consecutive wins should quiet any anxiety. Brad Jacobs started 1-2 at the 2014 Sochi Games before his rink from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., won gold.

Homan and teammates Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle do have experience in big events on their side. They are the defending Canadian and world champions and came out of a tough field to win the right to represent Canada in December’s Olympic curling trials.

“Teams qualify with three losses all the time, so we’ve just got to keep going,” Homan said.

Homan takes on the United States on Saturday.

Also Friday, Calgary’s Kevin Koe improved to 4-0 in men’s curling competition with a 7-6 win over South Korea. The Canadians sit atop the men’s round-robin standings.

The Canadians had a deuce in the seventh end, but gave up a deuce of their own in the ninth. Korea stole a single in the 10th end but it wasn’t enough.

Koe and company return to the ice on Saturday with a draw against Sweden, which is also undefeated at 4-0.

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